Let's kick start this by saying that this is the best/scariest/most profound book I've read in a LONG time. I mean, I always thought I'd like Margaret Atwood's work, but I never thought I'd find it this life altering. The Handmaid's Tale has made me think twice about everything I do. I feel like even more of an eco-warrior than I ever have been, and I'm absolutely petrified about the harm we're causing to our world, and to each other.
The Handmaid's Tale is set in a dystopian future. In this world, all the plastic that we've dumped into the ocean has reduced the fertility of humans so much that the population is seriously declining (FYI, the whole plastic reducing fertility thing is something that's actually starting to happen). Modern consumerist society has been erased and replaced by a world filled with rations and re-using everything as much as we can.
It's a world where everyone has their proper place in society, and people are ranked. Our narrator is a handmaid. She wears red and is effectively brought up to become a surrogate mother for an important man and his ageing wife. When handmaids stop being fertile, they go to the place everyone fears: the colonies. Here, women are forced to clear up nuclear waste, effectively signing their own death warrant.
As the novel progresses, the narrator is put in a series of very difficult situations, and there are so many twists and turns and heart racing moments for the reader. I found this book so moving because the handmaiden's personality absolutely shines through. Atwood doesn't let you forget that she's a person behind the status she's been given. She had a life before her world changed into this dystopia and she has desires and emotions just like us.
I want to read so much more from this author now, as this book was incredibly powerful. I would definitely recommend it if you want to read a (fairly) modern feminist novel.