Nothing But Reading Challenges discussion

The Handmaid's Tale (The Handmaid's Tale, #1)
This topic is about The Handmaid's Tale
288 views
Previous BOMs - Authors; A - D > Atwood, Margaret - The Handmaid's Tale - Start Date: March 22 (March 2014 Scifi/Fantasy BOM)

Comments Showing 1-50 of 81 (81 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1

message 1: by Moderators of NBRC, Challenger-in-Chief (new)

Moderators of NBRC | 30937 comments Mod

          

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Be prepared for spoilers!

Synopsis:


Throughout her career, Margaret Atwood has played with different literary genres in her novels--historical fiction (Alias Grace), pulp fiction (The Blind Assassin), the comedy of manners (The Robber Bride)--but no foray into genre fiction has been as successful as her turn to speculative fiction in The Handmaid's Tale. Published in 1985, it echoes Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World, but a vibrant feminism drives Atwood's portrait of a futuristic dystopia. In the Republic of Gilead, we see a world devastated by toxic chemicals and nuclear fallout and dominated by a repressive Christian fundamentalism. The birthrate has plunged, and most women can no longer bear children. Offred is one of Gilead's Handmaids, who as official breeders are among the chosen few who can still become pregnant.
The Handmaid's Tale is an imaginatively audacious novel that is at once a page-turning psychological thriller, a moving love story, and a chilling warning about what might be waiting for us around the corner. What ultimately makes it stand out is Atwood's ability to balance a passionate political statement with finely wrought literary fiction. The Handmaid's Tale is a remarkable work by one of Canada's most inventive writers. --Jeffrey Canton


message 2: by Moderators of NBRC, Challenger-in-Chief (last edited Apr 02, 2014 08:25AM) (new)

Moderators of NBRC | 30937 comments Mod
CHAPTER BREAKDOWN

Date Chapters Pages PPDQs*
March 22 01 - 11 1 - 61 Jex
March 23 12 - 20 62 - 122 Sonia
March 24 21 - 28 123 - 182 Sonia
March 25 29 - 38 183 - 250 Lisarenee
March 26 39 - End 251 - 295 Lisarenee



Sharon I will join this one


Renee (reneeconoulty) | 3309 comments I've been thinking about reading this for a while. Noted in my reading diary. Hope it fits in with a battleship challenge, but I usually manage to juggle more than one book at a time.


Kandi (kandin) | 2 comments I've recently read it and am so excited that this book will be discussed! Count me in! This is a book that I wish ALL woman would read. I have my 18 yr. old daughter reading it now...


Anima Miejska | 757 comments I've heard a lot about this book, but I needed some motivation to read it, so I'm really glad that we are going to read it as BOM, I'm in :)


message 7: by Shella (new)

Shella (craftykitty) | 1 comments I read this book years ago, I remember enjoying it but not much of the story. Time to re-read it!


Jodie | 1 comments Excellent! This was one of my all time favourite reads that totally blew me out of the water when I read it about 15 years ago.
Unfortunately, because of that I've been a bit scared of re-reading it incase it isn't as good as I remember it!


Sonia (darktalynn) | 10180 comments I watched the movie a few years ago - actually it was already 15 or 20 minutes in when I catch it on TV, but I stayed for the rest. I have no idea it was based on a book. I am so in for this one. It is definitely out of my lately usual reading genre, so I'm really excited about this one.


message 10: by Jasmine (new) - added it

Jasmine (anappynerdgirl) Gosh, this is perfect timing! I feel like I started this years ago and put it down for whatever reason? Now I have the perfect excuse/motivation to get it off of my "to-read" queue.


Lynne | 1 comments Loved this book, one of the only books I've read twice. I read this in high school and re-read it as an adult a few years ago.


Lolkatings | 7 comments I just finished reading this book last month, and loved it! I was worried it would be a let down, but it definitely wasn't, and I really look forward to discussing it with other people.


Anastasia (universe_beats) | 14 comments I'm in too :)


Nancy (nancyhelen) | 1469 comments I'd like to join this one as I have been meaning to read this for ages.


Lolkatings | 7 comments Dennie wrote: "I am reading this and so far enjoying it but i don't like the way there are no speech marks."

I've heard that as a complaint. I tried to see if there was maybe a reason, a pattern, some subtle clue as to why sometimes there were quotes around the speech and sometimes there weren't. I wondered if it had anything to do with the actual characters and where they were, whom they were talking to, etc.


message 16: by Jex (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jex (jexball) | 2227 comments I noticed that too. I thought it was because it was being narrated more in the MC's mind then being an actual conversation. Might just be me though.


Lolkatings | 7 comments Jex wrote: "I noticed that too. I thought it was because it was being narrated more in the MC's mind then being an actual conversation. Might just be me though."

I think that makes sense, except that sometimes quotation marks are used, so I thought maybe there was a reason sometimes they were and sometimes they weren't...


message 18: by Jex (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jex (jexball) | 2227 comments I don't think I've read far enough to see any quoted. Maybe those are actual conversations vs MC narration of convos? It just seems the whole store so far shows up in her head only. Doesn't really feel like the other characters are adding to it. Almost like she's remembering it instead of living it.


