I’ve spent the past few years reading (okay, mostly listening to audiobooks) through a long list of classic science fiction novels (more on that at the end of the year), but I’ve put off reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale almost to the end of that list because I didn’t think I would like it very much. With my limited knowledge of the subject matter, it really didn’t sound like it would be up my alley. But I finally read it, and I have to say, it’s a lot better than I expected.
(Note that I haven’t seen the Hulu series. This review is only about the book.)
Before I read The Handmaid’s Tale, I had the impression that it was anti-Christian propaganda. Granted, the people shouting this the loudest are all to my political right, so you might want to take that with a grain of salt. But as a Christian, when you hear that the book is about a dystopian, theocratic state that claims to quote the Bible, but engages in extremely un-Christian practices like keeping concubines (though they deny that’s what the Handmaids are), you kind of have to wonder.
But having read it, I am confident in saying The Handmaid’s Tale is not anti-Christian. It becomes abundantly clear early on in the story that Gilead, the dictatorship that has overthrown the U.S. government, is not genuinely Christian, as Atwood herself has said in the past, and is opposed to all mainstream Christians, even conservative ones like Baptists. Moreover, Atwood, though an agnostic, herself, praises the values of Christianity as Jesus taught it, and she has specifically said that her book is not meant to be anti-religious. Instead, it’s a statement (and a thought experiment) about totalitarianism, just like most of the other dystopias. And you don’t have to take my word for it; my Catholic readers may be interested in this review written by a friar who comes to the same conclusion. And it’s a pretty good book, too.
My rating: 4 out of 5.Continue reading