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Group Themed Reads: Discussions > Our February read - The Handmaid's Tale

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message 1: by Jenny, Group Creator - Honorary Moderator (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments I will open up the discussion folders for this book on 1st February.

Our leader will be Kipahni.

message 2: by Jenny, Group Creator - Honorary Moderator (last edited Jan 20, 2009 01:56AM) (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments [image error]


Set in the dystopian futuristic world of the state of Gilead, a place fraught with genetic abnormality and a legacy of low birth rates, society has been reduced to function for one purpose and for one purpose only – to breed. Women are no longer individuals but are assigned functional roles to serve as Handmaids, Marthas, Aunts or wives of the Elite who run the state. The Handmaids in particular are owned by the elite and assigned the role of producing the next generation, their ability to reproduce being their only passport to relative security.

Told through the eyes of one of the Handmaids, Offred, Atwood presents an acute exploration of relative moralities and the potential historical price to be paid for contemporary ideologies. Atwood creates a world that is more shocking in its familiarity than the strange worlds more conventionally associated with science fiction.

‘The Handmaid’s Tale is both a superlative exercise in science fiction and a profoundly felt moral story’
Angela Carter, Author of Nights at the Circus

‘Out of a narrative shadowed by terror, gleam sharp perceptions, brilliant intense images and sardonic wit’

‘The images of brilliant emptiness are one of the most striking aspects of this novel about totalitarian blindness… the effect is chilling’
Sunday Times


Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa in 1939, and grew up in northern Quebec and Ontario, and in Toronto. She has lived in many other cities, including Boston, Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal, Berlin, Edinburgh and London, and has travelled extensively. She is the author of more than thirty internationally acclaimed works of fiction, poetry and critical essays. Her books have been translated into numerous languages and she has been awarded many literary awards and honours from various countries. Her tenth novel, The Blind Assassin, won the Booker Prize and the International Association of Crime Writers' Dashiell Hammett Award, and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Other books by Margaret Atwood shortlisted for the Booker Prize include The Handmaid's Tale, Cat's Eye and Alias Grace. Alias Grace won the Giller Award in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy. The Robber Bride won the Commonwealth Writer's Prize and the Canadian Author's Association Novel of the Year. The Handmaid's Tale won the Governor General's Award. Margaret Atwood has been inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She has been awarded the Norwegian Order of Literary Merit, the French Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and is a Foreign Honourary Member for Literature of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Margaret Atwood’s novel, Oryx and Crake, was published in May 2002.

message 3: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Butland (httpwwwgoodreadscomprofiles_b) I cannot wait to read this book again. It completely blew me away the first time, and the second!

message 4: by Kipahni (new)

Kipahni | 144 comments oh good i am glad you read it, because i haven't so i am interested to see your insight. plus i was concerned that it would have weird three way sex.

message 5: by Heather (new)

Heather (hpduck) | 354 comments It does actually have sorta weird three way sex, come to think of it. I am excited to read this book again (third time for me too).

sidenote: I am so happy Lolita didn't win. I read it a few years back and was just disgusted beyond all measure.

message 6: by Jenny, Group Creator - Honorary Moderator (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments Blimey!! Now I'm glad it didn't win :P

message 7: by Jaime (new)

Jaime | 240 comments Heather, I concur. I've tried twice now. Good prose, terrible topic. I just can't do it. Yet, it still sits on my shelf!

message 8: by Apokripos (last edited Jan 20, 2009 09:13PM) (new)

Apokripos (apokalypse) I recently got this book without knowing first hand that it was nominated in our Feb. group read.
Now is a fortunate time to read it the first time with all you people.
I love this group... ^_^

message 9: by Heather (new)

Heather (hpduck) | 354 comments I was so disgusted with it than when I moved to Wisconsin from San was one of the 10 or so books that stayed behind while the other 400 or so made the journey with me.

I do agree that Nabokov is an incredible writer. However, the subject matter was so nasty to me. Maybe one of these days I will try another one by him, but certainly not Lolita again....maybe if I was paid to read it...but probably not.

message 10: by Cecily (last edited Jan 21, 2009 05:16AM) (new)

Cecily | 576 comments For those that are glad Lolita wasn't a second read for this month, yes it covers an horrific subject, but it's been in print for 40+ years and is a topic that society is increasingly concerned about. It is written in quite a challenging (self-justifying, rather than difficult) way, which is why it could make for very interesting discussion. I realise not everyone could stomach it (and others would object in principle), but it's not at all graphic, which is part of the skill: the reader is made complicit in Humbert's fantasies.

