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The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood It’s possible I started this book with my expectations too high. I’ve heard nothing but the highest praise for The Handmaid’s Tale and I was convinced it was going to be amazing. The writing was everything I could have asked for. Every word was selected thoughtfully. Words were often used to convey multiple meanings or to connect several disparate ideas. I don’t usually notice quotes I especially like when I’m reading, but in this book I was constantly savoring words and phrases. The writing was so beautiful I just wanted to read it out loud and feel the words on my lips. The world-building was done incrementally through Offred’s daily experiences and occasional memories. I loved that I constantly wanted to know more without feeling as though the author was using annoying plot devices to withhold information.

By page eighty or so, my love of the writing could no longer distract me from the fact that nothing but world building had happened yet. Towards the end events do become more exciting. Things happen that are outside of Offred’s normal routine and which require her to make some tough decisions. However, even in the most exciting scenes, the writing stays beautiful and slow. I never felt completely swept up in what was going on and the ending in particular felt emotionless to me. After the good things I’ve heard about this book, after the spectacularly beautiful writing, after the intricate world that was built, I expected more than that. The ending felt very flat to me. So while I will try more Margaret Atwood, if only to luxuriate in more of her beautiful writing, I felt a bit let down by this one.

This review first published on Doing Dewey.