I don’t have a whole lot to say about The Handmaid’s Tale. It did make me hate evangelicals even more than I already do.
Thing one is that it reminded me a little bit of The Stranger. Not in any of its content, but in the form of the 2nd half of Stranger. Meursault spends the second half of the novel in prison thinking about what he has done and its implications. From the perspective of plot, he is more or less incapacitated. He sits in his cell and thinks about things. A lot of The Handmaid’s Tale is like that: Offred looking at things and telling us about them. A lot of that is unto itself interesting, but I’m not the kind of reader it’ll excite for page after page.
Ironically my second feeling, which is complimentary, is kind of predicated on the first thing. The same story but written by some kind of heroic Gileadean dissident would be full of much more plot and a fraction as interesting. The book is much more subtle about totalitarianism this way. There is none of the boisterous, typically masc-charged delusional resistance in The Handmaid’s Tale. Even as she describes its horrors, Gilead’s power pulses through Offred’s psychology. It’s not a comforting book.