The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale

Book - 1998
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#1 New York Times bestseller * Includes an introduction by Margaret Atwood.

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.

Look for The Testaments , the sequel to The Handmaid's Tale , coming September 2019.

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.
Publisher: New York : Anchor Books, 1998.
Edition: 1st Anchor Books ed.
ISBN: 9780385490818
038549081X
9780525435006
Branch Call Number: FICTION Atwood Margaret 1986
Characteristics: 325 p. ;,21 cm.

Opinion

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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.

Reading Atwood's tale of a futuristic monotheocracy in which women have been stripped of their rights is like being brutally sucker punched in the gut. And yet I can't stop recommending it. If you love the TV show, definitely check out the book.

Meeting at the Corinth Library on November 19, 2019 at 6:30 to discuss.

Comment
JCLAmyF Jun 07, 2018

I read this because I recently watched Hulu's series and was blown away. It was delightful to read the book and get more details. Atwood's writing is poignant, simple and beautiful. This book is hard to read because of its realistic portrayal of gender oppression. Highly recommended.


From the critics


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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.

d
durogoff
Jul 08, 2019

Is this the fantastic dystopian novel it is purported to be? Not to me, not in 100 years. Its premises are silly. As silly as those of another supposedly great novel, this one from the right wing, Ayn Rand's "Atlas shrugged".
Besides, I found it boring and repetitive. To wit: since its writing in the early 1980's, women's condition has gone exactly in the opposite direction from Atwood's "premonition".
Obviously, the futurology capacities of Margaret Atwood are not those of, say Arthur Clarke: she even ends the novel with a 22nd century academic conference on the text of the Handmaid's Tale, assuming that those types of supposedly intellectual exchanges, the sick extrusion of the <publish or perish> world of the hollowed minds of academia invented in the second half of the 20th century will survive two centuries...

k
kruttikas
Jun 20, 2019

For the first time in years, I felt that feeling of not being able to put the book down. An absolutely eye-opening dystopian work, that features a beautiful style of writing that almost mirrors our style of thinking. A must-read!

s
shrewe
Jun 13, 2019

This dystopian book is Atwood's masterpiece. It could happen here; we already have all of the technology necessary. And more than enough misogyny embedded in our culture. Anything can be justified in the name of religion...read the news.

d
dionyzus
Jun 05, 2019

A gripping and scary satire on the logical end result of a totalitarian takeover of the United States by patriarchs who feel entitled to have complete control over women. The parallels to current news are striking, where right wing Supreme Court justices are poised to turn back the clock on women's rights, by reimposing control over women's right to choose. I'm sure this book (which is less than 300 pages) is concise compared to the Hulu series, so to newbies I recommend the book first.

t
tjdickey
Apr 06, 2019

We don't, of course, read dystopian fiction for comfort, but to speak to us about how *not* to shape society, and Atwood delivers in spades with the extreme and violent consequences of racisim and gender stereotypes. At the same time, amidst the terror and abject, lonely dehumanization of a woman's daily life as only a reproductive vessel, Atwood writes with stunning grace and narrative power, and offers even fleeting glimpses of persistent humanity.

k
kmobuckeye
Feb 05, 2019

Good book, just gets so bogged down in the mundane details

x
xp
Feb 02, 2019

hi

m
Memawrayne
Oct 30, 2018

Read it after watching season 1. Very thought provoking as it makes the reader think about how important individual freedoms and rights are and that we need to respect differences.

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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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