The Handmaid's Tale

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The Handmaid's Tale

by Margaret Atwood

Doubleday Canada | August 10, 1998 | Mass Market Paperbound

The Handmaid's Tale is rated 3.9 out of 5 by 40.
It is the world of the near future, and Offred is a Handmaid in the home of the Commander and his wife. She is allowed out once a day to the food market, she is not permitted to read, and she is hoping the Commander makes her pregnant, because she is only valued if her ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she was an independent woman, had a job of her own, a husband and child. But all of that is gone now...everything has changed.

Format: Mass Market Paperbound

Dimensions: 416 pages, 6.87 × 4.17 × 1.12 in

Published: August 10, 1998

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0770428207

ISBN - 13: 9780770428204

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 2 out of 5 by from Interesting -- but arguably not worth the effort Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" gives us an introspective look into the Republic of Gilead, a skewed, dystopian theocracy that is built upon what was once the United States of America. By reading the story through a first-person narrative that is glazed with flashbacks, the reader is given a very realistic and personal view into the lives of women in Gilead. Although the book is presented in such a way that it is easy for the reader to identify with, the disjointed structure of the novel as well as the slipshod prose ultimately leads to a letdown. The Republic of Gilead is a dystopian future that is founded upon several Bible verses that are warped and taken far out of context. A repercussion of this is the extreme oppression against women; because most of the population in Gilead is left infertile by nuclear radiation (suggestively because of a recent war), the fertile women are highly coveted. The fertile women are kept as Handmaids -- women who live in households with the sole purpose of procreating for their assigned couple, often high-ranking officials. As a Handmaid, the women are forbidden from reading, going out on their own will, and even looking at people head on. By narrating the destruction of civilization, the reverting to old times and extreme forms of sexism, The Handmaid's Tale seems to exist as a warning in regards to the volatility of human nature. These themes are explored through the eyes of our heroine, Offred, a woman who was caught trying to escape during the start of the revolution, and is now a Handmaid. The novel captures the personal struggles of Offred relatively well; compared to most dystopian novels, the insight that is given by Offred regarding her own situation outshines what I have read before. However, her constant narrative that jumps between timelines provides for a murky read, despite the fragments of back story the reader is given. Details like the setting being Boston, Massachusetts, and the personal stories of [most] characters involved are certainly helpful, but anything beyond that must be inferred through Offred's flashbacks and ramblings. Eventually, the inferring and empathizing feels forced, and the details it provides for the amount of work begins to dwindle.
Date published: 2013-04-16
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Plotless, themeless, pointless Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986. Print. The Handmaid's Tale by Margarett Atwood, is a tale of a woman in a totalitarian, male dominated, broken theocracy, where women are believed to be fertile are used as "two legged wombs" by men of high status. The author's purpose in writing this book is unclear. Atwood seems to be creating the image of a society that has reverted back to old ways after a nuclear disaster. The old ways of theocracy and sexism have become more prevalent as human rights are cut. But the main focus of the story seems not to be on the dystopia itself. The main focus of the story is on the society's rampant obsession with twisted sexuality. This is not an uncommon idea in dystopian novels, but it seems out of place. Though this book is renowned as being an amazing dystopian novel, it seems that it doesn't focus enough on the dystopian society and the philosophical challenges that are usually involved with this kind of literature as comes in books like V for Vendetta, the Chrysalids, or any of O.S. Card’s books. Instead Atwood's purpose seems to be creating a mentally unstable character who is thinking, not about society, but mostly about the past, gossip, or sex. In short, the whole society is unconvincing, surreal and kind of forced, making me at least think that Margaret Atwood just wants to write about sensual or pseudo-sensual topics. The book was incredibly hard to stick with, because along with being written from the perspective of a person who is breaking down mentally, (which isn't bad in itself) it is also a flat and stagnant book. All the main characters are static, boring, and mostly flat. Even the main character was the same at the end of the book as at the beginning. The plot was also almost nonexistent. The book was made up of a bunch of disjointed flashbacks and small stories of her (Offred) worrying about being seen doing small things that were forbidden by the state. There is a minor undercurrent of the main character being more and more scared of discovery, which seems like a rather feeble attempt at creating suspense. In most other dystopian novels, the protagonist seeks to rectify or help the society become more like ours today. This does not seem to be the point of Atwood's work. She seems to be just creating an atmosphere of madness and depression as a result of the society. All in all however, I did not enjoy this book. I did not find in challenging in any way, except in trying to figure out why it was considered good. Finally, I could not find anything recognizable as a decent theme in it. What I will say is that this book is that it does an okay job of portraying despair and depression and a good job of showing mental instability and repression. But maybe that is just the author.
