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The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale

by Margaret Atwood

Analysis: Tough-o-Meter

We've got your back. With the Tough-O-Meter, you'll know whether to bring extra layers or Swiss army knives as you summit the literary mountain. (10 = Toughest)

(6) Tree Line

  • Tricky narrative structure? Check.
  • Lead character who may or may not be lying? Check.
  • Lots of characters going by fake names or no names at all? Check.
  • Uncomfortable subject matter? Check.
  • Absence of quotation marks during dialogue? Check.
  • Ambiguous ending? Check.
  • Compulsive readability? Oh yeah, that too.

While The Handmaid's Tale isn't James Joyce's Ulysses, it's still a pretty complicated book. It's going to be tough for anyone squeamish about infertility or tricky narrative structure, and it asks readers to commit to a world all the more frightening because it resembles our own. It's a gnarly ride, but we think it's worth it.

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