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Past Group Book Discussions > The Handmaids Tale - Margaret Atwood

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message 1: by Simon (Highwayman) (last edited Jun 08, 2013 03:07AM) (new)

Simon (Highwayman) (highwayman) | 4698 comments The Handmaids Tale - Margaret Atwood

A Patti recommendation! I will be reading this first - or do I .....

The Handmaids Tale - Margaret Atwood

Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments You'll really enjoy it.

It has controversial themes.

There's a good film of it too. The book is better, of course.

message 3: by Tim (new)

Tim | 9478 comments This has been on my TBR (and my kindle) ever since that "who do you write like" site threw up Margaret Atwood (who I'm embarrassed to say I hadn't heard of at the time) a couple of months ago

This'll get me actually reading it now! :)

Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments Good Tim.

I recall that conversation. It's one of the reasons I chose the book.

message 5: by David (new)

David Staniforth (davidstaniforth) | 7939 comments Studied this as part of my English degree,and it is still one of my favourite books. Plenty of ambiguity to wrestle with.

Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments Ooooo.

You should lead the discussion later then David.

message 7: by Emma (new)

Emma (emzibah) | 4396 comments This is one of my favourites so looking forward to chatting about it!
Might make it an excuse to re-read :-)

message 8: by Katy (new)

Katy | 3414 comments Studied it for A level English Lit! Some very odd parts to the book..

Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments Nice that you studied a Canadian author's book Katy!

message 10: by Katy (new)

Katy | 3414 comments My teacher actually recommended it!!

I was doing the Scarlet Letter, and the poetry of Maya Angelou, studying the presentation of women, and she suggested that I should include The Handmaid's Tale as a comparison! Was very interesting (:

message 11: by Katy (new)

Katy | 3414 comments We actually studied lots during my A level English Lit course, the teacher was brilliant. She kept saying that it didn't specify anywhere in the specification that the author had to be English, just that the work was written in English (or translated into English)!

message 12: by Sarah (new)

Sarah I read this a few months back and it is one of my favourite books. I look forward to chatting about it.

Rosemary (grooving with the Picts) (nosemanny) | 9058 comments Didn't like this book at all! But I'll try it again with an open mind. Actually I really haven't ever taken to any of her books somehow, I think it must be her style as her concepts are the sort of thing that should appeal to me.

message 14: by Karen (new)

Karen Lowe | 2335 comments Terrific book. Read it a few years ago, so will pass on a re-reading for now.

Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments Rosemary wrote: "Didn't like this book at all! But I'll try it again with an open mind. Actually I really haven't ever taken to any of her books somehow, I think it must be her style as her concepts are the sort of..."

You need to read it with a Canadian accent!

Kwaffee! Aboot!

message 17: by Mago (new)

Mago (Mark) | 1750 comments Read this as part of my Degree too. Don't know if I'll revisit.

message 18: by B J (new)

B J Burton (bjburton) | 2914 comments I haven't read any of Margaret Atwood's books and I've been trying to work out why. I'm ashamed to say that I think it's her name. Whenever I've come across it I've had a vision of a white-haired old lady in twin-set and pearls crocheting doilies. OK - so it's time to overcome this stupidity and read this book. But then I hit another problem. It was published 28 years ago, has appeared in many editions and many languages and has sold millions of copies. To ask £5.69 for the ebook edition strikes me as the publishers displaying unacceptable greed. I could buy 4 or 5 excellent indie books for that amount. Fortunately, there's always the good old public library, where I've ordered a copy.

message 19: by Jud (new)

Jud (judibud) | 18537 comments I read this ages ago, don't think I fully appreciated it at the time. I believe I was reading it just to be reading something.

message 20: by Catriona (new)

Catriona Troth | 13 comments Hi. I'm new around here, but I couldn't resist jumping into this thread. I am a massive fan of Margaret Atwood (who does indeed have grey hair these days, though it's hard to imagine anyone less twin-set and doilies).

I grew up in Canada, reading Canadian Lit, and so I particularly love the books she sets in and around Toronto. I guess Handmaid's Tale was the culmination of her 'feminist' novels. In recent years, you could say she's returned to her roots. Her father was a naturalist, I think, and she grew up spending her summers in the wilderness in northern Ontario, and books like Oryx and Crake have more of an environmental focus.

If any of you like reading about writers, I can highly recommend Two Solicitudes, the book based on a series of radio conversations between Atwood and French Canadian writer Victor-Levy Beaulieu

message 21: by Katherine (new)

Katherine Roberts | 15 comments Oh, I loved "The Handmaid's Tale"! I read it years ago and still have my old paperback copy. It's one of those that never goes into the charity bag when I do a (paper) book clearout, so that means it must have spoken deeply to me. I ought to get a copy on my Kindle, too.

I'm always curious to know what male readers think of the book?

message 22: by B J (new)

B J Burton (bjburton) | 2914 comments I'm still awaiting confirmation that my reserved copy awaits collection from the library. How has it aged, do you think? Will the feminist angle seem outdated?

Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments Good question Barry.

Personally, I think it's not at all dated.

Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments Oh she's got a new book being release soon! Yay!

message 25: by Kaddi (new)

Kaddi | 2 comments I've been considering this one for a long while. Can't wait to get started.

message 26: by Katherine (last edited Jun 18, 2013 09:01AM) (new)

Katherine Roberts | 15 comments B J wrote: "How has it aged, do you think? Will the feminist angle seem outdated?"

