The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

the handmaid's tale

I don’t remember the last time I read a book that I totally did not want to put down. Probably Room, which I finished a couple of years ago in 7-8 hours plane ride, and I would say The Handmaid’s Tale is a better book (though completely different, so I don’t know why I made the comparison). Considering how long it takes for me to finish one book these days, I finished this one in a breeze! I spent a couple of weekends just reading for hours, which I also don’t remember the last time that happened.

I’ve read only read Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood before this one, which I wasn’t too impressed of. I’m still not sure if I like her writing style from reading The Handmaid’s Tale. I found it a bit… choppy at times. And it’s not like I’m a fan of dystopian stories, which seems to be the topic she embraces the most. I would really like to read Alias Grace and The Blind Assassin though. I also have Cat’s Eye somewhere in my piles.

All in all, I really liked The Handmaid’s Tale. The way it is written by revealing a little at a time made me want to read more more more and faster. Now I feel like reading another dystopian book, and I’m thinking of Orwell’s 1984. We’ll see.

4.5 stars
1985, 395 pp

sunny reading at kensington garden
Sunny day reading at Kensington garden

thehandmaidstale_movie
The Handmaid’s Tale, 1990, rating: 5/10

As always I could not resist a movie adaptation of a book I just read. Unfortunately the movie is such a silly rendition of a good book. It lacks all the suspense, subtleties, and claustrophobic feeling that the book does so well. You can safely skip this.

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood


Penelopiad is one book from Canongate’s the Myths series, in which ancient myths are rewritten by contemporary authors. Here is the story of Odysseus and Penelope. Only instead of Odysseus, it’s taking the view from Penelope’s side, including the 12 maids, who are minor characters in the story.

Odysseus is one of the guys who went for Trojan War against Troy to get Helen back. The war was going on for 10 years before Troy fell. Then it took him 10 years to sail back home (as I remember, he did something bad to upset Poseidon – God of the Sea, that’s why he made it very difficult for Odysseus to go back home), during which he went through all the adventures with his ship crews, facing all kinds of creatures, and goddesses that forced him into bed (Oh, sure). Whereas Penelope is the faithful wife, waiting for him for 20 years, and had problems of her own.

I’m not sure if you could really enjoy the story if you’re not familiar with the original story, the main or side characters, etc. There are quite a few mentions about the other gods, goddesses, and creatures of the mythology, without a lot of explaining. For myself, I was a total fan of Greek mythology. I used to read a bunch of them all the time back when I was in primary school and mid school. Coincidentally, I also just watched the movie of Odysseus and Penelope, so the story was still very fresh on my mind.

The book started strong for me. I thought, great, this is exactly my kind of book! Mythology (fairy tale, or folktale) with a twist, or variation of it. After a while though, I got a bit bored. Penelope in the book is just exactly what I imagined her to be, so are most of the other characters, so I didn’t experience any new revelations or surprises. I thought the most interesting parts are Penelope’s private thoughts and musings, and her relations to Helen.

I totally didn’t get the chapter on Anthropology lecture. Please explain if you do.

Page: 196

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 [Good]
Nice take on a well-known myth. Stays true to origin.

First line

Now that I’m dead I know everything.

Last line

The Maids sprout feathers, and fly away as owls.

Quotes

“To have a child was to set loose a force in the world.” ~ Penelope, pg 24

“Nothing helps gluttony along so well as eating food you don’t have to pay for yourself.” ~ Penelope, pg 40

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