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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale (original 1985; edition 2006)

by Margaret Atwood

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21,78348861 (4.12)1303
Title:The Handmaid's Tale
Authors:Margaret Atwood
Collections:Read but unowned

Work details

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)

1980s (1)
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    Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (cflorente, norabelle414, Schwehnchen)
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    browner56: Two chilling, though extremely well written, reminders that liberty, freedom, and self-determination are not idle concepts.
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  7. 110
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    krazy4katz: An upside down recommendation, as this is an "all-women" utopia rather than a dystopia, but a fun read.
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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 all 50 recommendations)


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» See also 1303 mentions

English (468)  Spanish (4)  French (3)  Catalan (2)  Finnish (2)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  Norwegian (1)  Hebrew (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (485)
Showing 1-5 of 468 (next | show all)
Margaret Atwood creates an engaging and heartbreaking dystopian world in The Handmaid's Tale. Set in a near distant future, this story is told from the point of view of a "hand maid" named Offred. Hand maids are young women who are used as a tool of reproduction and repopulation. Throughout the story, Atwood details the world Offred lived in prior to the events in the story, illuminates some aspects of what caused the world to change, and explores how the citizens of Gilead deal with their status as members of a police state. This novel explores gender roles in society and demonstrates just how tenuous our standing in society can truly be. The open ended conclusion to the story was quite satisfying as it left the reader with a variety of options for the fate of the protagonist and the larger world. ( )
  mfedore | Oct 17, 2014 |
This famous 1980s dystopian novel paints a vivid and bleak portrayal of a repressive regime (Gilead) set up in America after some kind of traditionalist right wing takeover, which involves placing most women in utterly subordinate roles as "baby carriers" for the wives of the ruling men in this society. Indeed, one of the new society's slogan is an ironic distortion of the famous Marxist Leninist slogan: "from each according to her ability, to each according to his needs". The new regime also destroys books, luxury items and clothes, and bans and represses all non-Christian religions, or indeed non-conforming Christians. An interesting scenario, though we don't really find out the back story as to how this perverted society arose until over half way through the novel. The coup apparently involved the massacring of the President and Congress, blamed on Islamic fanatics (though this is a throw away sentence which isn't explored any further); then comes suspension of the Constitution, censorship and closing down of the press, then laws stopping women from holding jobs or owning money or property (or even from reading books or magazines). By the time our unnamed Handmaid is telling her tale, the regime has been in place for a few years, though as she also says that the earlier pre-coup life is well within the memory of 14 year old girls, it seems a little surprising that the new order has embedded itself so completely in such a comparatively short time. We don't find out the ultimate fate of our heroine, though in a postscript set 200 years into the future, her tale is being discussed at an academic conference as a source of evidence of Gileadean theocracy.

Despite this fascinating scenario and the commentary it no doubt provides, to a degree, on right wing Christian fundamentalism in the United States, I didn't really much enjoy reading the novel. I found the author's writing style a bit of a chore in a number of places and novels written in the present tense tend to grate on me. It was sometimes unclear whether the Handmaid was describing events in her present or her past and exactly how other events related to each other in time. So, a significant novel but not, in my view, a great one. ( )
  john257hopper | Oct 17, 2014 |
It has taken me much thought as to how to put into words how good this book is. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Margaret Atwood did not write historical romance, like I thought, but actually wrote thought provoking science fiction. The Handmaid's Tale is one of those rare books that was written in 1986 but showed some amazingly accurate insights into the future.

Some of the events that have occurred to create this world that Margaret Atwood wrote are strangely linked to the political climate at present. The book tells the story of one main character who we never find out her name. Through her reflections back we slowly learn what has happened to her and how the world that is described came about. There is interesting visual references made to the colour of dress that main characters wear and this has left me thinking what the author was trying to tell us with the colours she used.

This is simply a beautiful tale that I urge anyone to pick up. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and have added Margaret Atwood to my list of authors I would like to read more from. A must read. ( )
  samarnold1975 | Oct 13, 2014 |
3.5 stars

Offred is a “handmaid” - that is, she really only exists to provide a body to house a potential child for a rich man and his wife. The world wasn't always this way. Offred remembers a time when she was married and had her own child. This is her tale.

I read this about 15 years ago; this reread was for my book club. I remember liking it the first time around, and I still thought it was good. It did go back and forth in time to a couple of different time periods, so it could be a bit confusing that way sometimes, plus with trying to figure out what the heck a “Martha” was and such – a little more confusion. However, I thought it was a good story. I also thought it picked up a little right at the end as Offred was “misbehaving” a little more. ( )
  LibraryCin | Oct 3, 2014 |
I don't love dystopian novels. I read mostly for enjoyment, and I have a hard time enjoying things that depress me. However, this book was truly great, and I'm glad I read it.

It's the first (and so far only) book by Margaret Atwood I've read, but it's clear she's a gifted storyteller. The pace and tone of the story change from slow to fast to jarringly different, all reinforcing the experience of the characters themselves. Her story revolves around one very well crafted character, but even the secondary characters become three dimensional as the story continues.

The story itself is haunting, disturbing, and far too close to home. But it's one that needs to be read, especially in our world today. I read it more than 6 months ago, but the story and it's themes keep resonating in my head and have altered my view of politics, technology and the role of individuals in society.

It speaks most closely to our experiences here in the US, but I believe everyone should read this book. Then get involved. Question your government, and question who controls your data. ( )
1 vote brianinseattle | Oct 1, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 468 (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 (29 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Margaret Atwoodprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alfsen, MereteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marcellino, FredCover artistsecondary 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.
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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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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:40 -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)

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