The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale

Book - 1998
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From the bestselling author of Alias Grace and the MaddAddam trilogy, here is the #1 New York Times bestseller and seminal work of speculative fiction from the Booker Prize-winning author.

Now a Hulu series starring Elizabeth Moss, Samira Wiley, and Joseph Fiennes. Includes a new introduction by Margaret Atwood.

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 valued only 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 literary tour de force.
Publisher: New York : Anchor Books, 1998.
Edition: 1st Anchor Books ed.
ISBN: 9780385490818
Branch Call Number: FICTION Atwood Margaret 1986
Characteristics: 325 p. ;,21 cm.


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JCLJuliaB Oct 20, 2016

At once dystopian and terrifying, as well as satirical and endearing. I couldn't put this book down and find myself returning to this story again and again.

In the near future, a Handmaid named Offred describes life in what was once the United States, now the Republic of Gilead, a repressive and intolerant monotheocracy.

In a suffocatingly oppressive near-future society where women are rigidly proscribed in what they can do or say and are only seen as childbearers, we view this world though the eyes of a Handmaid named Offred, who is hoping to give birth simply in order to avoid the fate of childless women, who a... Read More »

List - My Ideal Bookshelf
JCLKatieYP Feb 26, 2014

"The Handmaid's Tale" chronicles the experiences of Offred, a young woman living in a society where women have no rights. This was the first dystopian novel I ever read. It is satirical and frightening, and I couldn't put it down!

In the near future, a Handmaid named Offred describes life in what was once the United States, now the Republic of Gilead, a repressive and intolerant monotheocracy.

From the critics

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Dec 10, 2017

Atwood's dystopian society takes a different perspective from famous authors such as George Orwell. I personally enjoyed this novel and thought the plot was riveting. There are high and low points throughout the story but still found myself struggling to put the book down. The dynamics and secrets between characters, ritualistic community, and struggle for life and individualism make this indeed a great tale.

Dec 04, 2017

Didn't love this book. Found it difficult to follow right from the start. Will definitely not be watching the series. Sadly, not for me.

Nov 26, 2017

book club, June 2, 2018

loonylovesgood Oct 31, 2017

Intriguing story with a somewhat unsatisfying ending. I hope rumours of an impending sequel are true. Now to find somewhere to watch the television series.....

Oct 12, 2017

This book is a masterfully written piece of social commentary. It was relevant in the 1980's, and it is still relevant today. If you care about women's issues, religious issues, and environmental issues, this book will have something to say to you.

Sep 25, 2017

I don't remember who recommended this one, but I'm so glad I grabbed it. I could not put it down. It was actually written in 1984 but has gotten much more press lately because it was turned into an original hulu series (and, before you ask, I'm not sure I'll watch it because I always tend to like the books more). The story is set in a totalitarian society that has replaced the United States of America. Due to dangerously low reproduction rates, Handmaids are assigned to bear children for elite couples that have trouble conceiving. Although this is a fictional story (I loved reading the new introduction written by the author in February of this year) it is crazy how you could technically see some of the ideas playing out in today's society. It was a bit of a wake up call as to never "fall asleep" on the rights, liberties and freedoms we hold near and dear. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

Aug 29, 2017

A grim theocratic dystopia. I like the way Atwood presents the story of Offred in parallel with both the story of her previous life and with the growth of the repressive state of Gilead. If it’s hard to believe this amount of religious hypocrisy, consider that some present-day soi disant Christians justify the murder of doctors and clinic staff to prevent abortions, and blame women for inciting rape by their behavior. The author outlines a cause that supposedly underlies the accession of the theocracy, but clever politicians can engineer all sorts of reasons for the “temporary“ suspension of rights, leading to totalitarian states. And people can be led to strange beliefs. This book was written thirty years ago. Who at that time would have believed that evangelicals could vote for our current President?

Aug 11, 2017

Atwood's award-winning 1985 novel will premiere on Hulu as a 10-episode series on April 26. This futuristic dystopian novel is set during a time when a radical group takes over the government and instill extreme tactics on the repression of women.

Aug 09, 2017

Remember reading this at High School, excellent read

Aug 04, 2017

I read this book soon after it was published, but about all I remembered of it was "The Ceremony." It seemed to me then to be just a weird semi-fantasy tale. Re-reading it recently, however, I am having a different experience. It feels immediate; futuristic, but two years from now, not 100. It is eerily prescient of the new view of religion, power, and women.

The setting is what used to be the United States, but is now Gilead. It is governed by principles taken and twisted from the Old Testament. Society is strictly striated and controlled. Women cannot work or read. They are divided into three groups -- "Martha's" are household help, cooks, etc in the homes of "Commanders." "Wives" depend on their husbands for their place in society and their standard of living. "Handmaid's" are assigned for three-year stints to Commanders; their job is to reproduce. They are put through a rigorous re-education program to teach them sumbission and acceptance of their holy responsibility to provide children for their Commander. Some are "re-educated" but some cannot get over the cruelty and injustice of their "place" in the new world order. This is a chilling book.

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Add a Quote

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.”

Jul 11, 2014

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

Jun 02, 2013

“Better never means better for everyone. It always means worse, for some.”

Jun 12, 2011

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum


Add Notices

Jun 01, 2017

Frightening or Intense Scenes: Hangings and group lynching

Jun 01, 2017

Sexual Content: Explicit sexual scenes

Jun 01, 2017

Violence: group mob attack section


Add a Summary

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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