Friday, January 16, 2015

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (& A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving) | Book Review

Why I read these books/Why I stopped reading: I had to read a book for my Adolescents in Literature Class.  Both of these were on a list that was given to the class.  I started reading A Prayer for Owen Meany because I heard great things about it and I got pretty far into it before I stopped.  It was just too slow for me. The author would go off on these tangents and go from past to even further back past to present too much for me.  A Handmaid's Tale also goes back and forth between past and present, but that didn't bother me as much.  Maybe some of you have read Irving's novel and loved it and maybe you can tell me why you liked it, but I just couldn't get into it.  Maybe I'll try rereading it over the summer when I'm not on a time crunch and I'll have more respect for it. 

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving 

Cover (Minor Spoilers): The cover of the book shown to you has an armadillo on it.  The armadillo is a representation of the boys friendship in the book.  He represents that even if something is not 100% how it used to be (the armadillo breaks) it can still be an armadillo  aka when a rough patch comes up in a friendship you can still be friends.

Back Cover: John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany is the inspiring modern classic that introduced two of the author’s most unforgettable characters, boys bonded forever in childhood: the stunted Owen Meany, whose life is touched by God, and the orphaned Johnny Wheelwright, whose life is touched by Owen. From the accident that links them to the mystery that follows them–and the martyrdom that parts them–the events of their lives form a tapestry of fate and faith in a novel that is Irving at his irresistible best.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Age for Reading: I would say at least Junior or Senior in High School so 16-18 years old

Stars: 3 out of 5

Cover: The cover shows two handmaids, Offred and Ofglen (I'm assuming), on their daily walk near The Wall. 

Back Cover: Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...

Summary (Spoilers): Offred is the main character in this story and she is the narrator.  The story goes back and forth between past and present.  
One flashback story is from before the formation of Gilead:  Offred used to have a pretty normal life, she was married, she had a daughter, she had a job.  However, one piece of her story is that when she started dating her husband he was still married to someone else.  Her friend Moira from college didn't really like that Offred was doing that, but Luke does divorce his first wife for her and they have a very happy life together.  when the government starts taking away women's rights and putting weird restrictions on stuff, they try to escape to Canada.  they get caught at the border and attempt to make a run for it, but get caught.   
The second flashback story is the beginning of her life in Gilead:  When the United States fell apart and Gilead was created all divorces prior were nullified so Offred and Luke aren't legally married and their daughter is thought of illegitimate.  The daughter is given to a loyalist family and Offred must become a Handmaid (I got that part from Wikipedia, it makes sense, but I didn't figure that out just from reading).  Before she can be a full on handmaid though she has to go through training and the school is nicknamed The Red because Handmaid's must wear red.  While she's there she meets different people and is reconnected with Moira.  However, Moira can't really handle the circumstances so she escapes.
The present:  Offred is a Handmaid to the Commander (whose name I'm guessing is Fred because she's "Of Fred" and all the other Handmaid's are "Of Someone").  The Commander is married to Serena Joy who isn't very keen on the Handmaid (obviously) because the Handmaid's are trying to get pregnant.  That's their main job.  All they do is go on one walk a day to get groceries and try to get pregnant.  They have to preform "The Ceremony" which is just a fancy way of saying they have to have sex with whoever they are assigned to.  But the wives are there too.  the wife lies down, then the handmaid lies down between her legs with her head on the wife's stomach, and they hold hands as the commander has sex with the Handmaid.  It's supposed to show that they're all in this together.  
The story goes on and describes how life is for the Handmaids.  They're not allowed to read, they have to have a buddy when they go to town, they basically have no rights.
A main part of the story is that Offred becomes friends with the commander, which she isn't supposed to do.  They hang out in his study and play scrabble, he lets her read a magazine.  One night he brings her to some nightclub/stripclub place and they have sex, they don't have feelings for each other or anything though.
As Offred is becoming friends with the Commander, Serena Joy is also trying to help her out a little bit.  A Handmaid only has three chances to become pregnant.  Three chances as in she can only go to three different households and this is Offred's third household.  If she doesn't become pregnant, they government people will kill her or send her away.  Because of this Serena Joy has her have sex with Nick, the chauffeur.  It's illegal, but one of those things that all the wives do because they're not exactly keen on their husbands having sex with someone else literally right on top of them.  Offred doesn't have sex with Nick until after she goes to the nightclub (just to give you a timeline).  Offred does actually have feelings for Nick though and starts sneaking out to his room above the garage almost every night.  She feels she is pregnant with his baby, but before anyone else knows she's pregnant Serena Joy finds out about the nightclub and gets wicked mad.  The "police" come to get Offred, but Serena didn't call them and Nick says it's the activist group and they're going to take her to safety.  The book ends with her getting into the back of the"police" van and you don't know if it is or is not the activist people.  You have to make your own interpretation of it I guess.

My Opinion: This book was okay.  It was interesting, but there were just so many unanswered questions.  Mainly how do the women become what they are.  Like how does Offred become a Handmaid (I guess wikipedia gave us the answer to that one) and not a Martha (which are the cooks and cleaners) or a wife or an aunt (Those are the teachers at The Red).  How do those women become those different things?  An interesting part of the book is that her real name is never said.  She talks about it and she says that Nick calls her it and she has flashbacks of her husband calling her it, but it's never said.  Neither is her daughters.  I'm assuming it's to show something, maybe that she is no longer that person or something.  It sounds like something someone would write their essay on doesn't it?  Also, what happened to Luke?  He's never in the present, but I don't think they killed him, so maybe he's just hiding out somewhere.  I know the author didn't want Offred to get any information about him, but it was annoying as the reader to not know.  The Ceremony was just as awkward reading as it probably would be to experience.  You just felt awkward for everyone involved.  
A fun fact about this book is that the setting of the book is supposed to be Boston.  If I had known that before I started reading I probably would have picked up on it better.

Favorite Part: I liked that she and Nick got together.  She was still in love with Luke and waiting for him, kind of using Nick as a rebound, but I was happy that she was able to have someone because Luke didn't come find her or anything and it's not like she was really cheating on him.  She needed to get pregnant to stay alive and whatever.  I mean I know she was cheating on Luke, but I think he would have understood is what I'm trying to get at.  Plus, Nick seemed cute and he was nice to her.

Have any of you read this book?  What did you think?  What was your favorite part? 

1 comment

  1. Hey guys! Just wanted to remind you to stay connected (if you want to of course)
    Main Twitter: @juliann_guerra
    Second Twitter: @writerjewels
    Instagram: juliann_guerra
    Tumblr: juliann-guerra
    Goodreads: Juliann Guerra
    Wattpad: @writerjewels
    Pinterest: Juliann Guerra
    Spotify: juliann.guerra


© Juliann Guerra
Blogger Templates by pipdig