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MAY/JUNE The Handmaid's Tale > May/June - The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

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message 1: by Ana, Our Shared Shelf Moderator (new)

Ana PF | 746 comments Mod
It's a particularly fit day for finishing The Handmaid's Tale, may I add? ;) Those of you who are also reading might now why already...

...It had been a while since I read a book in 2-3 days (reminiscing my old golden days here, haha!). I absolutely loved the novel. Without going into spoilers for now, I will say that my favorite aspect was the beauty of the language, so vivid at times, one could easily picture many parts of the book instead of just reading an account. A language that conveyed an inexplicable beauty amidst all the brutality, repression and violence. Sometimes it felt slightly outdated, so much so that at the beginning I sort of assumed the plot was set in a much earlier time...

...And that takes us to the terrifying side of this book. Is it all that hard to imagine that a society such as Gilead could emerge from the wreck of ours? In some aspects it is, however...it didn't feel that surreal. I think it offers the reader some solid food for thought. This book was written in 1987, if I recall correctly, yet the excuse that leads to the slow-but-steady foundation of Gilead is a fairly actual one. Just think of it, y'all.

message 2: by Dixie (new)

Dixie Magadan (dixie_magadan) | 7 comments Pretty convenient to read this in May/JUNE isn't it? ;)

Erin (thatwritergirl) | 37 comments I am only a few chapters in so far, but I am already intrigued! What disturbs me the most is the fact that it feels so real, and that something like this could actually happen in the not too distant future if we aren't careful. Seems like this book is especially relevant right now. Can't wait to dive in further.

message 4: by Felicia (new)

Felicia (feliciajoe) I'm very excited to read this and find out why everyone thinks it's such a good time to read it in! :D It's like when it's your birthday, and everyone are hinting at something in your presents, and you have no idea what it is.

message 5: by Alyssa (new)

Alyssa Fancy | 1 comments I read this a few weeks ago; it's an interesting concept but I found there wasn't enough depth and history of how they got to where they were at that time and I didn't really like how the book ended. I found there was just too many unknowns for it to feel 'real' to me. I'm just use to in depth fantasy novels 🤓

message 6: by Pam (last edited May 02, 2017 09:58AM) (new)

Pam | 1091 comments Mod
Oh boy or boy. The thing that chills me is that this book was first written in 1985.


32 years ago!

I stress this because this wasn't someone building off of current events or trying to make a commentary on today's world. But a comment about a world an adult life ago.

And I know in my circles, we have started debating what this feels more like - 1984 with Fake News and big brother watching or that of a Brave New World where we are so deadened and paralyzed by too much information that we seek the solace of the sensational and/or the entertaining.

But darn, you could put Handmaids Tale right there and it also works!

message 7: by Amy (new)

Amy | 1 comments Kind of random, but if you like Handmaid's Tale, you'll probably like my new Book Trailer - it's a dystopian romantic-thriller: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7l5-...

Erica B (ricci.reads) | 14 comments Read this at the beginning of the year, and it became an instant favourite, so pleased it's been chosen.

It really is chilling how NOT far-fetched this story is. With Trump in the white house and recent developments in the UK benefits system, I really fear for womens future in this society.

message 9: by Grettel (new)

Grettel (wanderror) | 2 comments I've been reading the book and watching the show at the same time.

I have a lot of mixed emotions about it. The outstanding one being fear. This may be a work of fiction, but it is more realistic now more than ever, I think. Especially with how things are currently in the US. Although we have come very far in regards to women's rights and how women are viewed in society, there is still work to be done. And I feel that things can easily regress, that thought is where my fear stems from--from the realization that progress can be made, but somehow the past always has a way of repeating itself.

It leaves me thinking: what if this work of fiction becomes actuality? The thought is not far-fetched. What if we, like Ofred, lose control of our own bodies? What if we are constantly watched--constantly monitored on what we say or do? It's scary to think about. And it also makes me angry.

So my final thoughts are: what can we do as women to keep this from happening?

