The Handmaid’s Tale will be released as a TV series in the coming year. It is with this in mind that I selected it as one of my January reads. Watch the 30 second teaser trailer for the new TV series here:
After reading The Heart Goes Last in December, I bumped another Margaret Atwood novel right up to the top of my to-read list this month. I am now listening to the audiobook version of her classic The Handmaid’s Tale (read by Claire Danes of Homeland fame) and it is a very different read. Whereas The Heart Goes Last was a lot of fun and featured exxcellent satire, The Handmaid’s Tale is much bleaker and features a lot of fantastic prose and Atwood’s unique turn of phrase. I would love to share her opening two paragraphs with you today.
The opening paragraphs of this wonderful book are a joy to read and highlight the innovative imagination that Atwood has when describing the everyday and the mundane. She begins the piece by painting a vivid picture of the floor and other physical surroundings of a standard gymnasium.She then adds multiple layers to this description through sounds and smells from the past. A recollection of fashion trends help date the room as do the haunting hopes and aspirations of those who used to be present in times gone by.
Within this example we also see Atwood take a word and play with its double meaning (‘in the small of the back, or out back‘) and this is something that she does with a touch of class throughout the novel.
For me, these short few paragraphs is writing in its purest form. The paragraphs above transcend the page that they are written on and dump a well of sounds, smells, emotions and memories upon the reader. Writing like this makes you look differently at the world. How much history can be found in the bedrooms we grew up in? Or in the kitchen of our family home? Or one of our old school classrooms? Writing such as this adds an extra dimension to our thinking, enabling us to surpass the three dimensions of a room or object and also observe its presence within the spectrum of time.
For those of you interested in The Handmaid’s Tale and wanting a similar read, I would recommend two recent reads that follow the same theme and/or setting.
Only Ever Yours (Louise O’Neill)
Her most recent book, Asking For It, got many plaudits on its release, but I think that this book is actually her strongest and deserves more attention for the message that it carries. Set in the not too distant future, a class of girls enter their final year of school with their future at stake. Only the best girls will be selected by the best suitors. Those not selected will be cast into less favourable ranks. As the end of the year selection approaches, the cracks begin to appear as each of the girls attempts to be perfect in an imperfect world.
About Sisterland (Martina Devlin)
Another futuristic novel where society has changed beyond recognition. This time, the women rule the civilised world and it is the men who are cast aside for labour and breeding purposes only. But where there is power, there is always corruption and it is not long before murmurs of discontent and rebellion begin to surface. Constance unwillingly leads the fightback against a society that is both highly controlled and suffocating. She might change how her society works, but at what price?