Taylor (taylorloran) I read the book a while back and never noticed that there wasn't really any quoted lines in the book. I think I didn't notice because so much of the book is inside the Handmaid's head.

A few months ago I listened to an Audible production of the book and having the story "told" to me was an excellent experience.

The audiobook on Audible is read by Claire Danes and she does an amazing job. I highly recommend listening to it if you can.


Christine Just finished my reread of the book. I read it about 15 years ago and liked it then, but I appreciated it a lot more this time around.

Jex wrote: "I don't think I've read far enough to see any quoted. Maybe those are actual conversations vs MC narration of convos? It just seems the whole store so far shows up in her head only. Doesn't really ..."

I appreciated the way the author did not use quotation marks, as many of the "conversations" are those that the narrator is remembering in her own mind. I thought it gives the text more of a stream-of-consciousness sense of the thoughts flowing through the narrator's head. Also, (view spoiler)


message 21: by Moderators of NBRC, Challenger-in-Chief (new)

Moderators of NBRC | 30937 comments Mod
Reading schedule posted! message #2


Sarah | 3273 comments So glad I chose to nominate this one. It will be my first Atwood. I plan to read the Madd Addam trilogy next.


message 23: by Jex (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jex (jexball) | 2227 comments @Christina: That makes perfect sense. I thought the same. Not to get too much into discussing, but I love how the narrator seems to manage the train of thought aspect as she writes. It's like the person is just spitting out stories vs trying to tell it perfectly.


Clare Butler | 294 comments I'm in too


message 25: by Moderators of NBRC, Challenger-in-Chief (new)

Moderators of NBRC | 30937 comments Mod
Questions/Comments for Chapter 1-11

1. My book had an introduction, did yours? Did you read it? Thoughts?

2. Was it just me or does it feel like the first book is extremely vague about what's happening? Until I read the synopsis again I had no idea what the job of Handmaid was. Did you feel the same?

3. What did you think of the walk to the village? It's interesting how they walk in pairs. What are your thoughts on the exchange with the guard and her wanting to tempt them? How about the market and how it works?

4. What did you think of the doctors hung on the wall for display? Why would someone want to look at it?

5. I keep wondering why it is so difficult for these people to have children. Thoughts?

6. Serena actually fought for this lifestyle! Women should be in the home, men can't control themselves, girls need to set the boundaries, etc. The feminist in me is screaming as I read this! What do you think of Serena and the rest of the household?

7. I looked up Nolite te bastardes carborundorum (the phrase in the wardrobe) and it means "Don't let the bastards grind you down". Thoughts? Also, what do you think of Aunt Lydia and the advice she has given?

8. How many patients do you think the doctor has knocked up? Do you think Offred did the right thing by turning him down?



message 26: by Moderators of NBRC, Challenger-in-Chief (new)

Moderators of NBRC | 30937 comments Mod
Random Stuff I found while searching

The Handmaid's Tale is a 1990 movie! Link Here / Link to the Trailer (there are spoilers in this)


Pictures of the Red Dress:


Flag of Gilead:



message 27: by Moderators of NBRC, Challenger-in-Chief (new)

Moderators of NBRC | 30937 comments Mod
Sorry for the late questions gang! Hope everyone has enjoyed reading so far.


Renee (reneeconoulty) | 3309 comments Questions/Comments for Chapter 1-11

1. My book had an introduction, did yours? Did you read it? Thoughts?

Mine had a synopsis that gave an outline of the story and talked about how popular the book has been.

2. Was it just me or does it feel like the first book is extremely vague about what's happening? Until I read the synopsis again I had no idea what the job of Handmaid was. Did you feel the same?
It was quite vague to begin. But I didn't mind. It seems to be narrated within her mind, so she wouldn't have to explain everything to herself, she already knows. We find out what's going on as she remembers things.

3. What did you think of the walk to the village? It's interesting how they walk in pairs. What are your thoughts on the exchange with the guard and her wanting to tempt them? How about the market and how it works?
I found it interesting that they wern't walking in pairs because of safety in numbers, more that they were possibly spying on each other.


4. What did you think of the doctors hung on the wall for display? Why would someone want to look at it?
I'm glad we don't do that. Displaying the bodies is supposed to be a warning, that other people shouldn't do what they did.

5. I keep wondering why it is so difficult for these people to have children. Thoughts?
It seems to be a recent thing. There are memories of life being different, so it must have changed within a generation. Such a wide spread decrease in fertility and massive change in government and way of life. I would guess some kind of catastrophic event, major disease outbreak etc.

6. Serena actually fought for this lifestyle! Women should be in the home, men can't control themselves, girls need to set the boundaries, etc. The feminist in me is screaming as I read this! What do you think of Serena and the rest of the household?
Glad I don't live there too!

7. I looked up Nolite te bastardes carborundorum (the phrase in the wardrobe) and it means "Don't let the bastards grind you down". Thoughts? Also, what do you think of Aunt Lydia and the advice she has given?
Don't give in. I hate that writing is forbidden in this culture. So opressive.

