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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Handmaidenly Handful of Fear
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...
Published on Oct. 4 2001 by Jon Myer

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somber and suffocating
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...
Published on Feb. 3 2012 by S Svendsen


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Handmaidenly Handful of Fear, Oct. 4 2001
By 
Jon Myer (Stockbridge, MI USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Handmaid's Tale (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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somber and suffocating, Feb. 3 2012
By 
S Svendsen "Uni" (Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Handmaid's Tale (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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read, June 18 2003
This review is from: Handmaid's Tale (Paperback)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars What if this really happens?, June 3 2002
By 
Ratmammy "The Ratmammy" (Ratmammy's Town, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Handmaid's Tale (Paperback)
The Handmaid's Tale - by Margaret Atwood
THE HANDMAID'S TALE is a frightening look at a not too distant future where sterility is the norm, and fertile woman are treated as cattle, to produce children for the upper class who cannot have any. The narrator Offred, as she is called in her new life, is the Handmaid for a top Commander in the new government. Once a month she is tested by a gynecologist to ensure that she is healthy, and then is taken to the Commander and his wife in the hopes of becoming pregnant.
Offred, along with the other handmaid's, are not allowed to look directly at anyone else. They all wear the same outfits; red long dresses and headgear that cover their bodies. They live together, spend most of their time together, and are taken care of, in the hopes that they will produce children for this barren society. In this society, most women are not allowed to read, and are treated as if they have no minds. The government dictates their role in society. If they disobey, they are punished severely.
Offred's memories often go back to a time when she was happily married to Luke, and with their daughter they were looking forward to a long and happy life together. Things changed when a military group took over the government, and immediately their lives as they knew it were over. Women lost all rights to ownership; bank accounts were frozen, land was taken away; fertile women were taken away from their husbands and families. A handful of older women were made into 'Aunts', and their duties were to instruct and guide the handmaids, reminding them of their role on this earth, which is to procreate.
I have to say that my feelings during this book were of shock. In some sense, what has happened in this book has already happened in other parts of the world and can happen again. The control over women is very much like that of the women in Afghanistan. The control over religious choice brings to mind Nazi Germany, as one of the issues in the Handmaid's Tale is the elimination of anyone that refuses to be as one with the new government - religious persecution is justified and encouraged.
The Handmaid's Tale is a horrifying story of a government fully in control of each person's life and totally out of control. The book was so riveting that it took me only one day to read. I highly recommend this novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Journey from Bondage to Possible Freedom, May 26 2002
This review is from: Handmaid's Tale (Paperback)
This is the first Atwood novel I have read. I've always been a fan of her short stories and finally took the time to read Handmaid's Tale. She creates a setting that seems so possible and real that I almost felt like I was there. Gilead is a republic that exudes safety and protection, yet is filled with bondage, imprisonment and fear. Atwood dares the reader to contemplate what society would be like for women if they were to let go of everything they love and cherish. This not only includes people and places, but also intelligence, emotions, friendship and love. Atwood's use of symbolism using colors and "the eye" enhances the haunting novel. What is Atwood attempting to imply with her ambiguous ending? Although there are many possible interpretations, we do realize that Offred is leaving her world of nothingness into somewhere free, whether that is death or ultimate escape. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and am looking forward to reading Alias Grace, which I hear is one of her best works.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well written run-through of the same old dystopian plot, May 21 2002
This review is from: Handmaid's Tale (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale". I found the slowly unraveling plot to be exciting and imaginative, and the setting that Atwood creates is simply stunning.
Reflecting back on the book, however, several weaknesses clearly stand out. For instance, the beginning of the book reveals very little of the context of the story, but by the second half most of the story has been revealed, and only the plot (not extraordinarily interesting on its own) is left to be resolved. So by the ending, the only suspense that Atwood has held back is the fate of Offred, and the "conclusion" is somewhat lacking in punch. I personally felt that the denouement was inconsistent from the pacing of the rest of the book, and a little silly.
My strongest reservation against this book, however, is the dull subject matter. I don't get it; is it supposed to be political? feminist? apocalyptic? In any case, I felt this aspect of the book was the weakest. Rather than condemning the totalitarian government, Atwood seemed more interested in exploring the torment of Offred, which is where the true strength of the book lies. Besides, how many times have we heard this same futuristic story before?
Although I question some of the author's choices, I would not be reviewing this book if I did not sincerely enjoy it. Despite the (at times) overly political themes, the book is never boring. I also whole-heartedly suggest Margaret Atwood's other books, many of which are stronger than "The Handmaid's Tale".
ps. In case you don't know how the book ends yet, I suggest you stop reading these reviews!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review of The Handmaid's Tale, April 22 2002
By 
Elizabeth (Beattyville, Kentucky) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Handmaid's Tale (Paperback)
The Handmaid's Tale was an amazing book. Although it took me a few pages to get hooked, after the initial boredom I couldn't put it down. It is the story of Offred, who is the handmaid for a Commander and his wife, who cannot have children. The book is set in the Republic of Gilead, which used to be the United States. Women in Gilead are forbidden from any pleasure in life. They may not read, or write, have jobs, own land, or even go by their own names. Offred and the other women in Gilead are extremely strong and should be admired.