Date published: 2013-04-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1986 In the novel The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood portrays a totalitarian, misogynistic, twistedly theocratic society. Atwood tries to portray a realistic dystopian society that society could have turned into today, including things like Compucards (debit cards) to make this transition more feasible. Although the concept Atwood brings about is interesting, there is little explanation of how this society came to be. Perhaps the religious aspect is similar to the society in The Chrysalids in that it is a society’s nature to revert to religion in desperate times, in both instances turning into a broken theocracy in which the religion was taken out of context. In one instance in The Handmaid’s Tale, the teachers quoted from the Bible, “Blessed are the meek,” and leaving out, “for they shall inherit the earth.” It is suggested in the novel that the United States, or just Massachusetts in particular, could turn into this sort of society if the President and Congress were assassinated, causing a chain reaction of events. Although the sequence of events are distinctly shown in the novel, amongst all this chaos, there is little protest from the people shown or even any attempt from other nations to intervene, and the realism disappears as Atwood described the dystopian society coming to be over the course of a couple of days. My final opinion of this novel is similar to others in that I started this story with high expectations, in mind that the esteemed author Margaret Atwood wrote it. However, this novel is drowned with an excessive use of muddled flashbacks with poor segue before and after, resulting in myself having to check back a few pages constantly to figure out if what I was reading was happening in the past of present tense. Also, certain parts of the novel seemed to move extremely slowly, with Atwood having to describe nearly everything in immense detail, spending more time on imagery than the novel itself. Ultimately, even though this novel had a very riveting concept, there wasn’t enough expansion of the plot itself, and this story might have been better off as a poem.
Date published: 2013-04-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrifying and Brilliant I have thought for a good long time how to go about reviewing Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale.... For me, I remember enjoying this book in high school. And by enjoying, I mean it wasn't torturous to read, and I managed it with minimal complaint, but I still saw the world through rose coloured glasses then, and overall I think (since re-reading as an adult) I missed how prophetic this novel is. Imagine, a right winged government who blames Islamic fundamentalist for terrorist attacks and begins to suspend certain Human Rights, claiming it's to protect it's citizens from further threats, and Nuclear disasters that affect health and fertility. Anyone else not finding this difficult to imagine? Now, here is where I really begin to get creeped out....how big of a leap would it be for women's rights to be stripped away completely? In fact, there is a large portion of the globe where this is the reality, albeit not exactly the way Atwood tells it, but still...It seriously makes me wonder how long before this novel is no longer considered a dystopian? There lies the brilliance of The Handmaid's Tale, and why I considered it to be the creme de la creme of the genre....It walks the razors edge between a Dystopian fiction and a prophecy of our future... Terrifying and Brilliant!
Date published: 2012-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eight Bookcases Check out my review of Atwood's novel on my blog: http://8bookcases.blogspot.ca/2012/05/handmaids-tale-by-margaret-atwood.html
Date published: 2012-05-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from all time favorite this is one of my all time favorite novels! Margaret Atwood is a one of Canada's greatest ambassadors.
Date published: 2012-05-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Ok I had to read this book for school the first 100 pages were long and brutal to read. Nothing happens and it is just plain boring. After that the story gets moving we get to learn more about the characters and something actually happens, some action. It was an okay read I love all the symbols and all the themes that are present in this story but I do not like her style of writting I am more into teen books, so this was completely off what I usually read.
Date published: 2012-04-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good or Bad, I don't know I can't remember ever feeling more conflicted about what to say about a novel in a very long time. The negative about this tale: The long philosophy lessons contained within the narrative; the hard to follow jumps through time as Offred reminisces and misses her days gone by; and the stale humour (Atwood seriously writes the "pen is envy"). The positive: a sad, but curious look at a possible future for females; a plethora of problems for our main character that seem to catch up to her near the book's conclusion, and an ambiguous ending that even "future scholars" can't figure out. I have to admit that at times this book was hard to put down, but at others times it was hard to pick up and continue. Three stars it is, just to continue the theme of "fence-sitting".
