The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale

Book - 1986
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First published in 1985, The Handmaid's Tale is a novel of such power that the reader is unable to forget its images and its forecast. With more than two million copies in print, it is Margaret Atwood's most popular and compelling novel.

Set in the near future, it describes life in what once was the United States, now called the Republic of Gilead. Reacting to social unrest, and a sharply declining birthrate, the new regime has reverted to -- even gone beyond -- the repressive tolerance of the original Puritans. Offred is a Handmaid who 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 she is only valued as long as her ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years 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.

Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1986.
ISBN: 9780395404256
0395404258
Branch Call Number: ATWO
Characteristics: 311 p. ; 24 cm.

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a
AaronAardvark1940
Aug 29, 2017

A grim theocratic dystopia. I like the way Atwood presents the story of Offred in parallel with both the story of her previous life and with the growth of the repressive state of Gilead. If it’s hard to believe this amount of religious hypocrisy, consider that some present-day soi disant Christians justify the murder of doctors and clinic staff to prevent abortions, and blame women for inciting rape by their behavior. The author outlines a cause that supposedly underlies the accession of the theocracy, but clever politicians can engineer all sorts of reasons for the “temporary“ suspension of rights, leading to totalitarian states. And people can be led to strange beliefs. This book was written thirty years ago. Who at that time would have believed that evangelicals could vote for our current President?

w
wendyheath
Aug 11, 2017

Atwood's award-winning 1985 novel will premiere on Hulu as a 10-episode series on April 26. This futuristic dystopian novel is set during a time when a radical group takes over the government and instill extreme tactics on the repression of women.

j
JackHay
Aug 09, 2017

Remember reading this at High School, excellent read

m
m0mmyl00
Aug 04, 2017

I read this book soon after it was published, but about all I remembered of it was "The Ceremony." It seemed to me then to be just a weird semi-fantasy tale. Re-reading it recently, however, I am having a different experience. It feels immediate; futuristic, but two years from now, not 100. It is eerily prescient of the new view of religion, power, and women.

The setting is what used to be the United States, but is now Gilead. It is governed by principles taken and twisted from the Old Testament. Society is strictly striated and controlled. Women cannot work or read. They are divided into three groups -- "Martha's" are household help, cooks, etc in the homes of "Commanders." "Wives" depend on their husbands for their place in society and their standard of living. "Handmaid's" are assigned for three-year stints to Commanders; their job is to reproduce. They are put through a rigorous re-education program to teach them sumbission and acceptance of their holy responsibility to provide children for their Commander. Some are "re-educated" but some cannot get over the cruelty and injustice of their "place" in the new world order. This is a chilling book.

MVBOOKCLUB Jul 29, 2017

Interesting discussion. Such a relevant book today and most members really enjoyed reading this for the first time or re-reading it.

racing14 Jul 27, 2017

A great book club selection! Wow! I never had to read Atwood in school so this was my first. I have never really connected with most Canadian Literary Authors (likely because of A Can Lit course I took or maybe it was the cheesy movie I saw on TV years back), but The Handmaid's Tale was such a phenomenal read. I can not believe it was written over 30 years ago, you would never know it, except for the lack of technology. The themes are so relevant to what is going on in today's world and it is scary to think these things can actually happen. It is a great eye opener to how history has a way of repeating itself, as the everything in the book is based on something that happened in real life and many things have happened repeatedly since the book was written.
I am looking forward to reading more by Atwood.

b
bookreader10000
Jul 12, 2017

This book is worth the read, it talks about issues that are still going on today such as: gender, power, and religion. Although I have not seen the series, I bet it is as good as the book, because the book was good.

d
darladoodles
Jul 05, 2017

I have had this book on my To Read list for many years and must confess that seeing it on the upcoming Hulu series list spurred me on to read it sooner than later.

After reading this iconic novel, I am not at all inclined to see it as a series. Don't get me wrong, I found the book well worth reading. I just don't see that a TV adaptation will add any value to it. The book stands alone.

In Gilead we find a strange society with conflicting values. On the one hand they greatly value babies, but at the same time treat the mothers of those children in a shameful way beginning with the decision to break apart all second marriages and press those women into service as handmaids.

The religion depicted in Gilead is nothing like the church I have known all my life. There is little love shown as Paul prescribed in I Corinthians 13 ("And now I will show you still a more excellent way." I Cor. 12:31b)and I see nothing of the principles that were ingrained in me since childhood to "do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with our God." (Micah 6:8)

a
alexfurey
Jun 29, 2017

It was worth the read, but sometimes this book felt like work. Atwood has a beautiful way of describing things, but at times it was like... okay, get on with the story. The book seemed a bit long winded for how much story you get out of it. Still, it's an interesting concept and because of all the description, the reader gets a real sense of the social etiquette and "rules" of this time.

t
TEENREVIEWBOARD
Jun 28, 2017

The Handmaiden's Tale by Margaret Atwood is a truly amazing experience. I say experience rather than book because you will be fully emerged into this wonderful story and relate to this on a personal level. This story is powerful and terrifying as it throws you into a dystopian future where women are related to nothing more then categories. For a book from the 1980's it truly withstood the test of time as it relates to the problems of society and the oppression of women. I wouldn't be able to compare this story to any other books as it is so advanced that it isn't comparable. I would definitely recommend this book.
- @TheCollector of the Teen Review Board at the Hamilton Public Library

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jjwoodard
Jun 01, 2017

jjwoodard thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

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csrestall
Jun 01, 2017

csrestall thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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eparti
Mar 29, 2015

eparti thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

EuSei Jan 25, 2013

EuSei thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

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Saralovebaig
Nov 28, 2012

Saralovebaig thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

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hardkorelish
Apr 16, 2011

hardkorelish thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Quotes

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PimaLib_JB Oct 28, 2014

“There is more than one kind of freedom," said Aunt Lydia. "Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don't underrate it.”

PimaLib_JB Oct 28, 2014

“There is more than one kind of freedom," said Aunt Lydia. "Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don't underrate it.”

s
SlotFather
Jul 11, 2014

I want everything back, the way it was. But there is no point to it, this wanting.

p
Pisinga
Jun 02, 2013

“Better never means better for everyone. It always means worse, for some.”

i
Iridollae
Jun 12, 2011

Nolite te bastardes carborundorum

Notices

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c
csrestall
Jun 01, 2017

Frightening or Intense Scenes: Hangings and group lynching

c
csrestall
Jun 01, 2017

Sexual Content: Explicit sexual scenes

c
csrestall
Jun 01, 2017

Violence: group mob attack section

Summary

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c
csrestall
Jun 01, 2017

Offred lives in a society where women are valued purely for their ability to reproduce because of rampant bareness caused by radioactive materials. Offred is one of the handmaids who are forced to procreate under the direct supervision of their commanding 'wives'. Offred had a family and a child of her own which were taken from her when she was forced to become property. All aspects of her life are controlled on pain of death. Things start to spiral downward when her Commander (baby daddy) starts speaking to her outside of the prearranged time he promises her glimpses of her old life. She is also forced into a sexual encounter with one of the servant men after her commanding wife feels the commander is incapable of getting her pregnant. She continues on this relationship even though she is afraid of being found out. The book ends rather abruptly when Offred is taken away in a van which is known to dispose of rebellious handmaids. It is implied that her lover helps her escape although it is ambiguous.

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