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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
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The Handmaid's Tale (1985)

by Margaret Atwood

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
28,62379753 (4.11)1783
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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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    krazy4katz: An upside down recommendation, as this is an "all-women" utopia rather than a dystopia, but a fun read.
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  13. 100
    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)
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  18. 81
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(see all 57 recommendations)

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English (764)  Spanish (8)  French (4)  Dutch (3)  Catalan (3)  Finnish (2)  Swedish (2)  German (2)  Italian (2)  Norwegian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (792)
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Oh *yes*, definitely the dystopic tale I needed without knowing it. Nicely done. ( )
  _rixx_ | Aug 30, 2018 |
This was September's BOTM read.
The Handmaid's tale is set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States, now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men of its population. The story is told from the point of view, of a Handmaid, Offred. Her job is to be an incubator of sorts, she has a history of being fertile, so it is her role to produce a child for a Commander and his Wife, in a strict biblical sense.
Because I didn't fully understand the social structure I did a little research and I found a great synopsis of the women's social class on VirtueFiction.com:

The highest class of women is the “Wives”—those married to officials and other elite. Wives may adopt or naturally acquire “Daughters”, while all others seek the service of Handmaids. Domestic duties of ruling-class households are undertaken by typically older and infertile subservient women known as “Marthas.” Forming the middle-class are “Econowives.” This group of fertile women is married to the non-elite and performs all domestic duties, such as childrearing and cooking. The most autonomous class is the “Aunts”—literate, unmarried and infertile women who train and watch over the Handmaids. The remaining women who cannot integrate into this social order are deemed “Unwomen” in the eyes of the state and banished to the forced labor camps, where the unlucky suffer a slow death cleaning up toxic chemicals.

I liked the book. Was I frustrated that we never found out what happened, a little. But there were the historical notes, and I got it. She wanted it to be like a piece of History. Like Anne Frank's diary. A snapshot, not a full story. In a way I think it made me think more, it made me focus more on the issues Atwood wanted brought to life, and less on the character. I feel like the true purpose was the social commentary on where she feels society is going, which per the BBC interview she still feared as of 2002, and the character was actual unimportant besides being a way to relay the message.
The message was to not give up our civil liberties to protect us from a fear, that can lead to repression and/or Totalitarianism. In the interview she said she finds things currently happening in our country disturbing, for example the Eyes in the book use the eye symbol from the dollar bill as their logo, so does homeland security. I get it, I can see how she would be fearful. The rise of the tea part, and all the legislation that has been tried to be passed that removes the separation of state and church, I get it. Atwood saw things that disturbed her about our country and our society (remember this was written in the Regan years). And she used the medium she had and knew to express her concerns. All the how's are not important, if it was like Anne Frank's Diary, the reader would know the general facts anyways. I think the book is more about the message and not about the how's or the characters.
Maybe it's just me but after reading any of the parts where Offred discusses being separated from her daughter I had to go sit with mine to calm down. Is it a mommy thing? I also had trouble sleeping those nights and would have to check on the kids multiple times. I read the kindle version and I liked it so much I feel the need to add as a paperback to my shelves, I finished and immediately bought from Amazon.
For additional reviews please see my blog at www.adventuresofabibliophile.blogspot.com ( )
  Serinde24 | Aug 17, 2018 |
dystopia, adult, fiction, feminism, women, future ( )
  tcroni3 | Aug 9, 2018 |
This is a pretty dumb review bc this book is too amazing for my dumb clumsy words, but listen: this book is amazing! It's heavy and horrifying and I love it.
-starts out quite difficult to read, the narrative style is kind of weird to read, but about halfway though you're so enthralled in the story it doesn't get in the way at all.
-anachronic order hell yes! offred gives you bits and pieces of her story and you put it together yourself. stories that don't hold your hand, but instead let you do all the thinking: i like that. i respect that.
-I love the ambiguous ending and the historical notes epilogue too.
-by far the best part was how genuinely terrifying it is. i don't think a story has affected me in this way before. man what an amazing book. ( )
  MegScrungus | Aug 7, 2018 |
I only regret not having read this last year. ( )
  Spr1t3 | Jul 31, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (26 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Atwood, MargaretAuthorprimary 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
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Epigraph
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
Dedication
For Mary Webster and Perry Miller
First words
We slept in what had once been the gymnasium.
Quotations
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
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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 8 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.

» see all 21 descriptions

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