A Not Entirely Objective Book Review: “The Handmaid’s Tale”


Promotional image for Hulu’s television series “The Handmaid’s Tale

I just finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and I can tell you it’s not a book you review without doing a bit of research. Of course I knew that going in.

I’ve been peripherally aware of both Atwood’s novel and the television series on Hulu but didn’t give either much attention. Then I read a few stories about this year’s Women’s March and noticed in the news photos amid women dressed in vagina hats and full-body vagina costumes, there were groups who wore the red and white wardrobe of the handmaids (I assume the protestors’ inspiration was more the TV series than the book but I have nothing with which to back that opinion).

Since the Women’s March largely is a protest against the administration of President Donald Trump, I became curious as to the connection (I already knew what the vagina costumes were all about).

Fortunately, my local public library system had a copy, so I reserved it and when it arrived at the designated branch, I eagerly began reading. I’m going to break down this review into sections both to make it more readable and to keep things straight in my head. It’s not that I found the book itself so complex, but there are wider social implications to consider.

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Are They Windmills or Giants?


© C.E. Ayr

“Don Quixote?”

Wendy hadn’t visited her Uncle Brian’s place in Idaho for years but Mom finally “guilted” her into making the trip from California.

“I keep it as a reminder.”

They had been going through old keepsakes in his spare bedroom where she’d be sleeping, looking for family photo albums when they came across it.

“Of what?”

“That we can be easily deluded about what is and isn’t real.”

She thought this was as good a time as any. Wendy loved the old man but he had some pretty archaic ideas. “I brought you something.” She reached into her open suitcase, pulled out a book, and handed it to him.

“The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood,” he read from the cover. “I’ve heard of it.”

“I thought it might help you understand me better now that I’m grown up.”

“I’ll promise to read it on one condition.”

“What’s that?”

He left the room and came back a few minutes later with a dusty hardback he had obviously owned for decades. Taking it, she read the cover. “Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.”

“Right, Wendy. I’ll read your book if you read mine. Maybe you’ll learn to understand me better, too.”

I wrote this for the Sunday Photo Fiction Challenge for January 21st 2018. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words long. My word count is 199.

The image is obviously the iconic scene of Don Quixote in Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s 17th century novel tilting at windmills which he imagined to be giants.

Yesterday was the Women’s March of 2018 which, like the same event a year before, was largely a protest against the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump. I have mixed feelings about how some portions of it were executed, especially the fact of some protestors dressing in costumes designed to mimic female genitals.

Other women however, dressed as characters from Atwood’s novel which has now been developed as a television series.

Both Atwood’s and Orwell’s novels, written decades apart, predict a dystopian future where society is ruled by a totalitarian government. Orwell created a cautionary tale about what life would be like under a communist/socialist dictatorship, while Atwood took the opposite approach casting her totalitarian regime as conservative and Christian.

I used the image of “tilting at windmills” to illustrate, based on the manipulation of news and social media, how easily we can lose track of what is factual and what is not. If we simply believe what we’re told, then we can allow ourselves to blindly follow one ideology or another without considering the stability of the foundation upon which those beliefs are based.

So the younger and more liberal Wendy will make an effort to understand her Uncle’s perspectives while the older and more conservative Brian will do the same.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.