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Handmaid's Tale [Paperback]

Margaret Atwood
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (253 customer reviews)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Handmaidenly Handful of Fear Oct. 4 2001
Picture a world, not far in the future; consisting of low birth rates, oppressed females, religions, constant wars, and a never-ending battle for freedom of thought. That is the type of setting presented in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. This book tells the tale of Offred, who happens to be one of the few handmaids in the world. A Handmaid is a woman who is used as a tool for the leaders of the world in order to procreate. Sound scary? You have no idea. Atwood describes a world full of fear and oppression that is easily portrayed through the narrative of Offred. With her harrowing words, Offred describes the people, places, and her thoughts quite clearly, leaving readers only in the wake of her emotions. She speaks to the readers personally about her contact with an underground organization, her past, the events leading up to the present, her secret affair, and much much more. All I can say is that this book holds you in a grip of anticipation and mystery as to how the set of events will unfold. The only thing you can do while reading this book, is to hold on for a wild ride of excitement and suspense. This book is a change from Atwood's common writing style, but she seems to handle it like a pro. You will definitely feel a sense of satisfaction when you put this book down. I highly recommend it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somber and suffocating Feb. 3 2012
By S Svendsen TOP 500 REVIEWER
Atwood has a way with words. Her sentences are often poetic, but can be stark and abrupt, chopped off. At times this is intriguing but at other times irritating. This is a speculative novel about a newly established territory, Gilead, in north-eastern America, ruled by a secretive despotic regime. The Handmaid is Offred (her imposed Gileaden name), who is confined to an asylum where women are kept to breed a new generation of superior beings fathered by privileged "Commanders." She tells her story biographically. Often she has memory backflashes of her pre-Gilead life, her childhood, her mother, her husband Luke and their daughter. These recollections frequently surface mid-paragraph and even mid-sentence, which, as the mind works, is realistic but can be annoying for the reader who has to pause and sort out her present from her past.

Offred's somber tale describes a bleak situation that can be characterized as suffocating, lacking airiness. Her life is dreary and tedious, filled with obscure anguish. The overall theme is that women are helpless victims to men's schemes rooted in fascistic power structures legitimized by quasi-religious creeds and rituals. Instead of toeing the line, as she fails to conceive, Offred succumbs to her own need for emotional and physical diversion but these experiences only conspire to ensnare her rather than liberate. The last third of the book made it worthwhile for me but I thought the appendaged "Historical Notes" distracted from and complicated what would have been a furtively simple open-ended conclusion.

Religious fundamentalism, patriarchial oppression and political fascism are topics Atwood has woven into The Handmaid's Tale to interplay with a disconsolate feministic undertone.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read June 18 2003
The Handmaid's Tale is fashioned as a dystopia, with an emphasis on feminism. The novel takes place in the late twentieth-century Republic of Gilead after an extremist right-wing group takes contol of what was formerly known as the United States. The main character is Offred, a Handmaid whose sole task in society is based on her biological function to produce children. Due to environmental pollution, a scourge of declining birthrates has befallen the nation. The Gileadean solution, essentially what critic Karen Stein calls "state-sanctioned rape," is a monthly fertilization ritual of the handmaids by the Commander of the Faith appropriated to them by the government. Thus originates Offred's name, literally denoting her status as a possession of Fred.
Under the guise of religious salvation, the Gileadean regime builds a social structure that is rigid, oppressive, and above all, misogynistic. Women in Gilead, "two-legged wombs [...] sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices," are valued solely for their fertility. As complacency replaces the strong wills of the independent woman around Offred, her hope diminishes as well. In her horrifying tale, Margaret Atwood emphasizes the idea that the oppression on women in a totalitarian state is powerful enough to destroy the human will.
By exaggerating some existing misogynistic attitudes and intertwining them with an affecting plot and characters, Atwood finds similar success in her endeavors to shed light upon and caution against a horrific societal treatment of women. Although it's just as depressing as fellow dystopias 1984 and Brave New World, it's more beautifully written. Like the two other novels, however, it's frighteningly plausible and in some places feels all too familiar. I highly recommend this book to men and women. Read it even if you don't think it's "your type." This fascinating story is creative and in depth- it is not to be missed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, thought provoking, and well written Nov. 13 2008
By Kirstie
The Handmaids Tale is a dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. This story takes place in the Republic of Gilead, the future version of the United States of America. With plummeting birthrates, handmaids are assigned to bear children for elite couples. Because many women are infertile from environmental pollution if you can't have children you are declared unwomen and sent to colonies to become the work force for the society. This story is told from the perspective of Offred, a woman who after proving fertile becomes a handmaid. Offred serves the Commander, and his wife Serena Joy. Like all woman and handmaids, the main character has very little freedom. She can only leave the house for shopping trips where she walks with the same person, wearing the same red dress every day. This story goes through Offreds daily life while revealing pieces of her past. She used to have a husband and a daughter, her own friends, her own money, and lived a normal life before the architects of Gilead changed everything.

This book was very good. It was very interesting and thought provoking. I was so into it that I read it in only a few days. I recommend this book to anyone who's looking for a good dystopian novel!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 18 hours ago by nata
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A classic.
Published 26 days ago by Rodney Farrell
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This story stands the test of time.
Published 1 month ago by Cairn Moore
5.0 out of 5 stars one of my all time fav's
It's a great book. I've read it over 10 times in the last 6 or 7 years!! A very hard book to put down
Published 2 months ago by belynda
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
I didn't really like it. It was too dark for me.
Published 3 months ago by Bonnie
5.0 out of 5 stars A wake-up call for our times.
This novel could not be more relevant in today's religious extremist political matrix. Read it and shudder. A brilliant work. A favorite author.
Published 4 months ago by Implied Zero
4.0 out of 5 stars Revisiting a school classic
Very well written, leaves you guessing at the end. Funny how improbable it all seems now.
Re-reading books that you read as an adolescent but now as an adult gives you a... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Jacquie Cushnie
1.0 out of 5 stars Feminist? Not so much.
It's been over a year since I read this and my blood still boils every time someone mentions it. The majority of this novel was incredibly boring, even though the premise was... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Brittanny
5.0 out of 5 stars ending unexpected
When approaching the ending, I had a strong feeling that she was going to die. This book was filled with flashbacks, gloomy atmospheres, and a tone suggesting death. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Liliania
5.0 out of 5 stars A tribute to the classical writing style....
In the modern era very few authors have taken the time and effort to maintain the classical writing style that was so prevalent during the 19th and 20th centuries. Read more
Published on June 5 2011 by Ronald W. Maron
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