At times the book did confuse me. Offred speaks in a sort of stream of consciousness throughout the novel. That was kind of hard to get used to but it was used to reveal all of her inner thoughts and her personality. She jumps from the present to the past, and sometimes she will give an entire account of an event only to say, "But that's not how it really happened." Some parts of the story were disturbing and I think it takes a mature reader to look past that part of the book and get to the true meaning. Aside from that, the plot of the book is fascinating. I could really relate to Offred and that need for real love that we all have. As I read the book I had many questions. By the end of the book I had found only some of the answers, while others really depended on my own interpretation of the book.
I also liked the fact that the world the citizens of Gilead once lived in is the world we are actually living in right now. This made the events of the book hit closer to home and seem more real. Although somewhat difficult to read, it was very touching and was really one of those books that make you think. The book touched me deeply and I would recommend it to anyone looking for something deep and thought provoking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Profoundly Disturbing, March 25 2002
By 
Amy Cortright (Massachusetts, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Handmaid's Tale (Paperback)
I first read this book in college, and have reread it a number of times since then. The story is set in the newly-formed Republic of Gilead, what used to be the United States (and more specifically the story is set in and around Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA). Atwood incorporates a number of different and some might say disparate schools of political theory into this dytopia, including communism, Christian fundamentalism, and radical feminism, and shows what happens when normal citizens fail to educate themselves about ideas that may differ with their own. While many reader may consider this novel completely feminist or anti-Christian, a closer look reveals neither to be true. The Republic of Gilead twists Christianity considerably from its true message; in fact there is one passage where Baptists (who a lot of people think of as the "most religious" Christians) are being beseiged by the Gileadean army. And it makes a number of jabs at the goals currently held by some radical feminists, among them striving for a man-free "women's culture". All in all, this is a book that gets off to a somewhat slow start but really grows on you after awhile, and by the time you get to the end, you want to pick it up and start all over again. The scariest but also most imspiring part was thinking about what we as a society can do to prevent this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Give me children or else I die.", Dec 11 2001
By 
Q. Hazlewood "Q" (Jonesboro, AR) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Handmaid's Tale (Paperback)
Dystopian novels abound and one might think that The Handmaid's Tale is just another. Written in the tradition of 1984 and Brave New World, Margaret Atwood takes this genre to a new level.
While many dystopian novels focus on a far distant future when the past is forgotten, Atwood's Tale focuses on the transition period, the primal generation. Offred, a "handmaid" in the Republic of Gilead (the former U. S.), remembers what it was like to hold a job, to earn money, to own property, even to read -- all of which have been denied in this "modern" society.
While the former society was imperfect, women were free, valued for the contributions they could make to society. Here they are not "free" -- they can't travel, gain eduction, etc -- but they are technically "free" from many of the former problems -- rape, sexual objectification, etc -- and valued now only for their ovaries.
Offred is a sympathetic heroine. The story is told in a style reminiscent of stream of consciousness, she is merely thinking her story to herself. The narrative is compelling and the themes are significant. Atwood's style is poetic without being sentimental. All in all, it is a worthy work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scarier Than a Horror Movie, Oct. 14 2001
This review is from: Handmaid's Tale (Paperback)
I came upon this book at Waldenbooks about a couple of weekends ago, and I decided to look at it. I haven't read the entire book, but what I did read was truly horrifying. The story takes place in a future where women have been robbed of their rights. They can't hold jobs, have their own money or property, have their own names, and they're no longer allowed to read. They have been reduced to the role of babymakers--literally. The reason for this is that the United States, which is now known as the Republic of Gilead, has been destroyed by a nuclear war. As a result, most of the female population has been rendered infertile. The few who are still fertile are indoctrinated into becoming handmaids, women whose sole purpose in life is, literally, to make babies. They are then shipped off to affluent households to produce children for couples who are unable to have any of their own. The handmaids who, after three tries, don't produce offspring are sent off to the colonies to clean up nuclear waste and are labeled "unwomen."
This scenario is truly terrifying, but it can also make one feel lucky for what we have in today's society. I feel lucky to live in a society where women are valued for more than just bearing children; where women are women, whether they have had babies or not; where women have their own names; and where women are allowed to work, have their own property, read, and get educated.
It is scary to think that a scenario like this could happen in our country. Hopefully, it never will-- not if we don't let it.
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