I finally got around to reading The Handmaid's Tale back in January for my new feminist book club. I saw the movie with Natasha Richardson way back when I was a teen and it really disturbed me. I knew the book wouldn't be any different and so I waited.
It's a powerful novel. We see the world of Offred through her eyes. We catch little snatches of how things were before and how Offred has slowly grown accustomed to her way of life.
She lives in a future where rival religious sects have plundered the U.S. government and are warring with each for their own brand of totalitarian theocracy. Women are property, have no rights, and are only useful based on how useful their uteruses are.
The excuses given are women need protecting from men who can't control themselves. Don't give them too much freedom or they'll get raped or murdered. Even Offred's partner when the fall of the government happens and her money and property are put into his hands, seems nonchalant about the whole thing. He seems to love being in control and telling Offred it's all going to be all right.
It's a book that is just as relevant today as it was in the 80s. Separation of church and state allows all to benefit and Atwood describes so tellingly of what can happen when that isn't the case.
It's disturbing but it should be. It should make us all sit up and do something. Many women and children and other minorities and misfits in the world have something like this being done to them daily.
Freedom to be who we want to be, freedom of consciousness, freedom to believe or not to, freedom to doubt and dissent is so important in any society.