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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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25,39764944 (4.11)1608
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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Offred remembers the time, not so long ago, when she had a husband and a daughter, when women were allowed to read and work and own property. All of that has changed in the repressive Republic of Gilead. Now, Offred is a Handmaid. Her purpose in life is to bear children for a barren married woman. Every aspect of Offred's life is controlled and scrutinized -- almost. Is there any way to escape?

This book is experiencing a resurgence in popularity, as it is made into a TV series, and as people draw connections between it and the elements of the current political climate that some find frighteningly similar to the book. I had never read it before, so I decided that now was an excellent time to do so. It is a chilling depiction of a dystopian future, though it does show its age in spots. Still, definitely worth a read for the high quality writing, and so that you can be au courant with the current literary-political conversation. ( )
1 vote foggidawn | May 24, 2017 |
A very well written story which is a very depressing portrayal of one possible dystopian future where women have been relegated to a second class role in society, and some women to even worse fates. The vision is of a totalitarian, repressive regime, so that even the men, who are dominant, are also continually in fear of being caught doing something illegal. Mot a future we will ever see, I hope. ( )
  bness2 | May 23, 2017 |
I am glad I read this book. It was on my TBR when it was published, but then it fell off over the years and I never went back to it. The recent interest in it because of the Hulu movie reminded me. The Amazon Prime offered it for free! I would gladly have paid to read it. It is so well written and the story emerges in a gripping way even though the narrator spends her time in the rigid routine of a dystopian society. I am not usually drawn to dystopian fiction, finding it too dark. However, I was able to immerse myself in this story and found the ending so powerful. My only disappointment was the epilogue, Historical Notes on the Handmaid’s Tale. I didn’t think it added much and I would have felt fully satisfied with the last sentence of the story as told. I don't plan to watch the movie. I am satisfied with my own vision. ( )
  beebeereads | May 18, 2017 |
The Handmaid's Tale presents a dystopian future that seems all to likely in today's political climate. It is beautifully written and develops the character and the setting slowly and with precision. The events become more and more disturbing as the novel progresses, creating a true sense of anxiety for the main character. This is not a pleasant novel, but it is an important one, especially in today's political climate. ( )
  DrApple | May 17, 2017 |
This book is a lot like 1984 but instead of a secular regime, it's a look at what the US might look like under a fundamentalist protestant Christian theocracy told in the point of view of a woman in the forced occupation of breeding stock.

This book grabbed me from the start, and knowing what I know about fundamentalist protestant Christians in the US it may not be at all too far off of what they might put into place if they were allowed a takeover of the United States, and while I don't have any fear that that will happen I do find it interesting.

I found the characters of Offred and Serena Joy to be the most interesting, although characters like Moira, Janine, and Ofglen are also characters I find to be quite interesting. I wish that we had a series of books, in fact, told by these characters's points of view. I'd certainly find it interesting!

Given the subject matter of the book and the situation of the main character, I was anticipating that this book might have a lot of sex in it, but it has surprisingly very little and what there is doesn't go into any great detail. In fact, it skips over it almost entirely whenever possible. I'm not sure what other people may think of that, but I was personally glad about that. I was a little worried that a book like this was being written as a modern bodice ripper, at least in part. This allowed the main character to focus on her situation, how she felt about it, how society had come to work, how things got to this point, etc. How surprisingly but believably easily things shifted in the early days of the change.

I liked the compare and contrast between the recounting of "the time before" and in the present of the book. The recounting of Offred's time at the Red Center was also interesting, especially the indoctrination efforts and the punishments.

I also really enjoyed that the book focused a lot on not just the situation of women (although that too) but on the way relationships between women developed in this society and what they looked like.

I think the depravity of some of the practices employed by the Republic of Gilead (what the new regime renamed the US) to be both shocking and, yet, by the time you begin to really hear about them not so shocking. Some of them remain hinted at while others are explained in detail, and as I think it's important to read about them as they're told about at the points they're mentioned I won't say anything about them here.

The pacing of this book is marvelous and I think that's a large part of what sucks you in. It gives you answers, but then leaves you with more questions and foreshadowing that you have to keep reading because you just have to know. By the time the story is finished you've got most of the answers, but some of them still remain unknown. I mention that only because it's something I unexpectedly liked. It made sense for the way the story was told.

Also, it is important to note that after the story is finished there is a very short section entitled Historical Notes. I think it might be tempting to bypass this without even giving it a look, assuming that it's just some notes from the author's research that a lot of people may not be that interested in, but DO NOT do that. That's not what it is. It's a sort of epilogue that will answer even more of the questions left either unanswered or vaguely answered in the story proper. ( )
1 vote madam_razz | May 16, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Atwood, Margaretprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alfsen, MereteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Balbusso, AnnaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Balbusso, ElenaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Battey, FrancesCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Danes, ClaireNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marcellino, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, ValerieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pennati, CamilloTranslatorsecondary 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 withhold 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 (4)

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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