The Handmaid's Tale
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The Handmaid's Tale

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3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  323,443 ratings  ·  13,786 reviews
The Handmaid's Tale is not only a radical and brilliant departure for Margaret Atwood, it is a novel of such power that the reader will be unable to forget its images and its forecast. 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 bir...more
Kindle Edition, 324 pages
Published (first published 1985)
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Stephanie
WARNING: This review is being written after I worked a 13 hour day, with another one on the horizon tomorrow, and a glass of wine and while watching the Rachel Maddow show. Current events have put this book on the forefront of my mind, and damn it I got to get this out.

I have never written a review on The Handmaid's Tale because I love the book, and it is so hard to write about a book you love.

Ehh, what the hell.

OfFred was a normal everyday woman with a career, a name, a life like all women ha...more
Jennifer
(edited from a paper I wrote in college about the book)

In 1986, when Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid’s Tale, Ronald Regan had declared “Morning in America,” and society was going to renew itself by returning to the old values. The Christian right, in its infancy at the time, was rising in reaction to the Free Love, and the horrors of AIDs. The 1984 election gave us Willie Horton, and a reminder about how violent and evil society had become. Finally, even though Chernobyl happened shortly...more
Pollopicu
I guess Margaret doesn't believe in quotation marks.. I don't think I've ever come across a novel yet in which there's no distinction between the narrator and the character.. It took me quite a while to get used to it. I had to go back and re-read sentences again, which doesn't lend itself to a relaxing reading experience. It slowed me down quite a bit.

First 100 pages:
Really annoying. ..why?, well because I felt like a juicy bone was being waved in front of my face. Like when someone asks you, "...more
Kate
Should I read it? No. While I suspect The Handmaid’s Tale is one of those books people tend to either love or hate, I’m with the haters at the left. You’ve been warned.

What's the short and skinny of it? Extremist Christian beliefs have won the American culture war; as a result, women have no rights. They are slaves to men and the biblically-based, patriarchal society in which they live. The Handmaid's Tale is the first-person account of one of these enslaved women.

Tell me more.
Downvote!

Where to begin? Wh...more
Samadrita
Consider this not a ground-breaking work of literature. Consider this not a piece of fiction boasting an avant-garde mode of narration.
Consider it not a commentary on the concept of subjugation of the weak by the ones holding the reins. Consider it not a thinly veiled feminist diatribe either.