Date published: 2011-04-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Powerful and provocative dystopian fiction The Handmaid's Tale is the third of Atwood's novels that I've picked up within the past year and a half, and I can see why this novel probably picks up the most recognition amongst her other works. While I can't comment on the Blind Assassin -- a novel still sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read -- both Alias Grace and The Edible Woman were novels that I thoroughly enjoyed. While The Edible Woman gives us a quirky black comedy, Alias Grace gives us a thought-provoking historical narrative. Conversely, The Handmaid's Tale deals with the fragmented memories of Offred -- a "farmed" woman (a Handmaid) only valued for her viable ovaries in a haunting patriarchal totalitarian state. While I won't give away too much of what the novel is about, it is told in a way that makes you want to read as voraciously as possible to find out what actually ends up happening. I've heard people say Atwood at times is predictable, but nothing in this novel is easy to guess. It may deal with the same well-trodden themes found in Atwood novels, but really I didn't expect anything completely new when reading the jacket. The Handmaid's Tale may not be a totally "new" idea; in our present day the landscape of fiction is almost overwhelmed with the dystopian, Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale easily ranks in the upper echelon of what is available.
Date published: 2010-05-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not What I Expected... We had been given this book to read in Grade 11 and I blew it off as many classmates did, but never returned the book to the teacher. After I graduated High School, I looked on my shelf and still had it. Man, I should have read it in Grade 11. It's such a beautiful book. I found it hard to get into in the beginning, but having nothing else to read that day, I forced myself to continue and found myself captivated in a truley amazing story. A must read, not only because it's Atwood, but because it's a story of a few lives you'll always remember.
Date published: 2009-08-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Another please This was my first Atwood book, and now I can't wait to read another. Out of all the books that I've read in the past about the future, I would have to say this one gave me the most chills. great plot, and beautiful imagery.
Date published: 2009-05-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from In memory of Natasha Richardson For anyone who is unaware Natasha Richardson past away last week in Ottawa after hitting her head on the ski hill at Mont Tremblant. Natasha played the lead role in the film adaptation of "The Handmaid's Tale" so I dedicate this review to her. I fell in love with The Handmaid's Tale one bored summer day when I found it among my mother's old school books. This novel is a futuristic look at the world when women are reduced to their baser society roles as breeders and house keepers. At the time of the novel fertile women are being harvested to breed for infertile leaders of the society. Anyone who is non-compliant is tortured and killed. The novel takes place in the United States in the newly formed "Republic of Gilead". This novel is fraught with sexual tension and moral ethics. The neo-christians who are in charge of Gilead have removed all sexual material and rule that sex should be performed solely for the purpose of reproduction. However the leaders of Gilead are oxy-moronic when it comes to this proclamation as they have created their own palace for sexual play where none of the "playmates" can reproduce. Thereby undermining the very principal of which the Republic of Gilead is formed upon. The novel is told in the first person by main character, Offred. Offred was once a married woman but now serves as a Handmaid for a wealthy society leader and his wife. As a Handmaid she is forced to have sex with the husband in the hopes of conceiving. When not in the bedroom she is given menial tasks to perform and generally hidden away. She is not allowed any form of entertainment or occupation that is not the bible or housework. She longs to indulge in the simple things of her old life such as moisturizer and magazines. I highly recommend this book for lovers of feminist and dystopia literature. It is a powerful and moving novel and I treasure the time I spent between its pages.
Date published: 2009-03-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Republic of Gilead (thebookblog.ca) With her own twist on the dystopia in tradition of 1984, Atwood tells a fascinating tale of a woman in a world where you’re forced to be what they want you to be. While the safety is assuring, the way Offred is forced to keep her nose clean by never talking to anyone creates a lot of stress. This is a fate we women have been familiar with for all of time, and Offred is forced to return through that rabbit hole in order to tell us her story. And in spite of the pressure and secrecy of her environment, A Handmaid’s Tale shows us that women will always be women. Offred hurts, she longs, she loves and she makes mistakes. She builds bridges and burns them, always with eyes peering over her shoulder. A Handmaid’s Tale is, in short, a stunning piece of speculative fiction that I reccomend to anybody, but I know the story isn’t for everyone. For every few people who love it, I know a few who hate it as well, so don’t be surprised if it isn’t for you. However for me, the conclusion is clear: A Handmaid’s Tale is a masterpiece, and we are lucky to have Atwood.
Date published: 2008-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best books I've read! "The handmaid's Tale" is the first book by Margaret Atwood that I read. It's one of the best books ever. Shortly before reading this book, I read "1984". The similarities are interesting. I must say that I truly prefer "The handmaid's Tale". It might be because I'm female and I can relate better to a female and not a male narrator. Atwood raises many great points and ideas to think about. The book is timeless and the events could happen at any time and any place. The book is intellligent and thought provocing. It's hard to put it down for it's extremely suspenseful. I recommend it to any person. It's a must read!
Date published: 2008-02-23
