Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining fertility, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

Our first ever Margaret Atwood novel had our heads spinning in all directions … from uncomfortable and creepy to clever and interesting with a certain respectful awe in what the author has been able to create.

No one was exactly comfortable with this book’s theme, but then, we were never really meant to be, were we? The fact that every shocking event Atwood has included has happened somewhere in the world at some time, demands a certain amount of reverent appreciation. Her subject matter is deeply thought out and portrayed in a highly believable environment where human frailty is a constant escort.

Regardless of our unease, and the fact that speculative fiction is not necessarily a favoured genre, it was noted that the writing was of a high quality with an extremely prophetic concept, considering its time of publishing, the ‘80s.

Most of us found it challenging in many ways … as women (with a feminist slant), as readers and as human beings. The facts of the story are purposely left open to interpretation, which went a long way towards creating a most stimulating discussion and it was very interesting to hear everyone’s take on a variety of topics. Politics, religion, history and last but not least, what makes a brilliant novel.  If you like to challenge yourself and are not adverse to speculation, give this one a go. Like us, you’ll be glad you did.