Mar­garet At­wood’s The Hand­maid’s Tale best­seller on Ama­zon.com

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - TRAVIS M. AN­DREWS

Move over, “1984.” There’s a new dystopian novel top­ping the charts.

“The Hand­maid’s Tale” by Cana­dian au­thor Mar­garet At­wood has just be­come the best­selling book on Ama­zon.com.

“New,” of course, is a rel­a­tive term. “1984” was pub­lished in 1949, yet just two weeks ago it topped Ama­zon’s best­selling list af­ter Kel­lyanne Conway in­fa­mously used the term “al­ter­na­tive facts.” At­wood’s novel, mean­while, was pub­lished in 1985.

But it, like “1984,” de­picts a stark fu­ture for a world led by an author­i­tar­ian gov­ern­ment.

The rea­son for the im­me­di­ate spike in the book’s pop­u­lar­ity is likely its upcoming tele­vi­sion adap­ta­tion, which will air on Hulu and stars Jor­dana Blake, Elis­a­beth Moss and Joseph Fi­ennes. A trailer for the upcoming show dropped dur­ing the Su­per Bowl, which was watched by more than 111 mil­lion peo­ple.

Of course, a Su­per Bowl com­mer­cial alone wouldn’t likely cause such a spike — if it would, ev­ery­one would be pur­chas­ing Mr. Clean prod­ucts or bot­tles of Bai.

Dystopian fic­tion, as the Wash­ing­ton Post’s Ron Charles noted, has seen a re­cent uptick since the elec­tion of U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. “Ray Brad­bury’s ‘Fahren­heit 451,’ Al­dous Hux­ley’s ‘Brave New World’ and Mar­garet At­wood’s ‘The Hand­maid’s Tale’ have all risen up the lat­est pa­per­back best­seller list,” he wrote.

Many have ar­gued, though, that At­wood’s novel is one of the more im­por­tant in our new po­lit­i­cal cli­mate. As Alex Hern wrote in The Guardian:

“Mar­garet At­wood’s 1985 novel is set in a near-fu­ture New Eng­land fol­low­ing the col­lapse of Amer­ica into the author­i­tar­ian, theo­cratic state of Gilead. It was ground­break­ing for its treat­ment of gen­der, de­pict­ing a state in which the ad­vances of fem­i­nism have been com­pre­hen­sively de­stroyed. Women are con­sid­ered in­fe­rior to men, and their ev­ery be­hav­iour is tightly con­trolled by the state. In par­tic­u­lar, their role in re­pro­duc­tion is bound to a strict caste sys­tem: abor­tion is il­le­gal, and fer­tile women are re­quired to bear chil­dren for high­er­sta­tus women.”

When speak­ing of the #Re­pealthe19th hash­tag that trended on Face­book, At­wood told Bri­tain’s Guardian news­pa­per, “The 19th Amend­ment is what gave women the vote. So there are Trump sup­port­ers who want to take the vote away from women. ‘The Hand­maid’s Tale,’ un­fold­ing in front of your very eyes.”

Though per­haps it’s merely the dystopian novel of the week. If that’s the case, though, then as Vul­ture’s Jack­son McHenry wrote, “Let’s pray that noth­ing hap­pens that would make us all pick up (Cor­mac McCarthy’s) ‘The Road.’”

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