I know Margaret Atwood to be one of the greats, and once started another of her books. It was strange, albeit well written, but as I usually do I got distracted and didn’t finish it.
I’ve heard about The Handmaid’s Tale a lot lately, especially with the Hulu series now out.
So, I downloaded the special edition audiobook from Audible and got to listening.
First off, this audiobook has been by far the easiest to listen to of any I’ve heard. I strongly recommend this version if you choose to listen.
As for the book, it’s obviously a masterpiece. There isn’t a ton I have to say as far as critiquing goes, though there were about ten billion sentences that fly in the face of modern writing advice. I don’t know how much has changed since 1985, but I noticed a couple things people freak out over these days.
For example, Margaret Atwood uses a shit ton of passive voice. She was sitting. She is sitting. She was sewing. Etc.
She also uses weak adjectives, such as very. I am very uncomfortable.
This last thing isn’t really something I notice on my own. In fact, it’s something someone pointed out about my writing, in my current first person present tense WIP. (That’s the POV and tense of The Handmaid’s Tale, too.) I used a ton of -ing words.
I am looking out the window. I am running. I sit, rubbing my arm.
The Handmaid’s Tale has several -ings per page.
None of these things perturbed me in the least. It’s one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read. The metaphors, the word choices –they are poetry.
That said, there were many times I got bored. I understand the main character, Offred, didn’t have much to do, and small details held huge meaning to her. But damn if everything wasn’t a metaphor for something else. And so many times I thought, “Okay; it’ll fade to black, here. The next scene won’t be detailed out.” Then it would be.
Continuing on was well worth it. I enjoyed this book greatly, and I think it’s one everyone ought to read. It shows how both men and women could suffer under an oppressive regime.
I don’t want to spoil anything; you should read it. This is the kind of book that makes people better writers. It also demonstrates how writing rules can be broken to wonderful effect.