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Why?! Why?! Why is Margaret Atwood our most famous author!?!? The woman cannot WRITE! The handmaid's tale is a confusing, bizarre, poorly written novel that was so horrible and such a chore to get through that I considered leaving it in the bathroom to use as toilet paper. That's really the only thing you can do with it. I thought maybe she had written just ONE bad book. So I tried to read "Alias Grace" (another stinker!) and then I read "the blind assassin". Guess what? They ALL suck! All of them! Why do we keep adoring this woman and giving her awards?!?! She is awful!!! We have SO many talented writers in this nation and THIS pitiful old harpy is who we put on a pedestal? Anyway, you should neither read nor purchase this book. Seriously. (Why would I lie?)
Date published: 2008-02-14
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Review This is a futuristic dystopia which uses past instances of oppression (within our world) as a guide. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the book was the reminder that history repeats itself. That being said, the story did not meet my expectations. I didn't feel the lonliness of those trapped in that environment ... the pain they went through upon losing their families ... the horror they experienced during the public displays of the dead. I *knew* that it would be a horrible way to live, but I can't say that I ever felt a connection with any of the characters. Furthermore, I found the ending to be sloppy and frustrating (although I must admit that the general idea was creative). This is certainly not the best book that I've read, but I wouldn't discourage anyone from picking it up. If nothing else, it will make you rethink the stability of our current society.
Date published: 2007-12-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Handmaids Tale This book is amazing! I love the way that Atwood descirbes with such detail the display. She portrays her minds eye view so well on paper
Date published: 2007-02-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fantastic! Margaret Atwood has created a unique example of the future. I found myself fascinated the whole way through. Much, much better than the movie! A definate recommendation!
Date published: 2006-06-02
Rated 2 out of 5 by from A tedious tale by Margaret Atwood I find Margaret Atwood's righting to be intellectual yet highly tedious. If you are reading for a more academic purpose go right ahead but a little popular writing by Stephen King, Tom Clancy or John Grisham never heart anybody.
Date published: 2006-04-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eye Opener! I found this book an excellent read. I found myself appreciating the society we live in now and the freedoms women have. It also made me wonder how closely related other societies are to the ideas in Atwood's novel, specifically middle eastern countries. This was the first I've read from Atwood's collection and it certainly won't be the last!
Date published: 2004-11-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent This is a book that will likely leave its mark on you for many years to come. It is an entertaining read with interesting ideas that really make you think. Especially meaningful is the fact that the book was published in the 80's, long before many of the concepts were as relevant as they are now.
Date published: 2004-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Work I had to read this book in highschool many years ago, and I liked it, but was a really lazy reader back then. I have longed to re-read it, but for the longest time could not remember the title. I finally found it, and it was well worth the wait. It is a masterpiece. One for the ages.
Date published: 2003-03-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It was an amazing book I found it really easy to visualize everything that was happening in this book, Margaret did a fabulous job at describing everything with great detail! I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves reading and wants a good book to read.
Date published: 2002-05-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exorbitant This book was utterly amazing. I loved it! The unique words used to describe the situation that Offred is placed into were brilliant. I must say that Margaret Atwood is an astonishing author and that I will attempt to read each and every book she's written due to the uniqueness of this book. I loved it, and the possibility of a future that it expressed. I couldn't possibly imagine a future like that, let alone, describe it so well. Margaret is an incredibly gifted author and her books should be recognized as works of unequalled art.
Date published: 2002-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What an exciting read! I read this book in a short period of time because it was so interesting and unpredictable! Among other things, this book brings to surface issues of sexism, classism, ageism, and racism. It is a definite must-read for any woman, but also is a book that must not be overlooked by men. I highly recommend this eye-opening book for book clubs, as the above-mentioned topics are cause for great discussion. Another winner from Ms. Atwood, who makes reading such a joy.
Date published: 2001-12-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from wendy I thought this was a beautifully sad story, about the way men and women view themselves, the world, and the bodies they live in. It says quite a lot about society and relationships and friendships and love. It says something too, about the quiet strength that life requires out of us. I enjoyed this book when I read it the first, and its one of the few I occasionally re-read.
