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The Handmaid's Tale Paperback – March 16, 1998
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"The Handmaid's Tale deserves the highest praise." —San Francisco Chronicle
"Atwood takes many trends which exist today and stretches them to their logical and chilling conclusions . . . An excellent novel about the directions our lives are taking . . . Read it while it's still allowed." —Houston Chronicle
From the Inside Flap
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable.
Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now....
Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.
- Lexile Measure : 750L
- Item Weight : 8.8 ounces
- Paperback : 311 pages
- ISBN-10 : 038549081X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0385490818
- Product Dimensions : 5.2 x 0.71 x 8 inches
- Publisher : Anchor; 1st Anchor Books Edition (March 16, 1998)
- Reading level : 14 - 18 years
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I confess, I couldn’t finish the book. I couldn’t force myself to endure more than 115 pages peppered with complete and unnecessary gibberish. ‘If I have an egg, what more can I want?’ There are tons of this fluff.
Atwood’s view of the future, and I assume that’s what I think we must consider that she intends, is poppycock. A nightmare with no beginning, middle or end. If this is what is in store for us, count me out.
I was interested in a storyline or two along the way, but the author refused to develop them, instead droning on and on about meaningless details in the heroine’s life, or existence.
I couldn’t go any further. My mind kept drifting to all the really entertaining stories out there, waiting to be read and enjoyed. Why was I wasting precious time reading tripe?
The surprising part, despite it's lack of quotation marks and zero structure, I read this quite fast. I'm incredibly surprised this was written by a woman. I get she wanted to make this a creepy tale of what if and get all gritty and scary with this patriarchy having taken over, but why write this and go through this entire thing to not have the women rise up? Why not show the resistance, why not have them at least hint at the end that there was hope of them gaining freedom again? Why write this at all without an ending. Anyone who has read any of my other reviews or knows me at all knows that what I hate more than anything in any work of literature is no ending. To leave an open ended book is to say you want the reader to do your work for you. It's a cop out to me. Why invest so much , build this whole story up and then not finish it? Drives me insane. Also I'm sorry but the quickness in which the terrorist attack and the new reign took over is a bit hard to swallow. Seems the author enjoyed trying to write the most cruel and unusual scenes in order to shock and terrify the reader instead of focusing more on the true story at hand. Just a big meh from me.
I’ve just added this title to my list of ‘extra special’ books, but somehow that label doesn’t fit right for The Handmaid’s Tale. Don’t get me wrong. It is without a doubt a fabulous work of fiction, superbly written, and with an unforgettable storyline. But ‘extra-special’ to me indicates something wonderful, pleasant. And nothing about this book can be described as pleasant. The words stark, horrific, prophetic, terrifying and too-close-for-comfort spring to mind.
I read this book before. I think it may have been fifteen years ago. The story, for the most part, stuck with me. But, I have to admit that it could almost have been two different books—they certainly were two very different reading experiences. All those years ago I read a fascinating piece of speculative, dystopian fiction. Even then it felt all too plausible, but not in an immediate way.
Re-reading the book now, given the political climate we now find ourselves living with, the story feels less speculative, almost less fictional. It doesn’t take a huge stretch of the imagination anymore to visualize a scenario as we encounter in this book, unfolding around us in real time.
“Ordinary is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.”
There is so much in this book to scare a person witless. You read this book and you can imagine how it might happen, and worse, how it might swallow you up too. There’s an insidious quality to this story, making the outrageous borderline logical, acceptable even. I found myself reading certain sections several times, knowing that what I’d read was wrong, but having a hard time pinpointing exactly why or where. I’m not sure whether I’m impressed or horrified that this book made me understand how people get drawn in to, and learn to live with, a situation that’s against their personal best interest.
“We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it. Nothing changes instantaneously.”
But, think about it. In a time when humanity is threatened because fertility is down, doesn’t it make sense to mobalize those women who are still able to give birth? Just as countries have for centuries mobilized men (and more recently women) in times of war?
“Already we were losing the taste for freedom, already we were finding these walls secure.”
And that’s of course another worrying truth. While people may say they value their freedom, far too many seem to find comfort in being told what to do, think, and say. Humanity is supposed to stand out among mammals because of our capacity for independent thought, but all too often and all too many of us prefer to live without thinking too hard, happy to ‘follow orders’ without contemplating the consequences—for ourselves and for others.
There was so very much in this story that horrified me and made me angry. But there was only one section that truly broke my heart: when Offred apologies, near the end of the book. Apologizes for acting on the need to connect with another.
While I’m sad that the story doesn’t reveal what really happened to Offred, or even whether the end of her story is positive or negative, I do appreciate it was the perfect way to conclude the tale. An answer to the ‘what happened next’ question, regardless of what that answer would have been, would have robbed this story of much of its power. It is because the story ends the way it does that I found myself going over what I’d read and what I hoped/feared/imagined followed Offred’s tale.
This is, without a doubt, one of the best books I’ve ever read. It is also among those stories that stay with me forever, because it is too unique, too shocking, and/or too thought-provoking to ever fade.