Boozy Books: The Handmaid’s Tale

Hello, readers! It’s Friday!!! I remembered! Although I will admit there was a period during which I couldn’t figure out if it was already Saturday… Thankfully, I didn’t miss Boozy Books. I know y’all need your pairings. Any excuse for that weekend drink, amiright?

I’ll tell you, though… this week’s pairing is a doozy. Given all the stuff in the news that seems to be pointing us toward our own delightful dystopia, I decided it was finally time to read Margaret Atwood’s classic, The HandmaidsTale. Also, Hulu just released their small screen adaptation and I’d prefer to read the source material before watching. Because the book is always better. Plus, I assume Hulu will have taken some liberties to flesh out the story and its supporting characters beyond Offred’s viewpoint so I wanted to have an idea of Atwood’s original vision before viewing (and hopefully appreciating) the expansion.
If you aren’t familiar with The Handmaid‘s Tale, I’ll tell you now: it’s not fun reading. Don’t get me wrong – it’s beautifully written, vividly imagined, incredibly (and startlingly) believable, and intense… My reading sessions were filled with gasps of disbelief, sardonic laughter, and general pangs of anger and stress. The premise is simple enough in its terrifying believability: after nuclear fallout and a steadily falling birth rate, America’s government has fallen to a totalitarian theocracy who intend to model their society after the archaic examples set in the Bible. This includes forbidding women from reading, outlawing magazines and “revealing” clothing, and the ritual rape of Handmaids – a lower class of women whose ovaries are considered viable.

Offred is the Handmaid the title refers to, the narrator of the piece through whose eyes we see this newly established regime. After a failed escape from the Republic of Gillead, Offred (whose real name is never revealed – Handmaid’s take on the name of their Commanders) loses her husband and daughter and is recruited into the Red Center, where Handmaid’s are trained for the purpose of replenishing the population. Without giving too much away – you know by now that I hate synopsizing and spoilers – Offred goes from living a rigidly controlled nightmare to opening herself to extremely dangerous situations by allowing herself deviations that demonstrate her attempt to reclaim some scrap of her previous identity.

At one point in the course of the novel Offred drinks a gin and tonic. Since alcohol and cigarettes are banned, it is her first taste of a life she only recollects in fragments, a pleasurable vice that has been reserved for the powerful men of Gilead. Offred’s partaking in this illegal drink is a turning point for her, signaling the independence she chances to take as her story draws to a close. So that’s what we’re drinking. Gin and tonic. In honor of Offred. Cause damn.

A

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