8. How many patients do you think the doctor has knocked up? Do you think Offred did the right thing by turning him down?
I think he has tried that one a few times, and must have succeded alot for him to keep doing it. I'm glad she turned him down.



Anastasia (universe_beats) | 14 comments 1. My book had an introduction, did yours? Did you read it? Thoughts?

My italian edition doesn't have one. :/

2. Was it just me or does it feel like the first book is extremely vague about what's happening? Until I read the synopsis again I had no idea what the job of Handmaid was. Did you feel the same?

You are totally right. I've read the synopsis to understand a litte bit of what I was reading without getting confused. In fact in these chapters it is not easy to grasp the features of this dystopic world: you can guess that fertility and infertility are central and something happened not so long ago..

3. What did you think of the walk to the village? It's interesting how they walk in pairs. What are your thoughts on the exchange with the guard and her wanting to tempt them? How about the market and how it works?

I think that when you are so lonely and isolated the desire to tempt the guards is understandable. Just to feel appreciated in some way. I'm curious to see how Nick and this guard will be used in the story.

4. What did you think of the doctors hung on the wall for display? Why would someone want to look at it?

Classic example of an "educational" aim or punishment.

5. I keep wondering why it is so difficult for these people to have children. Thoughts?

Ehm, I've read my synopsis in the edition and the first phrase already explained why, so..:P

6. Serena actually fought for this lifestyle! Women should be in the home, men can't control themselves, girls need to set the boundaries, etc. The feminist in me is screaming as I read this! What do you think of Serena and the rest of the household?

In my opinion Serena didn't want really to have a lifestyle like this, she wanted only to show her support to a certain kind of policy. She was enjoying her lifestyle as a singer without a family. But now she seems frustrated and not so enthusiastic about her current lifestyle, so..
Rita is irksome, but Cora is more pleasant. :P

7. I looked up Nolite te bastardes carborundorum (the phrase in the wardrobe) and it means "Don't let the bastards grind you down". Thoughts? Also, what do you think of Aunt Lydia and the advice she has given?

Ahah, I study latin at school but I didn't understand the phrase, what a shame! I know what means "nolite" and "bastardes" (obviously), but that "carborundorum" without dictionary is totally new and uknown for me, I know only that as a grammatical form is a perifrastic construction. Well, now the mystery is clear! It seems a clear protest to a regime.
I have the impression that Aunt Lydia has been brainwashed, she seems really committed..

8. How many patients do you think the doctor has knocked up? Do you think Offred did the right thing by turning him down?

For me..many! I don't know, giving a child to the Commander or to the doctor is really different for Offred? It's always an unaffective way of giving your body, the difference is only in how much she wants to do her "job" without risking. Well, to tell the truth, the risks are many in both ways: if the Commander is infertile, the guilt will relapse on her (and with all these handmaids that disappear for unknown reasons..), if the relationship with the Doctor will be unmasked..the risk of a mysterious "disappearance" is equal! A very difficult situation.. Let's see what will happen in the month given by the doctor.


Anastasia (universe_beats) | 14 comments Moderators of Nothing but Reading Challenges (All the Mods) wrote: "Random Stuff I found while searching

The Handmaid's Tale is a 1990 movie! Link Here / Link to the Trailer (there are spoilers in this)


Pictures of the Red Dress:


Flag of Gilead:
"


The handmaid's "hat" is frightening, it's giant! D:


message 31: by Zonnah (last edited Mar 23, 2014 10:08AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Zonnah | 457 comments Questions/Comments for Chapter 1-11
(view spoiler)


message 32: by Imke (new) - rated it 3 stars

Imke (immie75) | 1642 comments Questions/Comments for Chapter 1-11

1. My book had an introduction, did yours? Did you read it? Thoughts?
No introduction in my book.

2. Was it just me or does it feel like the first book is extremely vague about what's happening? Until I read the synopsis again I had no idea what the job of Handmaid was. Did you feel the same?
At the moment I’m feeling very confused, we don’t even know her name yet from the story. We know what it is from the synopsis, but it could be anything. The way the story is told we don’t get a lot of information. I hope there is more in the near future though.

3. What did you think of the walk to the village? It's interesting how they walk in pairs. What are your thoughts on the exchange with the guard and her wanting to tempt them? How about the market and how it works?
The walk provided a bit of scene setting. I liked that we got a little bit of her environment. The walking in pairs was strange, I liked the exchange with the guards, it showed a little defiance on her part.

4. What did you think of the doctors hung on the wall for display? Why would someone want to look at it?
That was horrible. People supporting that kind of thing to gloat and people who are looking for loved ones, who they hope might still be alive if they are not hanging on that wall.

5. I keep wondering why it is so difficult for these people to have children. Thoughts?
Something must have happened like a nuclear war or a virus. That is maybe also what caused that puritanical behavior.

6. Serena actually fought for this lifestyle! Women should be in the home, men can't control themselves, girls need to set the boundaries, etc. The feminist in me is screaming as I read this! What do you think of Serena and the rest of the household?
She got what was coming to her, I don’t think she thought things through before she said it. Most of the household is just going along with what is happening and don’t have any control over it.

