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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale (original 1985; edition 1998)

by Margaret Atwood

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Title:The Handmaid's Tale
Authors:Margaret Atwood
Info:Anchor (1998), Edition: 1st Anchor Books, Paperback, 311 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)

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» See also 1260 mentions

English (452)  Spanish (4)  French (3)  Catalan (2)  Finnish (2)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  Hebrew (1)  Dutch (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (468)
Showing 1-5 of 452 (next | show all)
“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.”

I left doing this review for a few days to give me time to think how I felt about this book.Personally I'm n o real fan of sci-fi but had heard great things about this one.

The book is supposedly set in the future in a nation called Gilead which is a theocracy where religion and authority have become closely intertwined. Due to a drastic drop in the birth rate the society is based around trying to correct this. The story is told by Offred, a woman stripped of all all her rights and family and is now a sexual slave kept merely because she has previously borne a healthy child.All women in the society have been stripped of their individual identities and are nor either handmaids, wives, Marthas, Aunts or Unwomen whereas men are referred to by their ranks. However, many women are also complicit with this system by their silence. Offred however is a first generation of this new society and as such has memories of a happier more carefree past so rebels against this new society if only by thought alone.

The book is full of symbolism ranging from language used by the authorities to the red clothing that Offred and the other housemaids must wear.The colour of this clothing is particularly important. Red is the colour of a woman's menstrual period and therefore fertility but is also seen as the sign of sexual sin and certainly references to rape and other sexual crimes are prevalent throughout and are used as justification by the theocracy for its actions. Certainly sex within Gilead is closely controlled.

The final chapter left me with mixed feelings. Certainly it gives a slightly different viewpoint on what went before however given that the book is written in the first person am not totally convinced that it was necessary.

On the whole I enjoyed this book and it certainly made me think about what it would be like to be stripped of all control of one's own life. However, at times I did find it hard work and am not a fan of this stream of conscious writing. Thus the book fails to get top marks but would still recommend it. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Jul 1, 2014 |
It’s possible I started this book with my expectations too high. I’ve heard nothing but the highest praise for The Handmaid’s Tale and I was convinced it was going to be amazing. The writing was everything I could have asked for. Every word was selected thoughtfully. Words were often used to convey multiple meanings or to connect several disparate ideas. I don’t usually notice quotes I especially like when I’m reading, but in this book I was constantly savoring words and phrases. The writing was so beautiful I just wanted to read it out loud and feel the words on my lips. The world-building was done incrementally through Offred’s daily experiences and occasional memories. I loved that I constantly wanted to know more without feeling as though the author was using annoying plot devices to withhold information.

By page eighty or so, my love of the writing could no longer distract me from the fact that nothing but world building had happened yet. Towards the end events do become more exciting. Things happen that are outside of Offred’s normal routine and which require her to make some tough decisions. However, even in the most exciting scenes, the writing stays beautiful and slow. I never felt completely swept up in what was going on and the ending in particular felt emotionless to me. After the good things I’ve heard about this book, after the spectacularly beautiful writing, after the intricate world that was built, I expected more than that. The ending felt very flat to me. So while I will try more Margaret Atwood, if only to luxuriate in more of her beautiful writing, I felt a bit let down by this one.

This review first published on Doing Dewey. ( )
  DoingDewey | Jun 29, 2014 |
Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale describes a bleak future in which certain women are valued only for their reproductive abilities.

Offred, the narrator, is a "handmaid"; her sole purpose in life is to bear a powerful man's children. Like others who serve this function, she lives in relative comfort with an important family, but is not allowed to read, work, have money, go anywhere unaccompanied, or think independent thoughts. Every month there is an elaborate ceremony at which the would-be patriarch tries to impregnate her. Other than that, her days are empty.

Atwood shows us the inner workings of the this dystopian society, with its strict regimentation and veneer of religiosity, through Offred's eyes. Unfortunately, Offred is rather vague about the historical circumstances that led the former United States to become a totalitarian theocracy. Her concerns are more immediate: she doesn't know whom she can trust, or if her husband, daughter, or mother are still alive. Unlike her friend from the past, Moira, Offred is not a natural rebel. She is just an ordinary woman who wants to go back to what used to be considered a normal life.

Atwood is a wonderful writer, and this book is engrossing, moving and even suspenseful in places. I'm glad I read it. ( )
  akblanchard | Jun 28, 2014 |
Overall a really interesting narrative. While I was engaged through and through, the narrator's aloofness prevented me from becoming emotionally connected or impassioned. Throughout the book, much was at stake, I was left feeling as though little actually happened. ( )
  LaPhenix | Jun 27, 2014 |
The cultist theocracy of Gilead, formerly U.S.A, firmly governed via badly- corrupted biblical dictates. Rather depressing, but the narrative voice of "Offred" keeps you going. Atwood was a little too early here to anticipate the internet and personal device explosion, so that her dystopian tale is glued too much to the past. As we all continue to witness, humanity's capacity for cruelty and oppression marches on...Overall effectively told, glad I read it. ( )
  JamesMScott | Jun 24, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 452 (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.
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 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)

» see all 13 descriptions

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