The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale

Book - 1998
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#1 New York Times bestseller

Look for The Testaments , the sequel to The Handmaid's Tale , available now.

An instant classic and eerily prescient cultural phenomenon, from "the patron saint of feminist dystopian fiction" ( New York Times ). Now an award-winning Hulu series starring Elizabeth Moss.

In Margaret Atwood's dystopian future, environmental disasters and declining birthrates have led to a Second American Civil War. The result is the rise of the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian regime that enforces rigid social roles and enslaves the few remaining fertile women. Offred is one of these, a Handmaid bound to produce children for one of Gilead's commanders. Deprived of her husband, her child, her freedom, and even her own name, Offred clings to her memories and her will to survive. At once a scathing satire, an ominous warning, and a tour de force of narrative suspense, The Handmaid's Tale is a modern classic.

Includes an introduction by Margaret Atwood
Publisher: New York : Anchor Books, 1998
Edition: First Anchor Books edition
ISBN: 9780385490818
038549081X
Branch Call Number: Atwood, M
Characteristics: 311 pages ; 21 cm

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Chapel_Hill_MarthaW Oct 30, 2019

Since it's been a decade since I last read this book, I thought a re-read was in order before I dive into The Testaments -- and I'm so glad I decided to re-read it! In part because I don't think I realized quite how much of this book I had forgotten, and in part because I don't think I remembered quite how good it is. I remembered loving it and finding it frighteningly plausible, but I had forgotten how simultaneously angry and eloquent it is. I love Margaret Atwood's writing, so on a purely technical level this is flawless, and it's another example of the Margaret Atwood magic of finishing one of her books and feeling like you just got punched in the stomach, in the best possible way. I had also forgotten how utterly perfect the ending is -- and I have to be honest, nothing about this book seems to be begging for a sequel to me. So with that said, I'll be really interested to read The Testaments and see what she has to say -- but I'm so glad I revisited this first.

y
YakkingYogini
Oct 22, 2019

I'm re-reading this novel in preparation for her sequel, The Testaments. My sister gave this book to me as a young adult. When I finally read it, I was horrified! The novel has a ghoulish, other-worldly atmosphere that harkens to the Puritan culture of America's past (e.g. The Witch of Blackbird Pond) and their harsh ways. The setting is dystopian with hints that a major world war has occurred and the environment has become toxic. Since human population is decreasing due to nuclear fallout, young women who are fertile are in great demand to repopulate the earth. The caveat is: they have been turned into concubines for older married couples and forced into sex slavery to bear children for these chosen old fogies. Most of the time, the babies are stillbirth or genetically damaged. But the babies who are born normal get immediately removed from the young mother and given to the privileged, virtuous, older woman. Virtuous is defined as those who embrace the New World Order, which has become a Fundamentalist Christian nightmare! As a young woman, reading this story for the first time, I was beset with creepy dreams. 4 stars given instead of 5 for giving me creepy dreams! (less)

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mrshollinger
Aug 26, 2019

I loved this book! It was gripping and suspenseful. Futuristic, yet believable with how the world is today.
I cannot wait to watch the television series.

s
SFBookAddict
Aug 15, 2019

One hell of a book. Not just the story but Atwood's writing and the way she crafted the story. I was not ready to read this when it first came out in the 1980s, and I'm so glad I decided to read it. It is an extremely thought-provoking story. I was completely absorbed by the tale from beginning to end, on the edge of my seat, hanging on to every word, anxious to know what would happen to the heroine and what the hell had happened in the U.S. to create such a disturbing, oppressive way of life for women. I don't feel it left questions answered nor was the ending ambiguous. To me, it's plausible that the U.S. could end up like Gilead, an idea I may not have thought 30 years ago. Thank you, Ms. Atwood, for writing this masterpiece and wake-up call.

JCLKarynH Aug 14, 2019

Okay, I have mixed feelings about this book. I read this novel for the August Leawood book club. On the one hand, I'm glad that I finally read this classic, since it's been read, analyzed, and discussed by so many scholars and casual readers. It's been adapted into an award-winning Hulu series starring Elizabeth Moss and it's considered in the elite class of feminist dystopian fiction. I'm not a fan of dystopian fiction, so I can't say that I enjoyed this book, but it is thought-provoking. Atwood does a very chilling job of depicting a dystopian world of misogyny, racism, sexism, and homophobia. There are some unanwersed questions as to how this world came to be and the ending is ambiguous, but it all works well to create an ambiance of fear, ignorance, and uncertainty. There's a sequel, The Testaments, coming September 2019. I haven't decided yet whether I can brave more time in this world. If you favor dystopian fiction, The Handmaid's Tale will make your day. "Blessed be the fruit!" (a required sentiment of greeting in Gilead).

