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What to read after The Handmaid's Tale


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The recent Hulu adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale has ignited a new fervour around bookshops.

The 1985 novel by Margaret Atwood is popping up on promotional tables everywhere in 2017. Once you've devoured the source text from this year's Emmy-winning TV series, you might want to consider delving into these exciting titles. 

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

This novel revolves around two young women, Yolanda and Verla, as they're kidnapped and taken to a secure facility in the Australian outback along with eight other girls. Food supplies gradually become scarce and the jailers become the jailed as the tables turn for the girls. 

The novel won the Stella Prize in 2016 - and for good reason. It's definitely not for the fainthearted and contains potentially triggering material, but it's a book that refuses to be shaken off. Wood creates a gritty feminist text that examines female embodiment, the power of women, and where slut-shaming can take us.

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

Zoo - the central character of Oliva's novel - is a contestant in a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are released into the woods to face challenges which will push them to the edge of their physical and mental boundaries. The lines soon begin to blur between fiction and reality and the novel morphs into a dystopian struggle for survival. With The Last One, Olivia has written a great post-apocalyptic thriller. 

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

When She Woke is a re-imagining of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Convicts in a near-future USA are 'chromed' - their bodies are dyed a different colour according to their crime. Hannah, the book's protagonist, is chromed red for the abortion she underwent and she is imprisoned for a month in a facility, which live-broadcasts her actions to the public. This book details some horrible government regimes and considers the role of religion in law-making. There's also a pretty nice look at sexuality here - When She Woke was nominated for the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian General Fiction.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

What if the power was in women's hands? That's the question at the centre of Alderman's novel, in which girls discover they have the ability to produce agonising sparks of electricity at their fingertips. This role reversal leads to some blistering questions about patriarchal privilege and its consequences, and how female empowerment might be taken by force. It won the Women's Prize for Fiction this year.

Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill

This book falls more into the YA category, but it's just as brutal as some of the other novels listed. Baby girls are no longer naturally conceived in O'Neill's dystopia - instead, they are bred in facilities and taught how best to please men until they can marry. The novel deals with some of feminism's major qualms - women's supposed inferiority and the potentially damaging nature of the cosmetics industry. Don't be deceived by its pretty cover.

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison

Women and children are dying of a violent plague that means birth rates have hit zero worldwide. Alternating between journal entries and third-person narrative, Elison's novel follows a midwife who disguises herself as a man to survive in this new world where the few surviving women are taken as property or slaves. Although problematic, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife cleverly analyses gender and is a brilliantly grim read. It won the Philip K. Dick Award in 2014.

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