Monday, February 07, 2005

A Handmaid's Tale

At Book Group tonight we were supposed to discuss Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. However, due to a variety of work commitments and holidays, I was the only one to have managed to read more than 50 pages!

It was a really enjoyable night as we chatted about everything under the sun and put the world to rights over a few drinks, but it was unfortunate that we didn’t really get to discuss the novel.

It’s the second time I’ve read this book and I’m struck by how real life events in recent years in the US (where the book is set), haunt this repeat reading so intently.

Last time around, my fellow readers (I read it as part of a night class in literature), who were predominantly male, thought it was far-fetched and didn’t ring true, whereas I accepted it more as a potential ultimate conclusion for some of the remaining attitudes of men on women, that I witness almost daily.

Maybe it’s regularly being around men when they forget there is a woman in earshot or maybe Engineers are significantly less evolved than the wider male population, but again and again I’m surprised by how some men (and the good news is that it is only some), really dislike women and resent any ‘need’ they have for them.

Combine this with the continued rise of the religious right, with all it’s convenient twisting of biblical history and texts and the whole concept of a governing class ruling through induced fear and the need for patriotic relinquishment of one’s ‘rights’ for the greater good and suddenly Atwood’s set-up doesn’t seem quite so unthinkable after all.

It certainly leaves me thinking that we shouldn’t as women ever undervalue the hard won for progress that has been achieved thus far in our emancipation and we should never take these freedoms for granted.

Of course the fact that Atwood is a skilled and accomplished writer means that above all this book is a highly engaging. It makes you think, but is highly enjoyable in the process. I’d recommend it highly.

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