Instead, consider The Handmaid's Tale an almost physical experience. Consider Margaret Atwood a fearless deliverer of unpleasant news - a messenger unafraid of dishing out the bone-chilling, cruel, unalter...more
Nathan
The Handmaid's Tale portrays a terrifying but very real and possible dystopia. At first, it's difficult to tell what exactly is going on in the handmaid's world, although her spare narration is filled with a deep sense of fear and danger. It's challenging but exciting to try to make sense of all the frightening details that she describes, and that's one of the things that made this such a compelling read for me--I was desperate to figure out what was happening as well as how and why things had g...more
Victoria
Not a very well written book. The writing itself is clumsy. It doesn't feel like you're reading a story; it feels like you're reading a piece of writing. Good writers put their words together for a calculated effect, but Atwood's words aren't just calculated-- they're contrived. In a good piece of writing, you shouldn't see the writer at all. You shouldn't see the structure of their writing. All you should see is the story. If you're seeing the deliberate cadence of a phrase, or the use of repet...more
Tatiana
Nov 11, 2010 Tatiana rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: those who are not afraid to dive into the worst feminist nightmare
Imagine the near future where power is overtaken by the religious right under the guise of protection from Islamic terrorism. Imagine the future where the roles of the women reduced to those assigned to them in Old Testament - they are no longer allowed to read, work, own property, or handle money. Imagine that due to the pollution and man-created viruses, the fertility rates are so low that the few fertile women (the Handmaids) are now a communal property and are moved from house to house to be...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
THIS BOOKS ABOUT ORGIES AND PEOPLE WHO LIKE ORGIES AND SOME PEOPLE WHO H8 ORGIES.
Martine
The scariest thing about Atwood's dystopian fantasy, first published in 1985, is how prophetic it seems. There were references in the book which sent a chill of recognition down my spine. A right-wing government which blames Islamic fundamentalists for terrorist attacks and begins to suspend certain human rights, claiming it is doing so to protect the people from heathen bastards? I daresay it will sound familiar to any left-wing American who has ever looked with a wary eye at the country's incr...more
Dalton Hirshorn
Margaret Atwood didn’t make up anything in this book. All of the things that take place in the Republic of Gilead have happened at some point in history (which now includes 1985, the year the book was published). She also arrived at the society depicted in the book by taking certain attitudes, both feminist & conservative, prevalent at the time, and taking them to extreme conclusions. So the place and the culture she depicts are believable. What comes across as far-fetched is the rapidity wi...more
Lisa
In Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, the United States, in reaction to Islamic terrorist attacks and reduced fertility rates, has devolved into an intolerant Christian-based religious society where women are stripped of their freedom and defined by their sole purpose as either a wife (Wife), womb (Handmaid), servant (Martha), prostitute (Jezebel), or propagandists (Aunt). Those who refuse these roles are stripped of the title of woman, being referred to as unwomen, and sent to colonies to d...more
Louisa
Margaret Atwood has succeeded in scaring the crap out of me. Almost from the very beginning the atmosphere is laden with much oppression, bleakness and fear. How things can suddenly turn and the life you once knew is slowly and irrevocably being taken away from you. The existing government has been gunned down, laws are being changed and totalitarianism is the order of the day. Women lose their right to earn a living, hold property and must seek solace only in the home. Children go missing as a...more
Stephen Gallup
Here's a story that describes the essentials of what life would be like for women if Islamic fundamentalists took over our civilization. Long robes are mandatory, as are some kind of facial covering. Education is forbidden. Women exist for the pleasure and procreation of the men who control them. In short, pretty much like the situation that prevailed under the Taliban. Mark Steyn makes a pretty convincing case for that being Europe's inevitable future, but Margaret Atwood places the action here...more
Brian
I have a hard time with art that grapples with totalitarianism, especially in futuristic, Orwellian form. For me, basic human consciousness as it is already exhibits tendencies that are horrific enough in and of themselves to make totalitarian scenario-type books, even if allegorical (i.e. meant to be describing things as they are even though presented as taking place in a future time and place), seem a bit unnecessary. I have no idea if Margaret Atwood is considered a feminist writer, but in th...more
Jenn(ifer)

What can I say? I'm not particularly inspired by this book. I “liked” it. It wasn’t great; it wasn’t revolutionary, but it was decent. I’m not sure what it would take to really WOW me at this point. Does a book have to be a work of art in order for me to love it? In a word, yes. I guess it does.

But there was nothing wrong with this book. It’s like a Mad Men marathon on tv when you’re sick in bed. Or like a radio station that plays 3 songs back to back to back that you don’t hate, without any cha...more
K.D. Absolutely
Apr 03, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010), Governor General Award for Fiction
Shelves: 1001-core, 501, sci-fi
In Atwood’s book this novel is a speculative fiction. She says that science fiction is something that cannot happen in the current times (knowledge, technology) including those that happen outside Earth. Speculative fiction, on the other hand, has the feasibility of happening and the current and in the near future especially in here on Earth. Had I not read this book, I would not have learned the difference between this two. I originally classified this book as a sci-fi until this morning. I ori...more
Cecily
I read this many years ago and gave it 4 stars. I've just reread it for my Goodreads bookgroup's February read and upgraded it to 5 stars.

A wonderful hybrid: a book that is eminently readable, but packed with fascinating and thought-provoking ideas and symbolism.

It's set in the near future in a dystopian totalitarian theocratic state where pollution has rendered many infertile, so there has been a backlash against permissiveness and women are subjugated to the point where they are not even allow...more
Summer
I was really struck, upon rereading this, at how much this book could be seen as a commentary on the Harvard/Radcliffe relationship. Of course, there is the obvious parallel to the Iranian revolution of 1979, and the deft discussion of the Second Wave feminist movement, but now that I have spent a bit of time with Radcliffe history, I have to wonder how much of it Atwood, a Radcliffe alumna herself, was influenced by in writing this.

The line that really made me think was the mention of graduati...more
Manny
For the Celebrity Death Match Review Tournament, The Handmaid's Tale (7) versus The Divine Comedy (26)

As she neared the gates, Offred saw an inscription over them which read
ABANDON HOPE, ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE
She passed through, and they closed silently behind her. A moment later, she heard a voice that seemed to come simultaneously from the ground, the sky, and the inside of her head.