7. I looked up Nolite te bastardes carborundorum (the phrase in the wardrobe) and it means "Don't let the bastards grind you down". Thoughts? Also, what do you think of Aunt Lydia and the advice she has given?
Aunt Lydia is the worst kind of teacher those women could have gotten, talk about blinders. Thanks for looking up the phrase I was wondering what it said. What a daring way to express your support for the next woman in your position.

8. How many patients do you think the doctor has knocked up? Do you think Offred did the right thing by turning him down?
He probably has gotten a lot of women pregnant and I think Offred did the right thing. It will come out eventually when those babies look nothing like the “daddy” but a lot like the doctor.


message 33: by Beth (new) - rated it 4 stars

Beth | 503 comments My copy doesn't have an introduction. I could look up a synopsis, but I probably won't. I actually like how the book drops you in the middle of things without a full explanation.

I've read this once before, but I don't remember very much. Does anyone understand the third epigraph at the beginning - "In the desert there is no sign that says, Thou shalt not eat stones?" The relevance of the other two (from Genesis and from Jonathan Swift) is pretty obvious.


Kelly (ladykatala) | 5020 comments Questions/Comments for Chapter 1-11

1. My book had an introduction, did yours? Did you read it? Thoughts?
Mine did not, however I was very confused so I went on wikipedia to at least read the description of the book and that helped a lot.

2. Was it just me or does it feel like the first book is extremely vague about what's happening? Until I read the synopsis again I had no idea what the job of Handmaid was. Did you feel the same?
I felt that way too. That's why I went to Wikipedia so I had some context to put the story into. Just knowing it was a Christian extremist run nation helped a ton.

3. What did you think of the walk to the village? It's interesting how they walk in pairs. What are your thoughts on the exchange with the guard and her wanting to tempt them? How about the market and how it works?
I read Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith and it reminded me a lot of that book. It's based on mormon extremists and I imagine any sort of religious extremist society ends up where a few people have all the power and a tendency to become corrupt. It seemed like it had a mix of communism in it too where you're only allowed to have what has been decided that you can have. I'm guessing the pairs thing is partly to keep people from engaging in illegal acts and partially for the protection of those people against being accused of things. In this society if a man accuses a woman of something there's no recourse for her unless there's another one or two witnesses.

4. What did you think of the doctors hung on the wall for display? Why would someone want to look at it?
I don't think anyone wants to look at it. I think it's a fear tactic to keep people in line. It's hard to stand against things if your life is on the line. I suppose it's ironic since Christians have a strong history of being martyrs but instead they're creating them.

5. I keep wondering why it is so difficult for these people to have children. Thoughts?
Probably because it's all old men having the kids with younger women and they've shown that men get worse at having kids with age as well. I'm guessing that they're causing a limiting of the gene pool too but it doesn't seem like this has been going on very long.

6. Serena actually fought for this lifestyle! Women should be in the home, men can't control themselves, girls need to set the boundaries, etc. The feminist in me is screaming as I read this! What do you think of Serena and the rest of the household?
I think she's a hypocrit since she obviously didn't actually want that. Maybe it's something that she felt she should do or something someone told her. I wonder if something happened to her when she was younger like being abused or having her mom go out into the workplace and that having caused something bad to happen. People tend to extrapolate based on their own experiences.

7. I looked up Nolite te bastardes carborundorum (the phrase in the wardrobe) and it means "Don't let the bastards grind you down". Thoughts? Also, what do you think of Aunt Lydia and the advice she has given?
I'm really surprised that they got so many people on board with this, though I suspect being publicly executed does tend to bring people in line. I wonder how many closet rebellious people there are.

8. How many patients do you think the doctor has knocked up? Do you think Offred did the right thing by turning him down?
Hrm. I'm not sure. I want to say yes because it's horrible that he offered. I don't really think he's doing it to be benevolent. I could definitely see a doctor causing trouble for patients that refuse. Plus she's not even allowed to testify against him since they need 2 females to testify.


Christine Questions/Comments for Chapter 1-11

1. My book had an introduction, did yours? Did you read it? Thoughts?

No, my copy did not.

2. Was it just me or does it feel like the first book is extremely vague about what's happening? Until I read the synopsis again I had no idea what the job of Handmaid was. Did you feel the same?

This was a reread for me, so not this time, but I agree that the whole picture is uncovered very slowly in this book. I think that's because the entire novel reads like you are hearing the thoughts in the author's mind, so naturally she would not be explaining her everyday life to herself.

3. What did you think of the walk to the village? It's interesting how they walk in pairs. What are your thoughts on the exchange with the guard and her wanting to tempt them? How about the market and how it works?

I thought the walking in pairs was illustrative of the ways the forces in power used the people's fear and distrust of one another to keep each other in control. The narrator's impulse to try to tempt the guards might simply be an impulse to do something that is forbidden, or it may be an impulse of a person who is so completely in the control of others to exert some power over someone else. The main thing I remember about the market is the way all the signs have only pictures on them, no words.