We must work together.

message 10: by Ellen (new)

Ellen | 42 comments Dixie wrote: "Pretty convenient to read this in May/JUNE isn't it? ;)"
I semi-understood this before and now I've got it properly and feel like my mind has been blown.

Reading into all the possible meanings now!

I read the book back in Feb so am now watching the TV series to keep up with the conversation on here!

message 11: by Natalia (new)

Natalia Johnson Torrente I finally have gotten the book and I'm so excited to finally begin reading it, especially before the Hulu series comes out!

message 12: by Hannah (new)

Hannah Wiedmeyer I just started the book two days ago. Some people were talking about watching the show and I told them to read the book first. All in all, I like it so far

message 13: by Cavell (new)

Cavell | 1 comments I just finished this on a trip to Mexico, as I needed something to read on the plane. Such a great read! Being Canadian myself, Margaret Atwood is a national treasure for us. I may have to re-read it again without the airplane noise.

message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm still about 100 pages away from finishing the book, but there are so many themes here that really hit home for me already. I was born and I live in Puerto Rico, and we grow up learning in history class about 'birth control' and sterilization laws passed in the 30s as a means to incorporate Puerto Rican women into the workplace without having to provide more affordable childcare. In a way, it's the opposite of what's happening in the book, but the concept is the same. For decades afterward, women had only the most tenuous control over their reproductive rights in Puerto Rico. My grandmother lived through that. My mom lived through the 60s and 70s when women finally came together to end the practice of forced sterilization. The fear that this might one day happen again still lives here, to this day. So this book is very real to me in a lot of ways. I can't wait to finish the book and see how it ends, both because I'm so emotionally invested in Offred's journey, and because it's so spiritually draining every time I pick it up to read.

message 15: by Dawn (new)

Dawn I've read this a few years ago, and re "read" by listening to the audiobook Claire Danes recorded for audible ( which I recommend, especially for re-reading). I also can't wait to try the new series on Hulu. Great book for OSS!

message 16: by Emma (new)

Emma | 9 comments Erin wrote: "I am only a few chapters in so far, but I am already intrigued! What disturbs me the most is the fact that it feels so real, and that something like this could actually happen in the not too distan..."

I completely agree. I just wish I had more free time. I'm desperate to finish it. My cousin works in Ukraine and I remember him being rushed out last year while Russia attempted a takeover and the Ukrainians were given the option to accept a Russian passport or face the consequences.

So little of it was on the news, it just makes the world in The Handmaid's Tale feel possible by seeing how easy it is for something like that to be hushed.

Erin (thatwritergirl) | 37 comments Emma wrote: "Erin wrote: "I am only a few chapters in so far, but I am already intrigued! What disturbs me the most is the fact that it feels so real, and that something like this could actually happen in the n..."

Something like that being hushed is what still makes The Handmaid's Tale relevant today. Digging deeper into the book only opens my eyes even further to how eerily NOT so futuristic it feels, especially considering how women are treated in other countries.

message 18: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 5 comments Keith wrote: "I have read this twice so far and it is way up on my favourites list. Scarily realistic and written in a fashion that sends shivers down your spine. There are so many themes that resonate with our ..."

It is the fact Atwood deliberately grounded the story with current and historic markers that makes the book so chilling. It feels more real because there is nothing that has not already been done in one way or other historically. Political coups, religious authoritarianism, underground resistance movements, gender-based oppression, and societal panopticism.

The pendulum swings, and as the world struggles with progressive governments being ousted by more extreme conservatism that assert an agenda of stepping back into an idealized / romanticized past, this 30+ year old book is made fresh again.

Some say it is a warning or prophetic, but I think that it can also be seen as a reflection of the time in which it was originally written. The 1980s were a time of unrest globally, the Berlin Wall was still intact, the Cold War created great tensions between nations, and there loomed the threat of nuclear war. It was the start of the AIDS epidemic which lead to a rise in sexuality and morality policing, and sometimes violence.