Date published: 2001-05-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A passable novel for dystopia. This book is a first-person narrative from the perspective of a character named Offred. The basic idea is that an unnamed Protestant Christian denomination takes over the USA and totally reconstructs the society in a radical way. There is some sort of disaster/war which sterilizes a segment of the female population thus the remaining fertile females are pressed into service as breeding machines (called Handmaids). There is a whole new social structure set up with Aunts (train Handmaids), Commanders (leaders), Angels (protect the Handmaids) and so on. Atwood gives subtle hints about the workings of Gilead (the new name of the USA after the fictional revolution) but they are not sufficient for one to understand Gilead society. As an appendix, there is a section called, “Historical Notes,” which is an academic conference set in 2195 (approx. 150 years after the events of the novels) and some more details emerge. This section was probably the most interesting in the book. This novel is in the same genre as, "Brave New World," by Aldous Huxley and, "1984," by George Orwell. The innovation in this novel is the specific focus on women. That said, those other two novels are definitely better than this.
Date published: 2001-01-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Handmaid's Tale It moved me. It made me aware of what could be. It made me realise how power in the wrong hands could render women as mere possessions.
Date published: 2000-12-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from the handmaid's tale What an amazing book, when I first read it at age 16, I loved it; but when I looked at it againat 24, having a newer, wiser perspective on life I saw things in it that I hadn't seen before. It is truly a book that you will read and think about for the rest of your life.
Date published: 2000-11-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Terrifying actuality of a possible future Margaret Atwood brings the possibility of a sadistic society to reality in her novel. The thoughts and observations of the characters involved in the novel show the true nature of human character. The terrible cruelty and sexist attitudes are emphasized here. One wonders what it would feel like to have no rights, no priviliges. I for one, was completely disturbed when I approached the end of the novel. The final turn of the life of the main character's brings a sense of foreboding and unconscious horror to the reader. This is an excellent book, but should not be read by those with a weak will. I loved it, and I'm still affected by it.
Date published: 2000-11-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Handmaid's Tale I chose to read this book for my final book essay and report in OAC English. I read it twice and enjoyed both readings thoroughly. It is a dark and foreboding story that generates a certain amount of fear in the reader because it portrays a future which, given our current world state, is actually quite possible. A very satisfying read.
Date published: 2000-11-08
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Typical Atwood Why must every Atwood novel be the equivalent of her getting up on a soap box? Really, for someone who everyone clouts to be one the greatest Canadian women writers, she sure doesn't have a lot to say or very many ideas. This book, although in a dystopian society, doesn't change the fact that the message is exactly the same as every other book by Atwood. And for a dystopian novel, 1984 is a much better buy.
Date published: 2000-11-04
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Hand me a barf bag, I'm gonna be sick This is the worst book I've ever had the misfortune of reading. Page after page of utter drivel. I could only get through about fifty of these pages before I put the book down in disgust. I beg you: DO NOT READ!
Date published: 2000-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth Reading and Thinking About Atwood certainly makes one think about society's safeguards in this sci-fi thriller that takes the reader on a journey through the thoughts, hopes and memories of a handmaid - a woman kept for the sole purpose of breeding in a new world where a whole new set of rules governs a tyranic, patriarchal society.
Date published: 2000-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent! This was the best book i've read since George Orwell's 1984. Of the same type, Atwood portrays a futuristic society where women are reproductive slaves to the wealthy. It is science fiction at its best, with a strong plot you won't soon forget. A classic!
Date published: 2000-10-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Bunch of babbel I just finished reading the book and although it was intresting I wouldn't read it again. I didn't find it disturbing or realistc and the ending was far from good. The book was just babbel with no real meaning.
Date published: 2000-10-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Creepily Realistic... I absolutely dreaded readin this book. It was for a school project but once I got inot it, it didn't seem so bad. Now I'm reading it again and can't believe that I wasn't looking forward to it the first time. It's a wonderful book and the only school book I've ever said that about! It is written so well that you can imagine it happening. It almost seems real!
Date published: 2000-10-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An achievement for Atwood I absolutely loved this novel. I found that once I started it I could not put it down, as I was entangled in the surreal world of Gillead where the main character of Offred lived. Her struggles to survive, and her continual remembrances of the past make this, an unrealistic novel, very real and relatable.
Date published: 2000-06-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dystopian Society The best book ever written. Margret Atwood interprets, in a way, describes our society and where it could end up. This book helps you think.
Date published: 2000-02-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Atwood's greatest book There's not much to say except that this book is a must, especially if you liked 1984!!!
Date published: 2000-01-28

