In the end I found this book confusing and highly erratic. Which was unfortunate because it consisted of high-quality prose and an excellent opening premise. This brilliant start and favourable disposition toward the novel dissolved as I slowly crept my way through the novel.
The Handmaid's Tale focuses on Offred through her personal perspective as she lives her life as a handmaid. Her duty is to provide her body for the purpose of bearing a child for the supposedly infertile Commander's Wife. It is a society in which a radical religious order has taken control and uses the teachings of the Bible out of context to assert their own dominance. Other religious movements are considered as rebellious and mention is made in the text to Quaker groups being destroyed along with Jehovah's Witnesses. In this society that Margaret Atwood creates supposedly it is the woman's fault for things such as rape occurring and for the failure to conceive. Men are superior in the featured world and as such can do no such sexual sins.
Dancing, cinemas, books and all manner of 'irreligious' material was destroyed in this world. And or those who are interested Scrabble was also outlawed of course - a vile evil game Scrabble teaching people all manner of rebellious ways. I mean triple word scores are a major threat to every dictator's economy.
What I did appreciate about the novel is its expression of how people can appear religious but deny their religion with their actions. It is something I am always wary about personally because if you do not practice what you preach you will not be respected. You will appear poorly in front of others. However I had many faults with the other messages Margaret Atwood appeared to be displaying.
Or rather I had fault with her execution, to make my point more sound. I felt that there were two messages she was attempting to portray: her disappointment with religion and a strong feminist message. Nothing which is wrong on its own. Although I believe that her disappointment with religion was focused on religion rather than its practitioners as I believe should be the case here. The problem I had was that she became confused it appeared. She seemed to not know which message to really push forward and so in the end both messages became half-hearted in my view and failed to have the full effect they may otherwise.
Still there is plenty here for others to enjoy. Just don't expect me to re-read this novel in the future or to ever enjoy it. It is definitely not my style despite my love of dystopian type novels...