4. What did you think of the doctors hung on the wall for display? Why would someone want to look at it?

Based on other books I've read about barbaric, repressive political regimes through history, it seems a common enough method of instilling fear in the populace. I think it's natural that the people might want to see if it's anyone they know, and maybe even just to glean some sort of news about what's actually happening in the world outside their homes.

5. I keep wondering why it is so difficult for these people to have children. Thoughts?

Hmmm... Obviously the old men that these Handmaidens belong to are probably not as fertile as they were in their younger years, so that may contribute. But (view spoiler)

6. Serena actually fought for this lifestyle! Women should be in the home, men can't control themselves, girls need to set the boundaries, etc. The feminist in me is screaming as I read this! What do you think of Serena and the rest of the household?

I think Serena and other women who initially supported this movement may have initially truly supported the underlying principles, but ended up getting more than they bargained for. I think the Aunts are a more glaring example of women repressing other women, but certainly at this point there is the motivation of self-preservation for all of them in maintaining the status quo. For Serena, it seems she has the best position available to a woman given the present circumstances.

7. I looked up Nolite te bastardes carborundorum (the phrase in the wardrobe) and it means "Don't let the bastards grind you down". Thoughts? Also, what do you think of Aunt Lydia and the advice she has given?

That phrase seemed to be evidence of the home's previous Handmaid struggling to maintain her sense of self as all her individual rights and choices were stripped from her. I thought it interesting how the protagonist latched on to the phrase without even knowing the meaning of it.

8. How many patients do you think the doctor has knocked up? Do you think Offred did the right thing by turning him down?

Possibly many. It is obviously in the Handmaids' best interests to become pregnant as quickly as possible. It may also be in the doctors' best interests - aside from the disgustingly obvious benefits he was after, it may reflect well on these doctors for as high a percentage of their patients as possible to achieve pregnancy, or they may eventually be viewed as failures themselves. Where Offred specifically is concerned, I don't know if there is really a right or wrong answer. I certainly recoiled at the idea that she might accept the doctor's proposal, but in the long run I suppose it's no different than her Commander's attempts at impregnating her. If she became pregnant, at least she wouldn't have to endure any more of that! But ew - I was glad she turned the doctor down.


Renee (reneeconoulty) | 3309 comments Ooops, I got a bit carried away and finished already.
I think I must have been enjoying it...


Nancy (nancyhelen) | 1469 comments 1. My book had an introduction, did yours? Did you read it? Thoughts?
Mine didn't unfortunately.

2. Was it just me or does it feel like the first book is extremely vague about what's happening? Until I read the synopsis again I had no idea what the job of Handmaid was. Did you feel the same?
I love the way the author doesn't reveal everything all at once. It doesn't just keep you guessing, it keeps you wanting to read more to find out what is going on. I think this is deliberate and very clever (I've already kept reading because I had to know). Because I knew quite a lot about the book, I guess I kind of knew what was happening which helped.

3. What did you think of the walk to the village? It's interesting how they walk in pairs. What are your thoughts on the exchange with the guard and her wanting to tempt them? How about the market and how it works?
The walking in pairs added to the whole feeling of paranoia for me, but I suspect that eventually Offred and Ofglen may become 'friends'. I can fully understand the exchange with the guard - when you are deprived of all comfort, humanity and personality, you would do anything to feel like a desirable individual again. The market seems a very depressing place. I can't understand how these poor women don't just die of boredom.

4. What did you think of the doctors hung on the wall for display? Why would someone want to look at it?
It is an incredibly medieval way of trying to deter people from doing things, but then many extreme religions tend to revert to medieval activities and beliefs so it wouldn't surprise me. I don't know why anyone would choose to look - morbid curiosity? But then again, why did thousands of people turn out to see a hanging in the 19th century?

5. I keep wondering why it is so difficult for these people to have children. Thoughts?
I suspect some kind of biological warfare was used in the lead up to this dystopian present which affected fertility.

6. Serena actually fought for this lifestyle! Women should be in the home, men can't control themselves, girls need to set the boundaries, etc. The feminist in me is screaming as I read this! What do you think of Serena and the rest of the household?
I agree! I can't believe women still subscribe to this!! Personally, I think Serena has got what she deserves and I feel no sympathy for he whatsoever. She seems very unhappy and, if she was instrumental in bringing this about then she has metaphorically made her bed. Rita is nothing but a bitter, prejudiced woman. Cora seems OK though.

7. I looked up Nolite te bastardes carborundorum (the phrase in the wardrobe) and it means "Don't let the bastards grind you down". Thoughts? Also, what do you think of Aunt Lydia and the advice she has given?
Thank you! I have been dying to know what it meant. I think it shows that many of the Handmaids feel the same way and, contrary to the fear that they all of them are 'true believers', I think it shows that actually many of them don't subscribe to the kind of society they are forced to live in. Aunt Lydia strikes me as the kind of person who, like Serena, wanted this even before and therefore she has bought into it fully and worse, gains pleasure out of it all. She's not a nice person at all.

8. How many patients do you think the doctor has knocked up? Do you think Offred did the right thing by turning him down? I suspect he's tried plenty, but probably hasn't been successful in actually conceiving many children. He's just using it for his own gratification, playing on the desperate need of the Handmaid's to have babies. I am glad she turned him down.