... the pendulum swings.

message 19: by Julie (new)

Julie (jujubeeee) I am 20% into this book (according to Kindle). So far, the themes of "uniformity" scream out to me as the most realistic. I am in the military, so the ways in which femininity has been masked throughout my time serving are creating echoes as I read this. The scene where the main character simply hops into the bathtub and makes mental notes of her body, and how her nakedness feels out of place- indifferent to her, almost. The details of how shaving is no longer a concern for them, as there isn't a reason to anymore.

The feelings are all so familiar to me - when your appearance does not matter, as it "can't" anymore. When I deployed overseas I knew that it did not matter what I 'looked like' to others, if I was attractive or what have you. I just had to do my job. But when I was alone and about to take a shower, sometimes it was almost nice to admire my body for a moment (to remember that you are a woman, you are human) and that one day, I would be able to embrace this more, but in the interim...my life was at a temporary 'pause.'

message 20: by Cătălina (new)

Cătălina (catalinasimona) | 9 comments Pretty good so far :)

message 21: by Emma (new)

Emma | 9 comments Erin wrote: "Emma wrote: "Erin wrote: "I am only a few chapters in so far, but I am already intrigued! What disturbs me the most is the fact that it feels so real, and that something like this could actually ha..."

Definitely! The more I read, the more realistic it felt. It's going to haunt me for a long time!

message 22: by Erin (new)

Erin Horrigan What an intense and exhilarating read... as my first book with Our Shared Shelf, I'm not disappointed.

message 23: by Alyson (new)

Alyson Stone (alysonserenastone) | 149 comments I'm excited to read this. I've heard so many wonderful things about it!

message 24: by Felicia (new)

Felicia (feliciajoe) Wow, I just finished.

message 25: by Tasha (new)

Tasha | 7 comments Just finished this today and it is as scary and intense as I had been led to believe. As many have said it really doesn't feel far fetched at all and that's both truly frightening yet I am in awe that this book has some themes that could easily be modern day society.
Will definitely be one I read again and again

message 26: by Lauren (new)

Lauren I first read this book in college, about 12 years ago, and it is the first book that spiked my interest in reading. It allowed me to see the world through different perspectives and experiences, which I believe is the first step in becoming a better person. As a result of this book I am now an avid reader and continued to study literature. Although I have read this book several times over the years, as I have just signed up to Goodreads I plan to re-read. I look forward to reading it light of current issues and seeing if it really is as prophetic as it seems!!

message 27: by Hiba (new)

Hiba | 3 comments Im happy that this book is my first book to read since i became a member in this club

What attracted me at first was the world that the author created. In a way, it had something theatrical in it. The set, the way everything is described, the costumes, the daily routine and the justifications of the people in power of their actions (aunts,commanders,wives...etc) made it seem surreal, otherworldly and in a way unbelievable but still hooked me in.
Whereas, Ofred's inner thoughts, short conversations, even her illusions and confessions are the things that made the happenings of the novel seem more believable. I guess, if someone was to live through that kind of life filled with twisted notions of faith,duty and even love, they would definitely turned into an Ofred themselves.

Through the middle part of the novel, I came to realise that it's not about how this thing ends, it's about how we as human beings fall into the same -not mistakes- but lies again and again, soon enough we come to believe in our self-made lies. This quality of human beings, sadly enough, continues to this day and intends not to ever fade away. It's the power that it offers what stimulates humans to do so.

Another point that I came to realise, was how the ones in power came to use religion and faith to fill in their needs, justify and make excuses for their actions. When someone has a religion backing him/her, people do not find the courage to question their intentions. Because if they did, they would have been called traitors, non-believers and even punished for that. This was and still is applicable today. One might think, questioning them means having power over them. Is it? I think the situation is more complicated than that.

lastly, I would like to express how much I enjoyed the namings in this novel. Every name was on point. Ofred, Serena Joy, Eyes, Aunts, Angels, Guardians ... and the list goes on. The sense of innocence, transparency and calrity that these names give off are not just ironic but also comically -saddened to admit- real. This shows how much in a similar world we live in, to that of the handmaid's.

