I Just Finished – The Handmaid’s Tale

This book came out my sophomore year in college, a time when I was both voraciously devouring science fiction, and still considered myself a bleeding-heart liberal. I mean, I had just voted for the extremely uninspiring Walter Mondale! Still, something about the book discouraged me from reading it. Maybe it was the fact that, though it was in the SF section of the (excellent!) UMCP Bookstore, it seemed to want to be ‘literary,’ and I have always distrusted pretentiousness. Science fiction was so often condemned for not being ‘literary’ that I didn’t want any truck with the other camp.

Or maybe it was that the clearly feminist theme was not something I wanted to dive into, given that I was in classes with a lot of budding third-wave feminists, and they were beginning to make me uncomfortable. I had certainly had my first encounter with the works of Andrea Dworkin by that time, and my response to them was, “Ew! Hate much?” (Okay, no, in 1985 no one talked that way. Still…)

But my wife likes the TV show on Hulu, and so the book landed in our shared audible queue. So I gave it a listen and I’m glad I did. It’s an honest book, and a thoughtful one. If deals in misogyny and religious fundamentalism, but doesn’t beat the reader in the face with either. It shows how members of an oppressed class can become their own worst enemies, enabling the oppressors. It has nice touches of humanity and well-developed characters, and it ultimately shows that, if one class is denied freedom, freedom is lacking for everyone. An important message.

Will I watch the TV show now? Hmmm… Anybody both read the book and watched the show?

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