"You have forfeited all your rights," said the voice. "You will be my chattel and my plaything here through all e...more
Stacey (prettybooks)
I found The Handmaid’s Tale to be one of the most compelling books I’ve ever read and definitely one of my favourites of this year.

In a world that has reverted back to a day where totalitarianism is commonplace and accepted, women known as “handmaids” are given (literally) to elite couples that are unable to have children, with the sole purpose of reproducing for them. If they do not fulfil this purpose, they are sent to the “colonies” to either work in agriculture or clear up toxic pollution, w...more
Michael
Let me start with this: I love dystopias. Some people are fascinated by zombies, some love post-apocalyptic novels, some like undead porn. I've always loved dark visions of how the world could end up. In fact, one of my college essays was an elaborate discussion of how older dystopias (We, 1984, and Brave New World) got it wrong (and right).

This was the scariest dystopia I've ever read.

Part of the reason might be that I'm older now than I was when reading these other books. Maybe it's that I'm...more
Traveller
I was originally going to give it only 3, since her style didn't really shine for me, and the whole world that Atwood paints is revealed only in bits and pieces and therefore seems to contain a few holes while one is still busy reading.

However, a lot of loose ends are only tied up at the very end, which then requires one to "ruminate" a bit on what you had read before making an assessment of it.
I finished the book a while ago, and in retrospect, I think it's worth at least a 4 if not just for th...more
Zeek
Considered a modern Classic, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood had been on my must read list for some time now. I checked it out once before from the library and never got past the first couple of pages before I had to return it. I probably should have left it at that, because I'd rather be wishing I read it, then feeling the keen sense of disappointment like I do now.

The story is narrated by Offred- not her real name; which I'll get to later- in the first person. Technically I don't mind f...more
Mrs. Miska
Fantastic dystopian masterpiece.

Re-read, June 2008:
I read The Handmaid's Tale for the first time as a wide-eyed, pure and innocent AP Lit student. Although it was not my first foray into the macabre world of dystopian literature, it was one of my first pieces of women's lit (sad, isn't it, that it took me twelve years of education and prolific independent reading to get there?). My teacher for the course was what I imagined an ardent feminist to be: cool, powerful, passionate, independent. Her...more
David
The chilling thing about The Handmaid's Tale is not the oppressive misogynistic regime of the Republic of Gilead, but how effective it is as a police state and how plausible its operation if not its genesis is. All the small ways in which Gilead dehumanizes and isolates, turns women (men too, but especially women) into empty vessels, tools, nameless, faceless units of biological function. This is a dystopia that is actually scary and horrible because unlike Panem or, for that matter, certain oth...more
Shruti
I should have written this long ago but then how do you, in all earnestness (or whatever earnestness one can dredge up online), write about something that makes you feel so tethered, raw and anemic.

So I waited. For the grip to loosen. For the anemia to be countered by drinking from the Grail of Distance and Banality. Now I am ruddy enough to write.

So this book is about *Insert a paraphrasing of the blurb.*

Offred. Of-Fred. Not her own. A prisoner of her un-name.

Why do we need names, not others’,...more
Mike
Margaret Atwood immediately lets the reader know that there is no balm in Gilead, not even in the form of hand lotion to smooth a woman's hands roughened by physical labor. Atwood's dystopian novel of a theocratic government in what was formerly the United States of America is a reflection of fierce feminism shared by the most outspoken women of the time protesting the sexual exploitation and domination of women by men, particularly through the pornographic industry.

"The Handmaid's Tale" illustr...more
Stacey
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
علی
Handmaid’s tale is compelling. I’m amazed to read the novel by a Canadian writer, written just a few years after the Revolution in Iran, but brimful of details of what was going on there behind the walls, yet unknown to local people! Is it a co-incident? I doubt it. It’s just because, I believe, Margaret Atwood is a great writer with a spread knowledge about human being’s attitudes? Whether we like it or not, there exist a little bastard totalitarian in every single of us, waiting for proper cir...more
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Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College.

Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, childr...more
More about Margaret Atwood...
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“Don't let the bastards grind you down.” 1198 likes
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