Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Book group day -- The Handmaid's Tale

When I moved here from California I was outside of an academic setting for the first time in years. We live in a very small town (one of those don't blink or you'll miss it places) and I was used to being around a university environment (both as a student and working there), and here there's nada. So after a while of feeling blue because there was no one around to discuss books with, I started a book group in my neighborhood.

Our first book was Mr. Pip (which we all loved) and since then we've read some really awesome stuff. This time around, I selected Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.  With the exception of one person, we all loved it. Basically, what happens in this novel (written in 1985) is that Atwood hones in on those who were active against the feminist movement (like the religious/political conservatives), then extrapolates into the future some of their ideas to the extreme. A basic "what if," if you will. What she creates is the Republic of Gilead, a theocracy in which the main character of this book finds herself among the group of women called "handmaids," whose only function in life is to produce children.  The Handmaid's Tale is the story told by one of these women, but it's so much more -- it's a story about how certain people learn to survive under a totalitarian regime while their pasts are still very fresh in their minds.  We had a very lively discussion about the book, especially the characters, and the question was asked about whether or not we believed that Atwood was giving us (women) a warning about our future. There are so many discussion topics that can be brought up with this book -- it's a great book group read.

next month we'll be reading Out Stealing Horses which I haven't yet read, so that will be something to look forward to.

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