- Paperback: 311 pages
- Publisher: Anchor; 1st Anchor Books edition (March 16, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 038549081X
- ISBN-13: 978-0385490818
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 14,129 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Handmaid's Tale Paperback – March 16, 1998
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"A novel that brilliantly illuminates some of the darker interconnections between politics and sex . . . Just as the world of Orwell's 1984 gripped our imaginations, so will the world of Atwood's handmaid!" —The Washington Post Book World
"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
In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies?
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.
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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?
You would think that something written thirty years ago would seem dated. But that wasn't the case for me. If anything, I think there are so many things imagined in the book which have become more possible today instead of less. In a sense, this is a cautionary tale that a large art of the population ignored or misunderstood.
More than ever, we should be reading this and sharing it with the young women in our lives. And discussing it with them, so they see more of the depth than my 22-year-old self did.
Margaret Atwood imagined a world where a totalitarian power went into action against foreign zealots and their own people's "wanton" behavior. This power was meant to make the world better, but it also created a world of highly distinct "haves" and "have nots."
She says, “Better never means better for everyone... It always means worse, for some.” It might be just me (although I suspect not) but this sure sounds like what we often hear today on the news and in conversations.
Reading this at the end of 2016 after a brutal election cycle, the following quote from Atwood seems both wise and horrible. Have we not been hearing about people who feel invisible?
“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories"
Atwood's Republic of Gilead gives people one-dimensional functions. Correction - she gives women one-dimensional functions. They are Wives, Marthas, Handmaids, Aunts, or Unwomen (and a few more which would be spoilers). Unwomen are rebels, likely to be banished to the toxic waste dumps of the colonies. Everyone else plays a part in the singular female focus - procreation. As I read, I wondered what category I'd fall into should I have the bad luck to land in Gilead. The women there have no layers of life or experience. They are expected only to fulfill their narrow role.
Why is procreation such a focus? Because of falling birth rates among white people. This book doesn't discuss race except one small spot near the end. It's as if there is only one race in Gilead. And the only people in that race with any power are men.
The main character, Offred (literally of Fred named after the Commander she serves) is the perfect blend of weak and strong. She tells us of her past and says, “When we think of the past it's the beautiful things we pick out. We want to believe it was all like that.” But her life is not beautiful. And Atwood straddles the line of past and present, sending back and forth in a way that keeps you wanting more. Just as Offred wants more. Just as we all want more for ourselves and the generations of women coming after us.
If you read this book long ago, pick it up again. If you haven't yet read it, move it up to the top of your TBR. Buy it for friends. Buy for your sons and daughters. Use it to teach and to learn what kind of world we could be if we stop valuing the diversity of all people.
This book confused me. Given all of the hype around it, I was expecting much more from this book. It was decent and I can completely understand how it would translate well into a mini-series or movie...but I just couldn't get my head around how/why things changed so quickly in society...over night, all women's rights were taken away but there seemed to be little information as to who or why. I was further confused by tourists coming into Gilead...why were there fully functioning societies outside of Gilead that seem to have been unaffected by whatever caused this tremendous shift in US society. How could this have gone on for so long afterwards without a civil war of sorts breaking out. Without having more information of the total collapse of society and a little more longevity of what lead to the collapse, it was hard to buy into this tale.
If I could buy into the collapse of society and the development of Gilead to save the human race, there just wasn't enough information on how the Handmaids, the Aunts, etc were chosen, why they took healthy children away from their birth families and assigned the mothers of those children to other households for procreation...none of it made much sense. Also, what happened to the women in the colonies, the "unbabies", etc.
There was a great core to this story, just not enough detail to support any of it so I was very disappointed in the end.