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The Handmaid's Tale Hardcover – October 17, 2006


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The Handmaid's Tale + The Three Theban Plays: Antigone; Oedipus the King; Oedipus at Colonus
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf (October 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307264602
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307264602
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,569 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"The most poetically satisfying and intense of all Atwood's novels."-Maclean's

"The Handmaid's Tale is in the honorable tradition of Brave New World and other warnings of dystopia. It's imaginative even audacious, and conveys a chilling sense of fear and menace."-The Globe and Mail

"The Handmaid's Tale brings out the very best in Atwood--moral vision, biting humor, and a poet's imagination."-Chatelaine


From the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

It's just one of those books that if you read it again it will make you think about things differently.
Chris
As the narrator's story unfolds, the reader learns of the role Offred plays in the mundane, frightening existence granted to women living in her society.
C. Fleming
Very slow...it took forever to build the story but then I felt like it ended in the middle of the book...not the end.
MamaHolz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

438 of 464 people found the following review helpful By Zrinka Pavlic on December 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
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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189 of 205 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
"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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80 of 89 people found the following review helpful By Steven on September 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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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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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