I finally read this. I enjoy Atwood and have read maybe a half-dozen of her books but I just never got around to this one – never saw the movie either. I did have an idea what the setting and plot were about though, and that there was a strong feminist element to it.
That said, I think Atwood has done better since, but I can see why this book was a hit in certain circles at the time. I can see why it was made into a movie with stunning visual effects – at least that’s what I would do.
Women in total bondage after environmental collapse and societal breakdown after which a theistic totalitarian government is set up in the US. The US is at war with other theistic groups , i.e. the Baptists. Women are used for procreation, basically. If they can’t do that there is a more subservient job for them, they are sent to a colony or they are executed.
Our heroine is a concubine re-named Offred (Of-Fred). Her job in this society os to produce a child for her Commander. The Commander has a wife, Serena Joy, who for some reason, probably age, is unable to bear children. Offred is trapped in her situation, her house and the community. There is no real escape. Spies and cameras abound.
But there is a network of rebels somewhere but the handmaids can barely speak to each other so …
Overall, I think if I’d read this in 1985 I’d have been thrilled with it. Today? The ideas have been used by others and so have lost their punch, really. I never cared enough about the main character to get scared or sad for her, maybe because I didn’t expect a good ending.