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The Handmaid's Tale (1985)

by Margaret Atwood

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Handmaid's Tale (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
40,726111446 (4.1)1 / 2161
This 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.
  1. 808
    1984 by George Orwell (cflorente, norabelle414, Schwehnchen)
  2. 604
    Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (ateolf)
  3. 473
    Brave New World & Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley (fannyprice)
  4. 423
    Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (readerbabe1984, rosylibrarian, ateolf, browner56)
    browner56: Two chilling, though extremely well written, reminders that liberty, freedom, and self-determination are not idle concepts.
  5. 274
    The Road by Cormac McCarthy (mrstreme)
  6. 201
    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (Schwehnchen, mcenroeucsb)
  7. 279
    A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (wosret)
  8. 181
    Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (smiteme)
  9. 2510
    The Giver by Lois Lowry (cflorente)
  10. 140
    Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (krazy4katz)
    krazy4katz: An upside down recommendation, as this is an "all-women" utopia rather than a dystopia, but a fun read.
  11. 110
    When She Woke by Hillary Jordan (sparemethecensor)
    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)
  12. 110
    The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri S. Tepper (lesvrolyk)
  13. 177
    V for Vendetta by Alan Moore (readerbabe1984)
  14. 111
    We: A Novel by Yevgeny Zamyatin (themephi)
  15. 112
    The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (smiteme)
  16. 124
    The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (wosret, Kaelkivial)
    Kaelkivial: Both stories of strong women who resist (in one form or another) the system that holds them down. Both books fairly fast paced and gripping; acts of violence and loss scattered throughout.
  17. 91
    The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (LamontCranston)
  18. 92
    Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood (k8_not_kate)
  19. 92
    The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist (bookcrushblog)
  20. 70
    I Who Have Never Known Men by Jacqueline Harpman (wosret)

(see all 66 recommendations)

1980s (1)
AP Lit (45)
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» See also 2161 mentions

English (1,056)  Spanish (15)  French (7)  Dutch (5)  Catalan (5)  German (4)  Italian (3)  Swedish (3)  Finnish (3)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Danish (1)  Arabic (1)  Hebrew (1)  Norwegian (1)  All languages (1,106)
Showing 1-5 of 1056 (next | show all)
Excellent Read! (WARNING: Spoiler)

I read this after having been a fan of the Hulu series. The novel has some incredible insights that the series just can't explain, as a person can't hear the character's thoughts on-screen. Of course, I gave it a four star and not a five, only because the ending felt unfinished, as if a chapter had been cut out. And I don't say this because I've seen the series. Just ending it with her leaving in a van, there were so many unanswered questions for me. Was she pregnant? Did she live? What was her real name? What happens to Nick? What about Moira? I think that is probably how most readers felt when this novel first came out, and were most likely ecstatic when the series was created, because so many of these questions could now be answered, and with the freedom to create new storylines. I haven't read the sequel yet, but I look forward to it. ( )
  NicoleScuderi | Sep 14, 2023 |
I won't say a lot about this book as it's nearly all been said in the wake of the television series (which I have not seen.) This is a disturbing book and I wish I could say it is is far-fetched. Some of the specifics are, perhaps, but in general terms it is frighteningly possible.

And as a side note, I do like Atwood's style and want to seek out more of her work. ( )
  Kim.Sasso | Aug 27, 2023 |
This is one of those books that everyone is supposed to have read, but there's a good chance you haven't. But you think you know the story. This is bleaker than that--a haunting tale of subjection and powerlessness that seems without end.

If you have the opportunity, the audio book read by Claire Danes is the way to do this. It's a first-person narrative and she does an exquisite (Audie Award-winning) job of bringing it to life. ( )
  zot79 | Aug 20, 2023 |
Imaginative, dark, utterly enthralling! I kept turning the pages and wondering how Atwood could think up such a character and such a world — at the time of this book's publication. The story seems almost too possible today, how did she see it coming years ago? ( )
  rebwaring | Aug 14, 2023 |
"Are there any questions"

How can you end a book like The Handmaid's Tale with that! I have so many questions I don't know where to begin. Perhaps I should start by saying this is a work of pure genius and it has taken over my life ever since I watched the first episode of the new TV version (which I have paused after 3 episodes so I could finish the book first). I remember my mum talking to me about this book a good 10 years ago and trying to explain it to me and why it is one of her all time favourite reads, I must have tuned out and I'm kicking myself for doing that because this book is amazing.

This is such a thoughtful book, written from Offred's perspective some time after the events it describes (which did make me happy as I was convinced that must mean she found a way out). It is deeply personal to Offred's experience and is heartbreaking, funny, brutal and rational all at the same time (I know that's an odd choice of adjectives but it's how I was left feeling). I was hooked from page one and was desperate to know more (how ironic) about everything in Offred's world.

Watching the TV series first I hadn't noticed the implications of Offred's name until I saw it written down, and the looks and brief moments of consideration between the actresses in the series are transformed here into paragraphs of agonising and internal monologue trying to gauge the slightest reaction and the potential consequences (as I said, total genius). It utterly terrified me and at the same time I couldn't stop looking at it, I suppose the only thing to compare it to is watching an accident happen, you can see the potential for it, can see it happening, know the results will be horrible but somehow you just can't tear your eyes away.

Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of this book is the potential for it to actually happen. It's so easy to see how and why someone would be an Aunt (I found these the most vile aspect and the true "gender traitors" of the book). You only have to turn on the news to see all kinds of religious extremism worldwide and the lengths people will go to in the name of their God. Humanity, when it is desperate, is not a nice thing to watch, and from the historical notes at the end you can see the reasoning and justifications for Gilead (I studied history at university and I am now reevaluating how many totalitarian societies I have studied from a coldly clinical perspective like this). This is the ultimate 'what if?' I hope to God (I know, there's that irony again) that this never happens and stays fictional. But there is one shining piece of advice for all oppressed women to take from this, "Nolite te bastardes carborundorum." ( )
  LiteraryReadaholic | Aug 13, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 1056 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (31 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Atwood, Margaretprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Balbusso, AnnaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Balbusso, ElenaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Boyd, FlorenceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Danes, ClaireNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
David, JoannaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marcellino, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Martin, ValerieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moss, ElisabethNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pennati, CamilloTranslatorsecondary 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.
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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)

This 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.

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Book description
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Now she navigates the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules.
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