The handmaid’s tale by Margaret Atwood: A Book Review

Dystopia has never been my preferred genre, thanks to the very many badly written YA literature strewn around the world that befalls into the said genre. Yet there were several times while I read the book The Handmaid’s Tale that I had to recheck the publishing date.

There were several times while I read the book #TheHandmaid'sTale that I had to recheck the publishing date, because IT LOOKS LIKE THE CURRENT WORLD WE ARE IN! I loved this book totally and here is my #review Click To Tweet

About The handmaid’s tale

Handmaid's tale

Book Name: The Handmaid’s Tale 

Author: Margaret Atwood

Genre: Fiction – Literary Dystopia

Characters: Offred, The Commander, Serena Joy, Nick, Moira

Plot Summary of The handmaid’s tale

Set in not so distant dystopian future, women have lost all that they won in the recent past, at least partially – the ability to chose what they wore, what they did for life or even handle money. They are forbidden from reading, writing and even speaking freely.

Their existence is based on their functionality – the wives (in charge of the household), the helps (Marthas), the teachers (Aunts), the wombs (Handmaids), the sexual toys ( Jezebels) and the outcasts (Unwoman) are sent to Colonies where they are left to harvest cotton or clean up the radioactive waste.

Offred, our narrator, a handmaid belongs to Fred, who is on her third and final attempt to conceive a child with a government appointed ‘Commander.’ Every month she has an impersonal intercourse with the Commander and his wife, who is barren.

She had had a child with her husband Luke (a divorcée from his previous wife), before she became Offred and before her marriage was declared void. Everything changed overnight. Money was replaced, women were declared to belong to their men and were offered ‘safety’ and ‘respect’ than they were in the free modern world.

She is desperate to figure what happened to her family, to know what is happening in the world outside the wall, to read write and just to live. She is given a friend Ofglen, who is accountable for Offred’s actions while she runs errands and her for Ofglen.

Offred falls for Nick, the Guardian for the commander, a crime that could lead them both to be publicly hung. Was the risk worth taking? Did she learn anything about her family? Read to know more.

A personal note

Written in the 1980s and still, it has not lost its relevance may reason out why the book is called a classic. If anything, The handmaid’s tale has become more and more pertinent today, given the current world scenario. I hail from a nation where rape seems to the screaming weekly headline, where feminism is more or less a topic for the keyboard warriors and reservation and rationing are the only ways to go by. 

Incidentally, I live in a country which believes in ‘respecting’ women, ‘saving’ them from men, yet are not allowed to make decisions about their unborn fetus. There are nations where women are not even allowed to drive or make a visit to the mall without a proper chaperon. Let us not forget the wall that our dear Mr. Trump has promised to build to protect us from the immigrants and the religious terrorism he is raging against.

You guessed it right, every one of these actions is a fragment of imagination that Margret Atwood takes us through in her novel. And you know what? Somehow we are all conditioned to living and adapting to these rules, that we no longer think that we are complying with them but accepting them as the way of life. Yes, I no longer feel The Handmaid’s Tale is a far-fetched work of fiction.

Book review of The handmaid’s tale

The Handmaid’s Tale might be a little hard to get into, yet once you are into it, you can not stop it. I started reading the book and heard the rest of it when I was out and about living my life because I could not put it down.

The narration is not linear, there are places where you might be confused, especially at the initial parts, but it will grow on you. And oh, I loved the emphasis thrown on the importance of the written and spoken word in creating a new world, as any bibliophile would.

And my dear grammar nazis, yes there are a lot of commas, quotes and other generic rules that are broken, but somehow it works. In fact they make it better. (Mother Earth can swallow me). There are too many seemingly simple lines that make them powerful quotes for that very reason. The ambiguous ending works so well that I cannot stop pondering over.

I am yet to watch Hulu’s take on the book as a TV series, but it is on my to-do list (update: done and I loved it) . You can not read The Handmaid’s Tale  as a breeze through the weekend read. You can not unsee once you have been to the Republic of Gilead and not relate it to the real world.


If you are one of those who gets offended by the term ‘feminism,’ read the book with an open mind. Given the current state of chaos we live in you will relate to it.

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Handmaid's tale

Let us talk

Have you read The handmaid’s tale by Margaret Atwood? I love the Hulu series, how about you? Let us talk.


  1. Satabdi

    Great review! Those who get offended by “feminism” don’t know what it really means. They think it’s male bashing.

  2. Kathy West

    I have not read this one.

    • Gayathri

      It is so good!

  3. Robin Loves Reading

    Excellent review. I did read this book a couple years ago and I do want to watch the television series.

    • Gayathri

      I loved the television version as well. At least the season 1!

  4. Elizabeth

    Very nice review , thanks for sharing

    • Gayathri

      Thank you!

  5. DJ Sakata

    I keep meaning to read this book – love your thoughtful review

    • Gayathri

      Thank you!!

  6. Mir @FangirlPixieBlog

    I really enjoyed this book. I felt though it was 30 years old it still was current and relevant to this day and age. Who would’ve known that 30 years later we would still be fighting for women’s rights and equality.

  7. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious Blog

    Great review, Gayathri! I agree that the writing style is a little ifficult but it adds to the story and tension for me… it feels like I am reading notes scrawled to me in secret or inside of her head. It’s masterful.

    One of the things about this book is Atwood didn’t include anything in the book that didn’t have precedent, and I think that has attributed to the lasting appeal and relevance. She was not only looking forwards to a rational future if things continued on this trajectory but also to the past for things that have been done.

    This book is very much one of the best in dystopian fiction in my opinion.

    • Gayathri

      Great pointers Kal. I agree that the whole book was sounded so secretive and I loved to hear how much you have enjoyed it!

  8. Daniela Ark

    I’m reading this one next week because I watch the first episode of the show and absolutely loved it! It is hard to get into it! I have tried at least 4 times LOL


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Gayathri has been reviewing books since 2010. When she is not reading books or creating online content, she works as a writer and a digital marketer. Head over to meet me!