Sonia (darktalynn) | 10180 comments Sorry for the delay, Real Life was demanding this week. Yesterday's questions coming up!


message 39: by Sonia (last edited Mar 24, 2014 10:48AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sonia (darktalynn) | 10180 comments Questions/Comments for Chapter 12-20

9. What do you think about the flashbacks and the memories of her little girl? We now know a little more. They went into hiding and got caught. I'm wondering what happened to Luke and if we ever will find out?

10. The color code is getting on my nerves. And the concept of the econowives doesn't make sense. If women are separated from conceiving and barren, how can the econowives have both blue and red stripes?

11. What did you think of all the steps from the ceremony before the conclusion? The waiting. The news watching. The bible reading?

12. So, when an handmaid gives birth, all the women have to be there. Each group in their own space, and births are done by one of the aunts. If things go wrong, only then is the medic team called. Weird?

13. We have constant flashbacks. Some to know more about Offred's background. Some to know about her life in the "school". But mostly, we get the comparison of life before and after. Thoughts about that? Do they make the story hard to follow?

14. Do you like the writing style? As referred, the lack of quote marks for speech sometimes makes it hard to read. But so far, Offred's voice is strong and I'm liking her.



Zonnah | 457 comments Questions/Comments for Chapter 12-20
(view spoiler)


message 41: by Imke (new) - rated it 3 stars

Imke (immie75) | 1642 comments Questions/Comments for Chapter 12-20

9. What do you think about the flashbacks and the memories of her little girl? We now know a little more. They went into hiding and got caught. I'm wondering what happened to Luke and if we ever will find out?
I think Luke got shot when they tried to escape. The story is not yet very clear on that, but I think that’s because she doesn’t know or accept what has happened to Luke or her daughter.

10. The color code is getting on my nerves. And the concept of the econowives doesn't make sense. If women are separated from conceiving and barren, how can the econowives have both blue and red stripes?
I don’t know, maybe they are not barren and the women in red are being punished, but by being a handmaiden be “useful” to society?

11. What did you think of all the steps from the ceremony before the conclusion? The waiting. The news watching. The bible reading?
That was horrible for everyone involved, except maybe the commander he was late.

12. So, when an handmaid gives birth, all the women have to be there. Each group in their own space, and births are done by one of the aunts. If things go wrong, only then is the medic team called. Weird?
Yeah very weird, but what’s not weird about this book. I’m starting to accept everything that’s happening in this book. It’s just too strange to comprehend.

13. We have constant flashbacks. Some to know more about Offred's background. Some to know about her life in the "school". But mostly, we get the comparison of life before and after. Thoughts about that? Do they make the story hard to follow?

Actually no, they make the story more understandable. You get a slow introduction to what happened to their world.

14. Do you like the writing style? As referred, the lack of quote marks for speech sometimes makes it hard to read. But so far, Offred's voice is strong and I'm liking her.
I’m getting to like this book more and more. The style took some getting used to, but I’m starting to get dragged into the story. I’m getting curious about what exactly happened to Offred before she ended up in the school and what is in store for her.


Sonia (darktalynn) | 10180 comments Questions/Comments for Chapter 21-28

15. Thoughts about Angela's birth?

16. So, Moira made her escape, as she wanted to. What do you think about the way she did it?

17."I'd like you to play a game of Scrabble with me". Say what? He's bored, so the solution is to break all rules?

18.The interaction between Offred and the Commander is a recipe for disaster, don't you think? It even starts to show on the ceremony nights.

19.What could be the "we" that Ofglen referred to?

20.So, we got a glimpse of some events before. Thoughts?



Zonnah | 457 comments Questions/Comments for Chapter 21-28
(view spoiler)


Kelly (ladykatala) | 5020 comments Questions/Comments for Chapter 12-20

9. What do you think about the flashbacks and the memories of her little girl? We now know a little more. They went into hiding and got caught. I'm wondering what happened to Luke and if we ever will find out?
Hrm. It seems like they must have gotten split up immediately if one of the things she imagines him in is what he was wearing on that car trip.

10. The color code is getting on my nerves. And the concept of the econowives doesn't make sense. If women are separated from conceiving and barren, how can the econowives have both blue and red stripes?
I thought the barren women were taken away to some other camp.
Here's what the wiki says about them "Econowives are women who have married relatively low-ranking men, meaning any man who does not belong to the ruling elite. They are expected to perform all the female functions: domestic duties, companionship, and child-bearing. Their dress is multicoloured red, blue, and green to reflect these multiple roles." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hand...)
It's almost like the colors are like the gold stars that Jews had to wear during the Holocost. A way to publicly inform people if you're not doing the role you're supposed to be doing.

11. What did you think of all the steps from the ceremony before the conclusion? The waiting. The news watching. The bible reading?
I think it's all a way to control things. The more rigid and rule-bound the society the easier it is to find anyone who steps out of line.

12. So, when an handmaid gives birth, all the women have to be there. Each group in their own space, and births are done by one of the aunts. If things go wrong, only then is the medic team called. Weird?
Eih. That's just like home births today. If you're not giving pain meds anyways not a big problem. I suppose I'm a bit surprised that with babies being as scarce as they are that they don't take every precaution.