I don't think the feminist angle has dated at all - I still find the story chillingly believable.

message 27: by Kate (new)

Kate Baggott (httpswwwgoodreadscomkate_baggott) | 104 comments I first read this book in the early 90s and, at the time, I felt like I was reading bad science fiction by one of my favourite authors (in Canada Margaret Atwood has roughly the same status as the Fathers of Confederation, to give you an idea of how important she is).

Now, with religious wars and fundamentalism showing the cracks and vulnerabilities, I see the book as a complete warning and agree completle with Katherine's words: "I still find the story chillingly believable."

With women being taken and enslaved all over the world, I fear this message was not taken literally enough and must be now.

message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

I also read this book in the late 90's and I really enjoyed it. Attwood has a style that is so beautiful just the words she uses to describe something can actually stop you from breathing for a few seconds, ‘like a fly caught in amber’ sorry I can’t remember which of her books this is from? I have read quite a lot of her work, she is a consummate wordsmith and her skill level is so high, it just makes me sick.
A warning for the future? I have to agree, the abuse of women and children in many countries including the UK still makes me shiver.

message 29: by Zoe (new)

Zoe Brooks (potok) | 16 comments Dated? Sadly no. If only it were. I regularly read or see something in the news about the treatment of women and this book comes to mind.

message 30: by Janis (new)

Janis Moore | 22 comments read it as part of my degree too in the early 1990s. An amazing book very powerful. I also like Cat's Eye.

message 31: by Mark (new)

Mark Chisnell (markchisnell) | 73 comments It's a classic because the ideas have proved so timeless - just like 1984...

message 32: by B J (new)

B J Burton (bjburton) | 2914 comments At long last I have a library copy. They only have one copy in stock and a longish waiting list, so it's taken over two months for me to get my hands on it.

Patti (baconater) (goldengreene) | 61757 comments You'll find it worth the wait Barry.

message 34: by B J (new)

B J Burton (bjburton) | 2914 comments I'm looking forward to it. I'll finish my current book today and start this one tonight. I couldn't help glancing at the first page and must confess to a sinking feeling. An author who unnecessarily throws into the first paragraph a word unknown to 99% of the population gives me the impression of someone desperate to establish their intellectual credentials. A Canadian Fay Weldon? Still, mustn't judge a book by the cover - or the first paragraph.

message 35: by David (new)

David Staniforth (davidstaniforth) | 7939 comments *Off to read first paragraph and identify said word*

message 36: by David (new)

David Staniforth (davidstaniforth) | 7939 comments I would have consulted a dictionary when I read it last. It didn't stick in my head though, as I had to look in the dictionary just now too.

message 37: by Kath (new)

Kath Middleton | 25061 comments If you're a brass-rubber you'll be familiar with the word. :-) be

message 38: by B J (last edited Aug 27, 2013 05:32AM) (new)

B J Burton (bjburton) | 2914 comments Finished it. This may be full of spoilers, but I assume that we must have reached the stage of discussion without worrying about that. It's an odd book. It has taken me twice as long to read as normal for a book of this length. So, what did I find odd about it?
Firstly, it is written in the present tense with a first person narrator. The present tense is even employed in the frequent flasbacks. That's a form usually adopted when the author hopes to increase the sense of involvement, immediacy and pace. But this is a very slow-paced book written, in the most part, in a dull monotone to convey the sense of repression.
Secondly, there is the absence of conventional sentence structure. Thirdly, the punctuation - sometimes speechmarks are used and sometimes they aren't.
Being a bit dim, I was a third of the way through before it dawned on me that the first two points would be explained if what I was reading was a record of a spoken account. Sure enough, when I got to the end I found it was supposed to be a transcript of a recording made by the central character and found many years after her death.
That didn't explain the third point. Why did the academics transcribing the recording sometimes insert speechmarks and sometimes leave them out? Nor did it explain 'the dull monotone' of the writing. If the recording was made when Offred was free to make it, I would expect passionate outrage, rather than a tone of repression.
Anyway, this is all a bit nitpicky when this is supposed to be a book of (shocking) ideas. The trouble I had here is that if a novel is intended to convey ideas that I'm supposed to take seriously, then I have to find the fictional background convincing - and I didn't. I found the idea of the sudden formation of the state of Gilead by 'the military' in a country the size of the USA completely absurd. Why didn't the author just invent a mythical state in which to place the story? Maybe, as a Canadian, Atwood found it amusing to place it in the States and have its residents desperate to escape over the border into civilised Canada?
I can't say that I found the content shocking. The abuse of women continues. I assume that Atwood thought the shock would come with the idea that America could become a state based on such abuse.
So, various aspects didn't impress, but in places the writing is beautiful: stunning, breathtaking prose.
I'm glad that I've finally been introduced to Atwood's work and I'll be moving on to more of her books. There are a lot to choose from - any tips?

message 39: by Kath (new)

Kath Middleton | 25061 comments I liked Alias Grace - used to be my favourite book for a long time.
Never got on with Oryx and Crayke or whatever it was. I also enjoyed The Blind Assassin.

message 40: by B J (new)

B J Burton (bjburton) | 2914 comments Thanks, Kath. They both look interesting. I think I'll plump (can't beat a good plump) for Alias Grace first.

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