27 Mar 2018

Bridget Jones and The Handmaid's Tale - A Comparative Book Review

Two books, two female protagonists in two vastly different settings. Yet, with more similarities than differences.

At first glance, both stories could not be more different. But then you notice similarities between Bridget and Offred.

I read a couple of books over the last few days which have really stayed with me. The first one was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Some of you may remember this from a recent Channel 4 drama adaptation by the same name. The second book was Helen Fielding‘s last Bridget Jones offering. Mad AboutThe Boy saw Bridget in the role of a mother.

Bridget Jones, we all know and love her from the time she entered our lives all those years ago in Bridget Jones’ Diary. Without giving too much away, for there are a couple of shockers in Mad About The Boy, let’s just say that this Bridget is very much like her old self. A little older, but just as funny, naughty, and befuddled as ever. She is a mum to 2 little children now, and still looking for love. Bridget struggling with work, relationships and the added responsibility of motherhood in an affluent London society remains just as vulnerable and lovable as before.

The Handmaid’s Tale is the dystopian story of a young woman, Offred, and her struggle for independence and individuality in an oppressive, patriarchal and misogynistic society.

The story is set in post apocalyptic America, where strict religious laws and state-controlled fornication is the norm. Offred is one of several young women, the Handmaids, women with proven reproductive capabilities who are chosen to bear children with high ranking married officers of the realm. These women are nothing more than sex slaves, really. They have only one job – to procreate and produce a healthy offspring. Emotion has no place in this setting. The act of sex takes place with the wife’s consent and in her presence. The plot has strong references to the story of Bilhah from the Old Testament.

At first glance, both stories could not be more different. But then you notice similarities between Bridget and Offred. Both women are increasingly nostalgic over their lost past and struggle with reality in their quest for love.  Motherhood is the recurrent theme in both books. A mother’s unconditional love is what binds these two women together, as they face challenges beyond their control in a society that is demanding and unforgiving.

Two women from different eras and backgrounds, who are different and yet, so similar. Bridget could be you or me – a mother in a modern society. But then so could Offred, in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian reality.

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