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The Handmaid's Tale [Kindle Edition]

Margaret Atwood
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,755 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Handmaid's Tale is not only a radical and brilliant departure for Margaret Atwood, it is a novel of such power that the reader will be unable to forget its images and its forecast. Set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States, now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men of its population.

The story is told through the eyes of Offred, one of the unfortunate Handmaids under the new social order. In condensed but eloquent prose, by turns cool-eyed, tender, despairing, passionate, and wry, she reveals to us the dark corners behind the establishment's calm facade, as certain tendencies now in existence are carried to their logical conclusions. The Handmaid's Tale is funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing. It is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force. It is Margaret Atwood at her best.

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In a startling departure from her previous novels ( Lady Oracle , Surfacing ), respected Canadian poet and novelist Atwood presents here a fable of the near future. In the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, far-right Schlafly/Falwell-type ideals have been carried to extremes in the monotheocratic government. The resulting society is a feminist's nightmare: women are strictly controlled, unable to have jobs or money and assigned to various classes: the chaste, childless Wives; the housekeeping Marthas; and the reproductive Handmaids, who turn their offspring over to the "morally fit" Wives. The tale is told by Offred (read: "of Fred"), a Handmaid who recalls the past and tells how the chilling society came to be. This powerful, memorable novel is highly recommended for most libraries. BOMC featured alternate. Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.


“A taut thriller, a psychological study, a play on words.…A rich and complex book.”
New York Times

“Atwood has peered behind the curtain into some of the darkest, most secret, yet oddly erotic corners of the mind, and the result is a fascinating, wonderfully written, and disturbing cautionary tale.”
Toronto Sun

“A novel that will both chill and caution readers and which may challenge everyday assumptions.…It is an imaginative accomplishment of a high order. . . . ”
London Free Press

“Moving, vivid and terrifying. I only hope it is not prophetic.”
–Conor Cruise O’Brien

“A novel that brilliantly illuminates some of the darker interconnections of politics and sex.…Satisfying, disturbing and compelling.”
Washington Post

“The most poetically satisfying and intense of all Atwood’s novels.”

“It deserves an honored place on the small shelf of cautionary tales that have entered modern folklore – a place next to, and by no means inferior to, Brave New World and 1984.”
Publishers Weekly

“Deserves the highest praise.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“In The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood has written the most chilling cautionary novel of the century.”
Phoenix Gazette

“Imaginative, even audacious, and conveys a chilling sense of fear and menace.”
Globe and Mail

“Margaret Atwood’s novels tickle our deepest sexual and psychological fears. The Handmaid’s Tale is a sly and beautifully crafted story about the fate of an ordinary woman caught off guard by extraordinary events. . . . A compelling fable of our time.”

“This visionary novel, in which God and Government are joined, and America is run as a Puritanical Theocracy, can be read as a companion volume to Orwell’s 1984 –its verso, in fact. It gives you the same degree of chill, even as it suggests the varieties of tyrannical experience; it evokes the same kind of horror even as its mordant wit makes you smile.”
–E. L. Doctorow

Product Details

  • File Size: 786 KB
  • Print Length: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (February 17, 1986)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #623 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
467 of 496 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Plain good literature December 30, 2000
I have read "The Handmaid's Tale" a number of times, both in English original and in Croatian translation (a pretty good one). First time I read it, it was because I have found it in a library of a Women's Study Centre in Zagreb, Croatia, so I expected it to be "feminist literature", and was therefore a bit cautious about it, thinking it would be some kind of pamphlet for women's liberation. Of course, I did not know anything about Margaret Atwood back then. First thing this book taught me is that M. Atwood is, above all, a great author, and that "The Handmaid's Tale" is a piece of plain good literature.
The somewhat circular narrative centres around and is being told from the perspective of Offred, a woman living in Republic of Gilead, the dystopian, future theocracy established on the teritory of today's United States of America. Gilead's government is organized by a group of very specific religious fanatics, basing their theology on a couple of chapters from the Old Testament, specifically the story about Sarah, Abraham's wife, who could not bear children, and therefore had given Abraham her handmaid, Hagar, to concieve children with her. Also written in that chapter is God's command to Hagar to completely submit to her mistress, and Abraham's observation that Sarah is to do whatever she pleases with her handmaid.
That is the point from which the treatment of handmaids is derived in the Republic of Gilead. As the increasingly polluted land caused infertility withing majority of women, the fertile ones, especially those who have been either married to divorced men (theocracy of Gilead does not recognize divorce), or single, but not virgins, are taken as "handmaids" to be awarded to high ranking families without children.
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205 of 222 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Atwood's Masterpiece October 26, 2000
By A Customer
"I wish this story were different. I wish it were more civilized. I wish it showed me in a better light, if not happiness, then at least more active." So says master writer Margaret Atwood regarding her tour de force, The Handmaid's Tale. Set in the present-day Massachusetts of the future, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is the chilling portrayal of a totalitarian society as told through the eyes of a Handmaid named Offred. Offred, who can remember the time when she had a home, a husband and a daughter, now serves as a "birth vessel" and is valued only for her powers of reproduction.
Offred (her name was derived from "of" and the name of her own Commander, "Fred") is forced to live her life in a new dictatorship called the Republic of Gilead. Offred is allowed to leave her Commander's home only once each day; her freedom, like that of other ordinary civilians, has been stripped from her and she exists at the mercy of the heads of state who are known as the Commanders.
The Republic of Gilead, however, is a society in the midst of crisis. Its land and atmosphere have been polluted by nuclear waste and all but a handful of the population has been rendered barren. Those infertile women, women who will never, or never again, reproduce, are known as "Unwomen," and are sent to the Colonies where they must toil as laborers with no privileges, working to clean up the nuclear waste. The only exceptions are the infertile Wives of the Commanders. Women lucky enough to still retain their fertility, like Offred, are considered a treasured "object" of society and one whose role is to bear children for the Wives of the Commanders who cannot.
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100 of 112 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I Really Wanted To Like This Novel... September 23, 2010
By Steven
It really pains me when I read a book that is hailed as a classic many times over but for some reason or another it just doesn't click at all with me. This is the case with The Handmaid's Tale, which is unfortunate because I was very much looking forward to reading this book. I really really wanted to like this book but I can't force what isn't there for me.