__My first language isn't English, I apologise for the misspellings and for anything that I wrote and did not make sense.__

message 28: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Sally (dd_sally) | 9 comments Just got my own copy today and I'm about to start reading it tomorrow. I'm so excited.

message 29: by April (new)

April Hull | 3 comments I'm so glad that Emma introduced me to this book! There was so much content to the story that the ending being a bit disappointing for me did not deter me. It felt like such a tragic and nearly hopeless situation. It is a bit scary as a woman to think of how realistic some aspects could become in today's environment. I've just started the Hulu series as well and am finding it just as fascinating.

message 30: by Erin (new)

Erin | 1 comments This is one of my favorite books of all time. Every line is ripe with warning and foreshadowing; each character is very relatable when considering their flaws. The writing itself is beautiful and easy to follow. I love this book so much that I wrote about an essay about it in my AP Literature Exam that I took last Wednesday! Great choice, Emma!

message 31: by Linda (new)

Linda | 10 comments Does anyone know if the English edition is hard to read if English isn't your first language? I'm not sure if I should buy it in Dutch or English...

message 32: by Felicia (new)

Felicia (feliciajoe) Linda, I didn't think it was too difficult in English (:

message 33: by Ashley (new)

Ashley | 194 comments I wasn't aware this thread existed and have already posted on the other thread some thoughts. Should I move that post here?

Sorry, I'm new not only to this group, but to this site as well...

message 34: by Britt (new)

Britt | 123 comments Grettel wrote: "I've been reading the book and watching the show at the same time.

I have a lot of mixed emotions about it. The outstanding one being fear. This may be a work of fiction, but it is more realistic..."

I feel the same way. I think the realism of the Handmaid's Tale is very frightening.

This could definitely be our world someday and I really, really hope that if we ever came close to it, we'd all, men and women alike, unify for once and do everything in our power to prevent it.

message 35: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Salisbury (LynnSalisbury) I seem to be in the minority that I didn't really like the book. Theme wise it only touches on a few things that I am concerned about in today's world. But that was the part I did like.

I didn't like the way quotation marks were not used properly. It always pulled me out of the story to try to figure out if someone was actually talking, and who that might be. The paragraphs were jumbled and at times incoherent. I also didn't feel any emotion for any of the characters. They felt flat. I didn't have any connection with any of them which meant I felt like I was only "watching" the story unfold in an awkward manner, not immersed in it.

I agree with a few people who said that the lack of background of "how" this dystopian world came about was also missing. It would have given me more to work with as a reader.

The ending was the worst for me. It tried to wrap up the story as if it was the past, but it used a clinical setting to do that. It was as flat and uninteresting as the story itself. The whole book left me feeling like I read something, something that could have been profound and gripping, but was all air that I couldn't hold on to.

I wrote a dystopian book that not only delves into some similar themes but give a background into how it happened, how bad it got, how it resolved itself, and how everything comes full circle. I do try to make my characters someone you can relate to, even the ones you aren't supposed to like. You can check out my author page here at Goodreads. The book is "Kyriea".

I'm not saying I'm any better than any other author, especially one as established as Atwood. But there are many indie authors who are overshadowed and overlooked that are just as good. They don't get the accolades or attention they deserve. If you don't check out anything I have written, check out the many indie and self-published authors that are out there. Many are worth the time and effort.

message 36: by Ashley (new)

Ashley | 194 comments Lynn wrote: "I seem to be in the minority that I didn't really like the book. Theme wise it only touches on a few things that I am concerned about in today's world. But that was the part I did like.

I didn't l..."