I've just read it and immediately followed it with Zoe Heller's Notes on a Scandal (called What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal A Novel in the US) for contrast. Whilst that is quite a recent book, it is less shocking (as to why, that's a whole other debate...!), I'm less sure that Lolita would be published nowadays if it was a brand new book.

Overall, I found it very hard to rate because it was very well written, but the subject matter is so awful. Not an enjoyable read, but a very thought-provoking one. You can see my review on my profile:

message 11: by Kipahni (new)

Kipahni | 144 comments okay just heads up, for the first few days in feb i might not start asking discussion questions because i will be entertaining some americans that are visiting egypt. but y'all are free to start without me

message 12: by Cecily (new)

Cecily | 576 comments Oh no! I was sure I had this, but now I can't find it anywhere, so I won't be starting yet, and anyway, I'm going to read Dreams from my Father first... (I feel one ought to).

message 13: by Jaime (new)

Jaime | 240 comments Another reason I found it hard to read is that when I worked, my job as a social worker was often to work with kids dealing with this. So it was VERY, VERY real to me every day. There was one particular young woman I worked with that had a very lasting impact on me. That is where I'm coming from. So, I know society is (and very well should be) concerned about this topic. I know the book has been in print for many, many years. I know it is very well written. All that still doesn't make it any easier to read for me though. Sorry. I'm sure there would be interesting discussion. I have already discussed this topic enough. It's only my opinion based on my experiences. If it was nominated, great. No worries, I have plenty of other books to read!

message 14: by Cecily (new)

Cecily | 576 comments Gosh Jaime, I hope you didn't feel the need to apologise, whether to me or anyone else, for not wanting to read Lolita. I just made my post above to explain why it might make an interesting, albeit disturbing read for some. I suspect it wouldn't be published today, which is probably a good thing.

message 15: by Jaime (new)

Jaime | 240 comments Yeah, I did sort of feel like I had to explain myself since you did address those who were glad it wasn't a read for this month and I was one of those people. I just wanted to explain why it's a personal thing for me!

message 16: by Jenny, Group Creator - Honorary Moderator (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments I'm still waiting for this to come in at the library! I'm trying desperately to stick to my new year's resolution of not buying anymore books until I've read all the ones on my bookshelf!

message 17: by Heather (new)

Heather (hpduck) | 354 comments I am very happy that we are reading this book now. I am not going to be able to buy anything new for a long time as I got laid off today. Gotta conserve as much money as possible.

message 18: by Apokripos (new)

Apokripos (apokalypse) Ohhh...sorry about that Heather...

message 19: by Jaime (new)

Jaime | 240 comments Heather,

So sorry to hear about your being laid off! I hope everything works out for you in one way or another.

message 20: by Cecily (new)

Cecily | 576 comments Hi Heather. Really sorry to hear about your job. I hope you can find something else soon. Meanwhile, I guess you have more time to read and surf. Is there a good library near you?

message 21: by Jenny, Group Creator - Honorary Moderator (new)

Jenny (notestothemoon) | 846 comments Hey Heather! Sorry about your job :( I'm jobless too if that's any consulation!! Probably not :)

message 22: by Cecily (new)

Cecily | 576 comments I'm naughty: I started February's read yesterday (I'd finished my previous book and didn't want to start something else before Handmaid).

It's two or three years since I last read an Atwood, and I'd slightly forgotten how well she writes. Thanks to whoever suggested we read it. :-)

message 23: by Kipahni (new)

Kipahni | 144 comments CFSR I started reading yesterday too. This is my first time reading it and I find her writing to be like an onion. ( not that it makes me want to cry or that it gives me bad breath but in a good way, that her charecters and surroundings slowly reveal themselves layer by layer, like your not given the whole picture at once)

message 24: by Heather (new)

Heather (hpduck) | 354 comments Like ogres? or Parfait?

message 25: by Kipahni (new)

Kipahni | 144 comments hahaha-great movie heather!

message 26: by Sharon75uk (new)

Sharon75uk | 125 comments Got this from the library today and going to start it tonight. Not too sure about the topic but I am reading lolita at the moment and finding that difficult so glad to have a break from it.

Have never read this author before.

message 27: by Heather (new)

Heather (hpduck) | 354 comments Sharon, I have actually had trouble with her other works, but I found the Handmaid's Tale just fascinating.

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