The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopian novel set in Gilead, which is formally part of the USA. Most of this book is told in the first person perspective by a character named Offred. Offred is a handmaid, which means her sole purpose in this society is to produce children for her commander (whose name is Fred, Of Fred, you see). Because of the fallout from a nuclear war most women are unable to have children, but Offred is thought to be fertile so during times when she is most fertile she is more or less forced to have passionate-free sex with the commander for the sole purpose of having babies(since his wife is unable to do such). Other women play their role as well. "Aunts" keep watch on the Handmaids and are allowed to read and write (unlike the Handmaids), "Wives" are the highest level caste, whom are married to high ranked men. "Marthas" are older, infertile women and "Econowives" are women who are married to lower ranked men. For men there are commanders, who are high ranking men, "Eyes" who are like the police and "Angels" who fight the wars. Only babies who are deemed as "keepers" are kept, "unbabies" vanish to somewhere unknown. There are other elements such as the Wall where people are hung-up dead for all to see, if they violate the laws of Gilead.

What we have is an excellent setup for a good novel but unfortunately there are some serious issues with this book.

First, this novel is really disjointed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved the story
It's a rather dark dystopian story that seems rather farfetched but at the same time believable while you're reading it. I'm not sure I liked the way it ended,though. Read more
Published 18 hours ago by Jana Richburg
5.0 out of 5 stars A thought-provoking classic that everyone should read...
First published in 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale is an oldie but a goodie. For the first five chapters, I was convinced that I wasn’t going to like it. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Chloe Jelane
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Highly recommend
Published 2 days ago by BookLover
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Published 4 days ago by Hilda Courter - Greensboro, NC
3.0 out of 5 stars Ofgreg / didn't care enough about her real name to remember it was...
This novel follows our handmaiden through her current life as a baby machine, with many flashbacks to her life as a normal woman, and a few moments during the transitional period. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Cassandra West
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it. Women are finally speaking out the nonsense ...
Goes against the conformity of religious and social behavior that we so execute unconsciously. I loved it. Women are finally speaking out the nonsense of us men.
Published 4 days ago by FRANTIC
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Amazing book!
Published 6 days ago by Rachel de Moose
4.0 out of 5 stars My curiosity, disbelief & the underlying question ("this could never...
This book was flawed in narrative and changing tone to me, sounding as if multiple authors contributed. Read more
Published 7 days ago by NomadicShopper
5.0 out of 5 stars Product condition: 5/5 Book content 0/5
From a product standpoint, no issues. The book came in perfect condition. 5/5

Reviewing the book content: 0/5
-Terrible dystopian novel. Read more
Published 9 days ago by Matthew Wirth
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good read
Published 9 days ago by Esther Todd
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More About the Author

MARGARET ATWOOD, whose work has been published in over thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid's Tale, her novels include Cat's Eye, shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; and her most recent, Oryx and Crake, shortlisted for the 2003 Booker Prize. She lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.

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I'm sorry, but there's no sequel. I would have liked a more clear-cut ending, too, but evidently we're supposed to draw our own conclusions about whether people were being honest with her, and if any happy ending was possible. (I find that Margaret Atwood is a repeat "offender"... Read More
Jul 11, 2009 by Cherry Ophelia |  See all 2 posts
liberal fantasy
Robert, you are clearly a blithering idiot who couldn't be bothered to actually look at ANYTHING about this book... you DO realize that it was published back in 1985, right...? Ronald Reagan was president then...
19 days ago by SelenaSaberWind |  See all 2 posts
Welcome to the The Handmaid's Tale forum
SPOILER ALERT -Read the book first please...

This discussion is aimed at those who read the book and need to talk about it. It was so chilling... Atwood's tale is masterful and haunting and very relevant.

As it unfolds we continually question- what is going on? Why is everything topsy turvy?... Read More
Apr 15, 2012 by TCMG Rillo |  See all 7 posts
women in gilead Be the first to reply
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