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The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood (audiobooks)

The Handmaid’s tale is a modern classic. I last read it over 20 years ago and have not yet seen the TV series.
Offred is a handmaid whose sole purpose is to procreate with her commander. She is resented at all levels of society whilst also resenting her situation. She dreams of freedom but is she brave enough to face death…?
It is basically sexual slavery enforced by the state. I think the scariest thing is how realistic the plot seems. Women today are still objectified and treated as inferior to men despite years of so called equality. Women’s bodies are subject to patriarchal power and men’s control so it isn’t too far a stretch of the imagination to see Gilead could exist. There is also the danger from other women who are trying to survive in equally horrendous circumstances.
Children are a precious commodity in Gilead and women are judged by their ability to conceive. There is little love as wives are for social standing and have to endure the coupling with a handmaiden. Most men are also restricted in their relationships and I did feel sympathy for them too at various points during the book.
The Testaments is a book that I haven’t read before. There are three different women’s voices which show the background to Gilead as well as moving the story forward. This added a depth and understanding to events in both books.
Personally, I feel uncomfortable about religion being used to justify social control as I feel faith is individual. Yet it is clear that the real states today use power to control women’s bodies through access to contraception and abortion, attitudes to rape which blame the victim, toxic masculinity with associated homophobia and transphobia.
There is brutal violence and mob justice as the state uses ideology to control the inhabitants. Fear of The Other, non conformists, anything that undermines the system is used to control the majority. Again it doesn’t feel too far from possibility 🙁
The Testaments feels a lot more personal than The Handmaid’s Tale as a result of the different voices and viewpoints. Aunt Lydia in particular shines as a three dimensional character trying to survive and thrive in the new order.
I find it difficult to enjoy either book due to the subjugation of women, although they are both compelling, gripping and vividly written. A chilling fantasy that is terrifyingly possible. A must-read for all.
Book blurbs:
The Handmaid’s Tale
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…
Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid’s Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.
The Testaments
Margaret Atwood’s sequel picks up the story more than fifteen years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.
In this brilliant sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, acclaimed author Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalized readers for decades.
“Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.” –Margaret Atwood

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