This novel has been turned into a Hulu series show recently but I have yet to watch it. So my personal review at this time is primarily based on my experience with reading the book.
Though in discussing the book with the book club ladies, I have heard from some women who have also seen the Hulu series that there were additional details that appeared on the show that weren’t in the book such as the real name of the protagonist character renamed Offred upon becoming a handmaid. The book was turned into a series of shows rather than a movie so I could see how a series would become more extensive and detailed whereas a book-turned-movie usually presents the opposite scenario.
As a recommendation for reading the book, I would actually reread the Introduction chapter upon finishing the book as it all makes more sense in doing so. Though this is a recent edition of the book and the Introduction is the one that was written by the author in February of this year. The book was originally written in the 1980s but has received a lot of attention lately as explained by the author in this Introduction chapter which references the most recent election and our current presidency and political climate as a result. Even though the book was written decades ago, there were many coincidences such as references to a wall being built which has made the novel feel relevant to current times.
In fact, one of the first comments that the book club ladies mentioned at our meeting discussing this novel was how the book did feel relevant and timeless. The author also explains that everything mentioned in the book has happened in history. I do recall watching an interview of Hilary Clinton saying that she was told by the credit card company to use her husband’s credit card when she first tried to get her own credit card in the 70’s which would help illustrate what happened that day women in the book lost their jobs and access to their credit cards.
Hence, I could see why the author gets the feedback about this book being a “feminist” book. As a “Modern Vintage Woman” I am in agreement with Sheryl Sanberg’s take in her book Lean In (which I had previously reviewed in my blog post last year) where women need to be supportive of each other and career-oriented women who work outside the home should not shame stay at home mothers and vise versa.
I have faced similar issues myself this year with women who criticized me for my choices (or was very aggresive in encouraging or discouraging me from making certain choices) ranging from my outfit choices, who to date, who to co-habitat with, what career movement I should make, the urgency to get married and have children, what to write/not write in my blog, etc. In the moment, it actually feels difficult to sometimes make a firm stance and defend yourself because you really may change your mind later (which you are allowed to do). But at the end of the day, I had to make peace with the fact that these other women do not have to live with the consequences of the choices I make for myself while I do. So in spite of any criticism I may continue to get, I must make my own choices. In the meanwhile, I try to walk the talk by being supportive of other women.
In the society I live in, I am thankful that I do currently have the right to exercise making such choices. So in reading The Handmaid’s Tale it makes me feel extra grateful.
It is always possible for society to retrogress and decrease the rights of women or continue to have it be the case as it is in many parts of the world. But as the book illustrates, the truth remains to be the case in both fiction and reality that the human population cannot continue to exist without women. So perhaps to some it may seem ungrateful for me to not use my abilities to reproduce to make such contributions.
But if anything, I was reminded by other women (and men) recently when I celebrated a major milestone in my martial arts career by passing my 5th degree black belt exam, that achievements by women are not limited to their ability to becoming a biological mother but can also be being a female figure in which other women can look up to for inspiration. I have since then found myself featured in other people’s blogs around the globe and had apparently caused quite a stir in strutting around the arena (in places where shoes were left on) in my high heels even while wearing my martial arts uniform. I’ve continued to make my stance in that I am entitled to be “feminine” or female and my youthful self in a martial arts world that is dominated primarily by older men while continuing to work hard to prove myself worthy of the title I have earned. This is me being a “Modern Vintage Woman.”