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The Handmaid's Tale [Turtleback]

Margaret Eleanor Atwood
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (250 customer reviews)

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Turtleback, September 1989 --  
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Book Description

September 1989
Written by the author of "Surfacing", "Lady Oracle", "Life Before Man" and "Bodily Harm", this science fiction story was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and was the winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction. This is a film tie-in reissue.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Throughout her career, Margaret Atwood has played with different literary genres in her novels--historical fiction (Alias Grace), pulp fiction (The Blind Assassin), the comedy of manners (The Robber Bride)--but no foray into genre fiction has been as successful as her turn to speculative fiction in The Handmaid's Tale. Published in 1985, it echoes Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World, but a vibrant feminism drives Atwood's portrait of a futuristic dystopia. In the Republic of Gilead, we see a world devastated by toxic chemicals and nuclear fallout and dominated by a repressive Christian fundamentalism. The birthrate has plunged, and most women can no longer bear children. Offred is one of Gilead's Handmaids, who as official breeders are among the chosen few who can still become pregnant.

The Handmaid's Tale is an imaginatively audacious novel that is at once a page-turning psychological thriller, a moving love story, and a chilling warning about what might be waiting for us around the corner. What ultimately makes it stand out is Atwood's ability to balance a passionate political statement with finely wrought literary fiction. The Handmaid's Tale is a remarkable work by one of Canada's most inventive writers. --Jeffrey Canton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Handmaidenly Handful of Fear Oct. 4 2001
Format:Paperback
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somber and suffocating Feb. 3 2012
By S Svendsen TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ending unexpected July 17 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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. It was quite an abrupt ending, something not expected for me.
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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
Format:Paperback
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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not the usual suspects Aug. 5 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
If you're one for a novel that is truly off the beaten path, then stop--you've just found it. THE HANDMAID'S TALE is the most riveting and explosive thing I've read since Jackson McCrae's THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD (which completely blew me away). The story alone, even if it had been poorly written, is incredible, but what the author does with this material makes the telling all the more powerful. Wow! This is one great read!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wake-up call for our times. June 15 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This novel could not be more relevant in today's religious extremist political matrix. Read it and shudder. A brilliant work. A favorite author.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Revisiting a school classic May 12 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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 whole new prospective.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
I didn't really like it. It was too dark for me.
Published 22 days ago by Bonnie
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 11 months ago by Brittanny
5.0 out of 5 stars Horrible world - wonderful book about it
I really like this book, but not because it was an enjoyable read. Actually, it did more to piss me off than anything, but in a good way. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Rose
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Very convincing
I just finished reading the book, and what can I say, AMAZING! Great read. The writing style is superb, very convincing, detailed and touching. It is very moving. Read more
Published on Nov. 17 2009 by S. El-Hilo
5.0 out of 5 stars Mrs. Q: Book Addict : Visit my blog for newest reviews.
This book blew me away and I just wanted to keep reading. The world that Atwood creates doesn't feel that far off. Read more
Published on Oct. 29 2009 by Mrs. Q: Book Addict
2.0 out of 5 stars Magaret Atwood -- please no more political books
Margaret Atwood writes yet another book with more weak and obvious messages. I have read Oryx and Crake, then it was about genetic engineering, corporate power, etc. Read more
Published on July 29 2005 by Shirley Carter
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the very few books that you will remember forever!
Just perfectly wonderful. If you are a fan of "1984" by George Orwell you will be pleased by this fantastic but so realistic story. Read more
Published on Dec 5 2004 by Julie
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