j
JANMAYS
Aug 03, 2019

DNF - Not of interest to me

k
katroh
Jul 25, 2019

I read this story once more for a refresher after watching the series on TV. Wow! It was even scarier the second time. Many of the women in our world have a hard road to travel and this tale put our women pretty much out there with them too.

c
cknightkc
Jul 22, 2019

Powerful, provocative, and terrifying, THE HANDMAID’S TALE deals with issues that, sadly, society is still wrestling with today. I’m so glad I finally got around to reading Margaret Atwood’s dystopian classic.

s
smatte
Jul 16, 2019

A nightmarish (and sadly prophetic in our times) vision of a dystopian "republic" in the former United States, described through the narrative of a single Handmaid, a woman living in extremely oppressive conditions and occupied in the service of breeding children for the upper echelon of this society. The book is a classic and certainly worth reading, but beware: you will be unsettled and may experience a few angry, sleepless nights before the story ends.

n
nickikay
Jul 12, 2019

I read this book as a fan of the Hulu series of the same name, and I felt it was a good supplement to the series. The author jumps back and forth between present and past quite a bit, but I was able to follow it just fine. Since I hadn't read it previously I can't say for sure, but I can see the potential to initially be confused by this writing style without prior exposure to the storyline. The book contains much more narrative and description than dialog, and typically this is not my preference. Atwood does it very well, though, and it didn't bother me at all. I thought the book was very well written, with a poetic feel, and I honestly didn't want to put it down.

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Quotes

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r
reeread
Oct 01, 2018

“My name isn’t Offred, I have another name, which nobody uses now because it’s forbidden. I tell myself it doesn’t matter, your name is like your telephone number, useful only to others; but what I tell myself is wrong, it does matter.”

j
jmli
Jan 28, 2018

As long as we do this, butter our skin to keep it soft, we can believe that we will some day get out,
that we will be touched again, in love or desire. We have ceremonies of our own, private ones.

j
jmli
Jan 28, 2018

There can be alliances even in such places, even under such circumstances. This is something you can depend upon: there will always be alliances of one kind of another.

j
jmli
Jan 28, 2018

It is the hardest for you. We know the sacrifices you are being expected to make. It is hard when men revile you. For the ones who come after you, it will be easier. They will accept their duties with willing hearts. She did not say: Because they will have no memories, of any other way. She said: Because they won't want things they can't have.

j
jmli
Jan 28, 2018

What he's telling us, his level smile implies, is for our own good. Everything will be all right soon.
I promise. There will be peace. You must trust. You must go to sleep, like good children.

j
jmli
Jan 28, 2018

We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.

j
jmli
Jan 28, 2018

Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.

PimaLib_JB Oct 28, 2014

“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.”

PimaLib_JB Oct 28, 2014

“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.”

m
MissSherbetXO
Jul 11, 2014

I want everything back, the way it was. But there is no point to it, this wanting.

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Age

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steven_hahn
Jun 01, 2018

steven_hahn thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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blue_cat_16312
May 18, 2018

blue_cat_16312 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

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jmli
Jan 28, 2018

jmli thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

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jjwoodard
Jun 01, 2017

jjwoodard thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

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csrestall
Jun 01, 2017

csrestall thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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eparti
Mar 29, 2015

eparti thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

EuSei Jan 25, 2013

EuSei thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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Saralovebaig
Nov 28, 2012

Saralovebaig thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

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hardkorelish
Apr 16, 2011

hardkorelish thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Notices

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c
csrestall
Jun 01, 2017

Frightening or Intense Scenes: Hangings and group lynching

c
csrestall
Jun 01, 2017

Sexual Content: Explicit sexual scenes

c
csrestall
Jun 01, 2017

Violence: group mob attack section

Summary

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c
csrestall
Jun 01, 2017

Offred lives in a society where women are valued purely for their ability to reproduce because of rampant bareness caused by radioactive materials. Offred is one of the handmaids who are forced to procreate under the direct supervision of their commanding 'wives'. Offred had a family and a child of her own which were taken from her when she was forced to become property. All aspects of her life are controlled on pain of death. Things start to spiral downward when her Commander (baby daddy) starts speaking to her outside of the prearranged time he promises her glimpses of her old life. She is also forced into a sexual encounter with one of the servant men after her commanding wife feels the commander is incapable of getting her pregnant. She continues on this relationship even though she is afraid of being found out. The book ends rather abruptly when Offred is taken away in a van which is known to dispose of rebellious handmaids. It is implied that her lover helps her escape although it is ambiguous.

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