– More About This Product –

The Handmaid's Tale

by Margaret Atwood

Format: Mass Market Paperbound

Dimensions: 416 pages, 6.87 × 4.17 × 1.12 in

Published: August 10, 1998

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0770428207

ISBN - 13: 9780770428204

Read from the Book

1 We slept in what had once been the gymnasium. The floor was of varnished wood, with stripes and circles painted on it, for the games that were formerly played there; the hoops for the basketball nets were still in place, though the nets were gone. A balcony ran around the room, for the spectators, and I thought I could smell, faintly like an afterimage, the pungent scent of sweat, shot through with the sweet taint of chewing gum and perfume from the watching girls, felt-skirted as I knew from pictures, later in miniskirts, then pants, then in one earring, spiky green-streaked hair. Dances would have been held there; the music lingered, a palimpsest of unheard sound, style upon style, an undercurrent of drums, a forlorn wail, garlands made of tissue-paper flowers, cardboard devils, a revolving ball of mirrors, powdering the dancers with a snow of light. There was old sex in the room and loneliness, and expectation, of something without a shape or name. I remember that yearning, for something that was always about to happen and was never the same as the hands that were on us there and then, in the small of the back, or out back, in the parking lot, or in the television room with the sound turned down and only the pictures flickering over lifting flesh. We yearned for the future. How did we learn it, that talent for insatiability? It was in the air; and it was still in the air, an afterthought, as we tried to sleep, in the army cots that had been set up in rows, with spaces be
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From the Publisher

It is the world of the near future, and Offred is a Handmaid in the home of the Commander and his wife. She is allowed out once a day to the food market, she is not permitted to read, and she is hoping the Commander makes her pregnant, because she is only valued if her ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she was an independent woman, had a job of her own, a husband and child. But all of that is gone now...everything has changed.