13. We have constant flashbacks. Some to know more about Offred's background. Some to know about her life in the "school". But mostly, we get the comparison of life before and after. Thoughts about that? Do they make the story hard to follow?
It's a bit hard to follow sometimes. I can follow the ones before and after just fine but the school time to current time are a bit hard to distinguish sometimes.

14. Do you like the writing style? As referred, the lack of quote marks for speech sometimes makes it hard to read. But so far, Offred's voice is strong and I'm liking her.
I'm ok with it but it's definitely slower reading than a lot of other books I'm reading. Some of that may be due to when it was written since current books are usually easier to read since they use current language.


message 45: by Anastasia (last edited Mar 25, 2014 03:16AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Anastasia (universe_beats) | 14 comments 9. What do you think about the flashbacks and the memories of her little girl? We now know a little more. They went into hiding and got caught. I'm wondering what happened to Luke and if we ever will find out?

I agree with Imke, Luke is probably dead. What a horrible truth or revelation (if we'll know for sure) to accept for Offred :(

10. The color code is getting on my nerves. And the concept of the econowives doesn't make sense. If women are separated from conceiving and barren, how can the econowives have both blue and red stripes?

And here I agree with Kelly, although I don't understand exactly if these women then can have children without support from handmaids. Or handmaids support them too..?

11. What did you think of all the steps from the ceremony before the conclusion? The waiting. The news watching. The bible reading?

What a patriarchal ritual! But it was an occasion to know the Commander, I wonder how his character will be used in the story, like Nick's one.

12. So, when an handmaid gives birth, all the women have to be there. Each group in their own space, and births are done by one of the aunts. If things go wrong, only then is the medic team called. Weird?

Meds here are..generally weird. :-D

13. We have constant flashbacks. Some to know more about Offred's background. Some to know about her life in the "school". But mostly, we get the comparison of life before and after. Thoughts about that? Do they make the story hard to follow?

A bit. But the more I go on with the story, the more it's easy to jump immediately between past and present.

14. Do you like the writing style? As referred, the lack of quote marks for speech sometimes makes it hard to read. But so far, Offred's voice is strong and I'm liking her.

I think that sometimes it's heavy, with all the continuous detailed descriptions so full of particulars. In Cat's Eye, the other book that I read of hers, the narration was very detailed too (a charateristic of Atwood's style, nothing to object), but in a less preponderant way. But I understand that all those descriptions in this context are necessary. :)


message 46: by Renee (last edited Mar 25, 2014 05:18AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Renee (reneeconoulty) | 3309 comments Questions/Comments for Chapter 12-20

9. What do you think about the flashbacks and the memories of her little girl? We now know a little more. They went into hiding and got caught. I'm wondering what happened to Luke and if we ever will find out?

I like getting the back ground information, puts things into perspective. I like to think Luke is alive somewhere, maybe working as slave labour.

10. The color code is getting on my nerves. And the concept of the econowives doesn't make sense. If women are separated from conceiving and barren, how can the econowives have both blue and red stripes?
Bit confused there too.

11. What did you think of all the steps from the ceremony before the conclusion? The waiting. The news watching. The bible reading?
Very structured and controlling ritual.

12. So, when an handmaid gives birth, all the women have to be there. Each group in their own space, and births are done by one of the aunts. If things go wrong, only then is the medic team called. Weird?
Another controlled ritual. Aiming for natural childbirth with only women involved, which is the way things were done for a long time throughout history and in many cultures. Just not as intimate as all the women are there, not just close family.

13. We have constant flashbacks. Some to know more about Offred's background. Some to know about her life in the "school". But mostly, we get the comparison of life before and after. Thoughts about that? Do they make the story hard to follow?
I followed ok.

14. Do you like the writing style? As referred, the lack of quote marks for speech sometimes makes it hard to read. But so far, Offred's voice is strong and I'm liking her.
I listened to the audio book so punctuation didn't bother me.

Questions/Comments for Chapter 21-28

15. Thoughts about Angela's birth?

Glad she was healthy.

16. So, Moira made her escape, as she wanted to. What do you think about the way she did it?
Creative, good on her.

17."I'd like you to play a game of Scrabble with me". Say what? He's bored, so the solution is to break all rules?
The more forbidden, the more desirable...

18.The interaction between Offred and the Commander is a recipe for disaster, don't you think? It even starts to show on the ceremony nights.
Can't end well for anyone.

19.What could be the "we" that Ofglen referred to?
Not sure.

20.So, we got a glimpse of some events before. Thoughts?
I'm wondering if Offred was called Offred before, when she was married to Luke. It wouldn't surprise me if they stripped her name from her too, and named her for her assignment. Maybe the Commander's name is Fred so then she is of Fred. Her partner is Ofglen, so maybe she is assigned to a man named Glen.


message 47: by Imke (last edited Mar 25, 2014 01:34PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Imke (immie75) | 1642 comments Questions/Comments for Chapter 21-28

15. Thoughts about Angela's birth?
I was glad the baby was born ok wouldn't have wanted to read that the girl was disfigured and then killed. The whole ritual was very strange to read about, also Offred's physical reaction to the birth.