I felt similarly about the quotes at first, until I found some reasoning behind that literary decision. I wrote this on another board, but I will put it here as well (slightly revised as a response to you)

I feel, in the beginning, Offred was distancing herself as much as she could from the circumstances she was in, putting a wall between this life she was being forced to live and the life she had lived before, and placing herself with the life she had lived before. Even the way the author chose to write the story portrayed this - and portrayed her regression into accepting her fate/life, through the use of quotations and lack there-of. At first, I thought this was just the way Margaret Atwood had chosen the write the story and I had to get used to reading it that way, but then she started adding in the quotations. So I started paying more attention to what was happening in relation the quotation marks appearing more and more frequently. The conclusion I came to was that the quotations started appearing and becoming more apparent until every spoken line was in quotations as Offred accepted more and more her circumstances and jumped over that wall she had built for herself. She didn't just accept her circumstances. The way she had distanced herself from this currently life shifted so she started distancing herself from her former life. This shift, I believe, fully took place when she saw the photo of her daughter and had to come to terms with the fact that her daughter's life had moved on without her and was still continuing on without her. Her accepting of her circumstances started minutely when she first called the room hers and began taking ownership of things in this life, but fully started taking effect, I think, when the Commander gave her the opportunity to form a relationship with him, and then solidified when she began fooling around with Nick. The chapter where she talks about fooling around with Nick, we hear, for the last time, reminiscences of Luke and how she feels she is betraying him. But there is still the thought, if he is dead, how am I betraying him? I think in that moment she has decided for herself that she is, even though she briefly wonders if the Guardian at the salvaging is Luke, this seems more like an afterthought to me. All of this change seems to happen without Offred entirely being aware of it. It isn't until Ofglen is replaced that it really seems to dawn on her everything she's been doing and what it's meant to her and what it's done to her, but this seems to only push her further to embracing this life she despises so much - but she doesn't seem to despise it so much after all.
I think by the end of the book, Offred has lost the will to be an individual and to live as she once had. I feel she's just so lost in everything that's happened and everything she's done, even in thinking she should take her life and not face what comes next, she doesn't really care what comes next. She doesn't really care what happens to her. She truly has become the woman the society has been trying to turn her into. And it's a little sad. If we are to believe Nick, she's finally getting away. She might have a chance to try and help a rebellion or she might just have a chance to flee the country and start a new life. Either way, it seems her life is already over, and I don't think she would really know what to do with herself in either of those circumstances.

message 37: by Lynn (new)

Lynn Salisbury (LynnSalisbury) Ashley wrote: "Lynn wrote: "I seem to be in the minority that I didn't really like the book. Theme wise it only touches on a few things that I am concerned about in today's world. But that was the part I did like..."

Thank you for that insight. I hadn't noticed the inclusion of more quotations as the book progressed. I'll take another glance. I'm not sure it would chance my perception of the book overall but it definitely gives a good reason for the style.

message 38: by Celia (new)

Celia Walters | 2 comments This book makes me cringe!

message 39: by Pam (last edited May 12, 2017 06:01PM) (new)

Pam | 1091 comments Mod
Lynn wrote: "The ending was the worst for me. It tried to wrap up the story as if it was the past, but it used a clinical setting to do that.."

So I wanted to address this because it really annoyed me as well. And that is what I imagine Atwood wanted. Even after her publisher raised a quizzical brow.

(view spoiler)

message 40: by Jullietta (new)

Jullietta | 1 comments Hello! Today I decided return to my account on Goodreads. I knew about this group from Instagram and was surprised to know you are reading this book. I bought it 2 years ago and didn't read yet. Today I'll start reading with you 👍🏻
Sorry my English 🙈 I have no practice for along time...

message 41: by Nick (new)

Nick Imrie (nickimrie) Lynn wrote: "The ending was the worst for me. It tried to wrap up the story as if it was the past, but it used a clinical setting to do that. It was as flat and uninteresting as the story itself."