About the Author

Nominated for the first ever Man Booker International Prize representing the best writers in contemporary fiction, Margaret Atwood is the author of more than 35 internationally acclaimed works of fiction, poetry and critical essays. Her numerous awards include the Governor General’s Award for The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Giller Prize and Italian Premio Mondello for Alias Grace. The Handmaid’s Tale, Cat’s Eye, Alias Grace, and Oryx and Crake were all shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, which she won with The Blind Assassin. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and has been awarded the Norwegian Order of Literary Merit and the French Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres among many others; she is a Foreign Honorary Member for Literature of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She lives in Toronto.

Author Interviews

An Interview with Margaret Atwood on her novel The Handmaid’s Tale Was there any special research involved in writing The Handmaid’s Tale ? I clipped articles out of newspapers. I now have a large clippings file of stories supporting the contentions in the book. In other words, there isn’t anything in the book not based on something that has already happened in history or in another country, or for which actual supporting documentation is not already available. It’s hard to pin down a genre for this novel. Is it science fiction? No, it certainly isn’t science fiction. Science fiction is filled with Martians and space travel to other planets, and things like that. That isn’t this book at all. The Handmaid’s Tale is speculative fiction in the genre of Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four . Nineteen Eighty-Four was written not as science fiction but as an extrapolation of life in 1948. So, too, The Handmaid’s Tale is a slight twist on the society we have now. You seem to see a role for the novel beyond entertainment. I was once a graduate student in Victorian literature and I believe as the Victorian novelists did, that a novel isn’t simply a vehicle for private expression, but that it also exists for social examination. I firmly believe this. What are we to learn from The Handmaid’s Tale ? This is a book about what happens when certain casually held attitudes about women are taken to their logical conclusions. For example, I explore a number of conservative opinions still h
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From Our Editors

Margaret Atwood presents a chillingly convincing futuristic story of sexual slavery in the former United States in this tour de force in the mold of Brave New World. Offred leaves the house once a day to attend market and lies with the Commander once a month to procreate in the new Republic of Gilead. She can recall a different life when she had a husband, a family, a job and money of her own. The Handmaid's Tale, a, is infused with biting humour and topical commentary, in the best science fiction tradition.

Editorial Reviews

"The most poetically satisfying and intense of all Atwood''s novels."
—Maclean''s

"The Handmaid''s Tale is in the honorable tradition of Brave New World and other warnings of dystopia. It''s imaginative even audacious, and conveys a chilling sense of fear and menace."
—The Globe and Mail

"The Handmaid''s Tale brings out the very best in Atwood — moral vision, biting humor, and a poet''s imagination."
—Chatelaine

Bookclub Guide

1. The novel begins with three epigraphs. What are their functions?

2. In Gilead, women are categorized as wives, handmaids, Marthas, or Aunts, but Moira refuses to fit into a niche. Offred says she was like an elevator with open sides who made them dizzy; she was their fantasy. Trace Moira''s role throughout the tale to determine what she symbolizes.

3. Aunt Lydia, Janine, and Offred''s mother also represent more than themselves. What do each of their characters connote? What do the style and color of their clothes symbolize?

4. At one level, The Handmaid''s Tale is about the writing process. Atwood cleverly weaves this sub-plot into a major focus with remarks by Offred such as "Context is all," and "I''ve filled it out for her," "I made that up," and "I wish this story were different." Does Offred''s habit of talking about the process of storytelling make it easier or more difficult for you to suspend disbelief?

5. A palimpsest is a medieval parchment that scribes attempted to scrape clean and use again, though they were unable to obliterate all traces of the original. How does the new republic of Gilead''s social order often resemble a palimpsest?

6. The Commander in the novel says you can''t cheat nature. How do characters find ways to follow their natural instincts?

7. Why is the Bible under lock and key in Gilead?

8. Babies are referred to as "a keeper," "unbabies," "shredders." What other real or fictional worlds do these terms suggest?

9. Atwood''s title brings to mind titles from Chaucer''s The Canterbury Tales. Why might Atwood have wanted you to make that connection?

10. What do you feel the "Historical Notes" at the book''s end add to the reading of this novel? What does the book''s last line mean to you?

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