How do you describe this book? Prescient? A foretelling? Crystal ball gazing? Or simply something that was written by a talented author that from a particular perspective now might be close to a possible future?
I finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I’ve deliberately read it slowly to take it all in. I’ve also taken a couple of weeks to absorb it before I wrote this review.
30 years ago, it was certainly dystopian fiction several steps from reality. Today, though? It’s much, much closer, and awful. The level of discomfort you feel while reading it, seeing more than mere glimpses of words and happenings in the real world, brings it to just one or two sideways steps from our current reality.
I’m lucky enough to live in a country where right now there’s just no realistic chance of Gilead coming to be. But the US? I think most of the preconditions are there – a powerful religious conservative bloc, a self-obsessed leader and wider leadership interested in absolute power, the gaslighting of the 4th Estate and public sphere with a narrative that suits the leadership regardless of the truth of it, misogyny as an acceptable trait in leadership and public life, ongoing arguments over the legitimacy of women making their own choices, and massive separation between the haves and have-nots such that an underclass already exists. All the US needs is a chemical or nuclear incident causing widespread infertility, and you’ve fulfilled pretty much all the preconditions for Gilead to rise.
I think there’s possibly nothing I’m looking forward to watching more this year than Hulu’s adaptation of this book. I expect Elizabeth Moss will do a fine job of bringing Offred to life. And I’m ready for the arm-waving and unhinging from the right pointing to it all as SJW lefty propaganda; it’s already happening.