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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale (original 1985; edition 1986)

by Margaret Atwood

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23,43657347 (4.11)1427
Title:The Handmaid's Tale
Authors:Margaret Atwood
Info:Seal Books, McLelland and Stewart Limited
Collections:Your library
Tags:Modern Canadian Lit., Writing by Women

Work details

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)

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    sparemethecensor: The Handmaid's Tale is the classic forerunner to dystopic fiction of sexist futures. When She Woke picks up the mantel with a more modern version of a misogynistic theocracy taking over government. Both show terrifying futures for the state of women in society.… (more)
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» See also 1427 mentions

English (549)  Spanish (4)  French (3)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (2)  Swedish (2)  Finnish (2)  German (1)  Hebrew (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (567)
Showing 1-5 of 549 (next | show all)
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood


This is one of those books you have to sit back and soak in. Even after letting it soak in I’m not sure I can give it a sufficient review.

Dystopian novels are not my cup of tea, at least rarely. The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the few exceptions to that. The book took me a bit to get into. I found it slow going. I don’t think the pace picked up as much as my adoration for the main character did. Once I got into the character I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen next. It was well written book that had me thinking from beginning to end.

With that being said, I wasn’t completely sucked into the storyline. I had trouble imagining this happening (the suddenness of it all going down) but there were some unsettling moments that made me think “perhaps?” But Atwood’s wonderful writing saved this book, giving it a 4 star rating for me.

*note* I wish I could give a better review. I feel it deserves better than I can honestly give. Maybe I just need to soak it in longer.
( )
  UberButter | Feb 9, 2016 |
Offred is a Handmaid in a dystopian society where women are not allowed to read or hold jobs. Men have a wife, martha's that act like nanny's and maids, and handmaids who have their children and then relocate. Offred remembers the time before life was like this, she had a husband and a daughter, a job and her own banking. The plot goes back and forth between her old life and her new life as a handmaid, she explains how this new society took control and came to be and also how not everyone is a true believer of the new way. I loved this book, it's well written, fast paced and really makes you think. It's also realistic, this shit could actually happen and that makes it so much more terrifying. ( )
  GrlIntrrptdRdng | Feb 8, 2016 |
This is a haunting tale.

Women are rounded up, assessed for fertility, compliance and therefore worth and assigned to castes accordingly. Told as the solution to declining birth rates put forward by Christian doctrine, it feels very much dystopian but if it were to be told under the backdrop of an extreme Islamist regime it wouldn't seem unplausible.

The Handmaids are blinkered by head dresses, covered up from head to toe and are not allowed to read, look at themselves in the mirror or even to speak freely. Any infraction is instantly punishable by death. They have only a limited number of chances to prove their worth by providing their assigned Commanders and their wives with children or they are rebranded as un-women and sentenced to a fate where they work until they die.

It was terrifying to read, it was bleak and as I was reading it I kept thinking... what if?

The ending is ambiguous but that didn't bother me so much, some stories are better when you don't know where everybody ends up, it allows the reader to come to their own conclusion.
( )
  4everfanatical | Feb 5, 2016 |
Truly chilling dystopian tale of how society could be if certain fundamentalists took over society. I picked this up from a free shelf in Tulum, Mexico on my belated honeymoon and devoured it. One of those books that I had put off reading for some reason, and after having finished it I wondered why I did so. Amazing. ( )
  chessakat | Feb 5, 2016 |
Narrated by Betty Harris. Offred is a handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. In this society, giving birth is the ultimate status symbol. As a handmaid to a colonel it is Offred's role to have sex with him during her ovulation in hopes of contributing offspring. The community of handmaids is strictly overseen by the "aunts" and watched by guards. There is no longer love or romance or passion. Women are not supposed to know how to read and there are no books or magazines. But having lived in the "time before," Offred still remembers some things. Eventually she enters into two affairs, one emotional, one physical and both absolutely against the rules. The book ends with the transcript of a conference presentation held long beyond the time of Gilead that analyzes a series of tapes narrated apparently by Offred.
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 549 (next | show all)
As a cautionary tale, Atwood's novel lacks the direct, chilling plausibility of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World. It warns against too much: heedless sex, excessive morality, chemical and nuclear pollution. All of these may be worthwhile targets, but such a future seems more complicated than dramatic. But Offred's narrative is fascinating in a way that transcends tense and time: the record of an observant soul struggling against a harsh, mysterious world.
added by Shortride | editTime, Paul Gray (Feb 10, 1986)
How sad for postfeminists that one does not feel for Offred-June half as much as one did for Winston Smith, no hero either but at any rate imaginable. It seems harsh to say again of a poet's novel - so hard to put down, in part so striking - that it lacks imagination, but that, I fear, is the problem.
It's a bleak world that Margaret Atwood opens up for us in her new novel, ''The Handmaid's Tale'' - how bleak and even terrifying we will not fully realize until the story's final pages. But the sensibility through which we view this world is infinitely rich and abundant. And that's why Miss Atwood has succeeded with her anti-Utopian novel where most practitioners of this Orwellian genre have tended to fail.

» Add other authors (20 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Atwood, Margaretprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alfsen, MereteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Battey, FrancesCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Danes, ClaireNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marcellino, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, ValerieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sibthorp, FletcherCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.

And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?

And she said, Behold my maid Bihah, go in unto her, and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her
-- Genesis 30:1-3
But as to myself, having been wearied out for many years with offering vain, idle, visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell upon this proposal. . .
-- Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal
In the desert there is no sign that says, Thou shalt not eat stones.
-- Sufi proverb
For Mary Webster and Perry Miller
First words
We slept in what had once been the gymnasium.
As all historians know, the past is a great darkness, and filled with echoes. Voices may reach us from it; but what they say to us is imbued with the obscurity of the matrix out of which they come; and, try as we may, we cannot always decipher them precisely in the clearer light of our own day.
Time has not stood still. It has washed over me, washed me away, as if I’m nothing more than a woman of sand, left by a careless child too near the water.
The shell of the egg is smooth but also grained; small pebbles of calcium are defined by the sunlight, like craters on the moon. It's a barren landscape, yet perfect; it's the sort of desert the saints went into, so their minds would not be distracted by profusions. I think that this is what God must look like: an egg. The life of the moon may not be on the surface, but inside.
But remember that forgiveness too is a power. To beg for it is a power, and to withold or bestow it is a power, perhaps the greatest. Maybe none of this is about control...Maybe it's about who can do what to whom and be forgiven for it. Never tell me it amounts to the same thing.
There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia, freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don't underrate it.
Last words
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Disambiguation notice
The Reading Guide Edition is the substantial equivalent the main Handmaid's Tale work, with a few additional pages of questions for groups to consider at the back. Please therefore leave these works combined together. Thank you
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Wikipedia in English (6)

Book description
From the back of the book: Offred is a handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the commander and his wife once a day to walk to food market whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offredd and the other handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offredd can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke, when she played with and protected her daughter, when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…..
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 038549081X, Paperback)

In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies?

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable.

Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now....

Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:22 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

A look at the near future presents the story of Offred, a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, once the United States, an oppressive world where women are no longer allowed to read and are valued only as long as they are viable for reproduction.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 13 descriptions

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