I think Pam makes some excellent points about the use of the coda. I would also add that people can read something like Handmaid's Tale and brush it off: 'It's so exaggerated. That could never happen here.' I know lots of people who have had that response to the book, and I think the coda is there to explicitly refute that position. The academic lecture references papers which are drawing parallels between Gilead and misogynies that currently exist (or did in the 1980s), dropping references to Iran, Romania etc. It's a chilling reminder that everything that's happened in the book has happened somewhere in real life.

message 42: by Ana (last edited May 20, 2017 03:02PM) (new)

Ana | 4 comments I finished the book. I loved the theme, however I found it a bit disappointing at the end.

message 43: by Katie (new)

Katie | 2 comments Just finished the book and it scared me how much it could be true today.. or tomorrow. The ending left me painfully wanting more, to know how she ended up but maybe it is not for us to know- the suspense of what could of happened leaves us haunted. Such a powerful read and now I am excited to watch on Hulu!

message 44: by Raven (new)

Raven | 3 comments I have read many horror and dystopian novels but none of them struck as much fear in me as this book does. When I started reading I couldn't stop, (literally I stayed up till 4:30 in the morning so I can finish it). After I finally got to the end I felt like someone had dumped a cold bucket of water down my back. The fact is that the reality portrayed in the novel is so tangible strikes a nerve with me, as I'm sure it does with most of you, female or not. The fact that society can reduce the worth of a human down to the primal need to procreate is for lack of a better term dehumanizing. I will never forget this book no matter how hard I try and I am truly grateful for that.

message 45: by Agata (new)

Agata Jarzębowska | 2 comments I'm almost finish reading and this book is amazing and terrifying. It's fascinating how Freda remember life before lost her human rights and she is missing all of it but in the same time, she can't understant how they could lived in this way - doing make up, wearing different cloths ect. This show in very interesting way ours defense mechanisms how ours thoughts changes and it help us to survive.

message 46: by Michelle (new)

Michelle | 1 comments I literally just finished! I really enjoyed the book, and like many commentators here am concerned about how easily the world of the book could come to be a reality today. I am sitting here reflecting: would my "Luke" react the same way if all my rights were stripped? Would I subject myself to becoming a handmaid? Sorry if all these questions have been pondered in other threads already, I just wanted to get some thoughts down while it's still fresh in my mind! Overall, I am very happy to have read this book, and I am sure I will be thinking about it quite a bit in the days to come.

message 47: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Parnell | 10 comments There is a drama based on the book starting at 9pm on itv tonight for anyone who enjoyed the book x

message 48: by Britt (new)

Britt | 123 comments I finished the book Saturday (took me a long time because of all the course work I had (and still have) to do - oh the joys of taking up studying again when on a full-time job!) and I'm very impressed.

I really "enjoyed" this book, although maybe enjoy isn't exactly the right word to use, as this story greatly unsettled me, all the time.

It frightens me that something like this could really happen, even today. Using fear to install a totalitarian regime that controls everything - with everything that's happening today, this definitely doesn't seem unimaginable.

I really loved the "Historical Context" chapter at the end - it put certain things into perspective and I thought it was quite an emotional part.

I would have loved it to read more about post-Gilead society though - how did this regime evolve and what caused its "downfall"? Was there any kind of Women's Revolution? What happened to Offred in the end?

message 49: by Christi (new)

Christi Exman I read the book a few years ago. It disturbed me then and as I flip through it and reread (is that a word?) certain chapters, I am bothered by how some parts of the world seemed to have evolved into Gilead already. I have a gay son and fighting for his rights is something I am moved to do as his mother. (I would like to believe I would march for his rights whether I had a gay child or not but then again, we always wish for the best in ourselves.) I know there are countries in this world that would put my son to death simply for being the man he was born to be. There are nights this fact keeps me up. It is our duty to fight for the rights of all groups that are left behind. It seems like a big job, but this book group and the marches and rallies of other marginalized groups, women and LGBTQ and so many who suffer at the hands of others gives me hope. This book should wake us up to the world as it really is, not as we hope or wish it were.

message 50: by Kirsty (new)

Kirsty | 1 comments Absolutely devoured this one! Started this morning and just finished it off now, was hard to put down. I struggled a bit to begin with, the way she jumped from different parts of her story but once I got used to style I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a powerful story and scarily relevant in today's society

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