16. So, Moira made her escape, as she wanted to. What do you think about the way she did it?
What a move, I knew I liked that woman. Very smart, I hope she is still alive and made it to a safe place.

17."I'd like you to play a game of Scrabble with me". Say what? He's bored, so the solution is to break all rules?
I think he is missing a companion someone to talk to or play games with. Yes they are breaking the rules and that games of scrabble is not the biggest rule they are breaking.

18.The interaction between Offred and the Commander is a recipe for disaster, don't you think? It even starts to show on the ceremony nights.
Yes it is, I don't think the commanders wife is going to play along nicely when she finds out about it.

19.What could be the "we" that Ofglen referred to?
Maybe some sort of resistance.

20.So, we got a glimpse of some events before. Thoughts?
The change seemed to have been gradually at first and then all of the sudden women are not allowed to have their own money or a job. I would like some more explanation though, it seems all very random to me at the moment


message 48: by Lisarenee (last edited Mar 25, 2014 05:23PM) (new)

Lisarenee | 7659 comments Questions and Comments for Chapters 29 - 38

21) So has anyone noticed the names? Offred - Of Fred; Ofwarren - Of Warren; Ofglen - Of Glen? Are those the first names of the Commanders to who they are assigned?

22) At one point Offred admitted this was her third assignment. I wonder how long it's been since the reconstruction? If she remembers the before and she was married and had a child and is now 33 years old it couldn't have been that long, could it?

23) Does Offred really have a choice where the Commander is concerned? Offred suggests that they might give the illusion that the wife has the power, but it's the men who truly do. Do you agree? Could she just say no?

24) So there was another handmaiden in this household before our girl and she hanged herself. It makes it seem even more likely that the Commander is sterile. You'd think they could test for that. Gah! Would you risk everything and try to get pregnant by someone else? I'm guessing it would be tempting.

25) Do you understand Offred's animosity toward the wife? It sounded like she had to agree to this situation for it to happen. Now she's asking her to sleep with Nick. Plus she does truly know Offred's background. Knows about her child and probably her husband. Do you think Nick's been used as a stand in before? Perhaps with the last handmaid? I keep thinking back to how he winked at her. Plus, this would be something major the wife could hold over Offred's head. Poor Offred.

26) So I admit I didn't like the fact that we don't know about the world this book is set in and it looks like we may never know everything. My paperback version has no introduction and neither does the eBook copy from my library. The copy from the library, however, has the following epigraphs proceeding the story:

'And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.

And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel; and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?

And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her.'
— Genesis 30:1–3

'But as to myself, having been wearied out for many years with offering vain, idle, visionary thoughts, and at length utterly despairing of success, I fortunately fell upon this proposal...'
— Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal

'In the desert there is no sign that says, Thou shalt not eat stones.'
— Sufi proverb


Is anyone familiar with the last two? I get the feeling the reason the author didn't do more world building was to center more on the situation than the rest. Does it bother you the author did this or do you like it? Does it give you more empathy for the character who equally knows little of what is going on in the outside world?



Zonnah | 457 comments Questions and Comments for Chapters 29 - 38
(view spoiler)



Kelly (ladykatala) | 5020 comments Questions/Comments for Chapter 21-28

15. Thoughts about Angela's birth?
Heh. Reminds me of my first birth where I really wanted to walk around but had preeclampsia starting so they wouldn't let me. I can't imagine not being allowed to walk around or do much to help without pain meds as well. Plus having everyone watching would be real awkward. That and you don't even get to keep your child.

16. So, Moira made her escape, as she wanted to. What do you think about the way she did it?
I think she got a perverse pleasure out of taking them down a notch. It's much less dignified to be taken out by part of a toilet than an actual weapon. I'm kinda surprised they haven't just out powered the Aunts before. I can't imagine they're not stronger than them.

17."I'd like you to play a game of Scrabble with me". Say what? He's bored, so the solution is to break all rules?
My favorite line was "Caught in the act, sinfully Scrabbling." I think he's lonely for someone to talk to in a real sense. None of the people in this society can have any real conversations with each other.

18.The interaction between Offred and the Commander is a recipe for disaster, don't you think? It even starts to show on the ceremony nights.
Yeah. Though I'm kinda wondering if the Commander wants to off his wife and get someone he likes in place.

19.What could be the "we" that Ofglen referred to?
I'm guessing it's a rebellion organization.

20.So, we got a glimpse of some events before. Thoughts?
I could see that as a good way to take over a country. Start segregating people by limiting the power of one set and increasing the power of another set, especially since the male/female boundaries already exist in some form for most couples. I have to say that it would probably piss me off quite a bit too. I've always been very particular about not being dependent upon by husband. Mostly because I see a lot of older women lose their husbands and not know how to get anything done or do any of the finances. It would be terrible to lose your husband in an accident and not know how to do anything to take care of yourself or your family. The situation described here reminds me of the households where the wife has an "allowance" that the husband gives to her. I know it works for some families but it seems so insulting when described in those terms.


« previous 1
back to top