Three months ago, I did a post on the perfect book to read in March. And I don’t know why I stopped there! I’ve decided to keep it going and pick a well-suited book for each month to share with you. This month, it’s Margaret Atwood’s dystopian masterpiece, The Handmaid’s Tale.
What it’s about: The Handmaid’s Tale is the story of Offred, a handmaid in a near-future America that has been transformed into a totalitarian cult theocracy where women are reproductive slaves named for the men who own them (Of-fred, Of-glen, Of-warren). The novel reads like a piece of science fiction but is not technically a work of science fiction as it is based on actual historical events all over the world (which makes it all the more terrifying, really). Atwood says “there’s nothing in the book that hasn’t already happened.”
Why you should read it this June:
- Because Margaret Atwood is the best. (I’m not even being hyperbolic. Over here, we call her the Queen of CanLit)
- Because, more topically, June 12th is National Red Rose day (the national flower of the good ol’ U.S. of A). Atwood creates a horrific fun house mirror reflection of America in The Handmaid’s Tale, and her version of our “rose” is very, very red; there’s so much red in the novel that the color could almost be considered a character (as you can probably deduce from these three examples of the many, many amazing (and very red) covers the book has gotten over the years:
- Because the main character of the novel, whose dystopian society has named her “Offred” (Of-Fred), never gets to share her real name. But, through clever clues left by the author, savvy readers can deduce that her name is “June.” The handmaids whisper their real names while in bed early in the novel (“Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. June.”) and all names except June are accounted for as the novel progresses. Later, one of the Aunts (women in charge of the handmaids) tells Offred to stop “mooning and June-ing,” which could refer to her real name as well as to what that name stands for, the parts of her that she is no longer permitted to be.
- Because you need to prep for when you go see the adaptation by The Royal Winnipeg Ballet in a few short months! A sci-fi, dystopian ballet? I can’t wait.
- Because just last June, a woman in Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province was forcibly made by the government to abort her child seven months into her pregnancy. The Handmaid’s Tale is an unflinching look at the dangers of a world where the government has control over women’s bodies. The book is so widely associated with this issue that a recently formed Canadian reproductive rights activist group has named themselves “Radical Handmaids” after the novel. If for no other reason, this novel is worth reading because the relevance it has today, 26 years after its initial publication, is staggering.
What’s your favorite book to read in June? Let us know in the comments below!