The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale

Book - 1985
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Margaret Atwood presents a chilling dystopic novel set in the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, after a radical theocratic revolution. In a time of declining birthrates, fertile women are dispersed to high-ranking white men as baby-making handmaids. If a handmaid cannot reproduce, she is exiled to the Colonies, an uber-polluted wasteland. One of these handmaids, Offred, not only remembers her life before the revolution, but is determined to reclaim it.
Publisher: ©1985
ISBN: 9780735253308
9780771008795
9780771008559
9780435124090
9780770428204
9780771008139
0771008139
Branch Call Number: ATWOOD
Characteristics: 1 volume

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From Library Staff

Margaret Atwood presents a chilling dystopic novel set in the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, after a radical theocratic revolution. In a time of declining birthrates, fertile women are dispersed to high-ranking white men as baby-making handmaids. If a handmaid cannot reproduce, s... Read More »

Margaret Atwood presents a chilling dystopic novel set in the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, after a radical theocratic revolution. In a time of declining birthrates, fertile women are dispersed to high-ranking white men as baby-making handmaids. If a handmaid cannot reproduce, s... Read More »


From the critics


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a
ausnos
Apr 30, 2021

I don't understand how this book was published, let alone turned into a drama series, movie, and play. Atwood's writing style was as convoluted as her digressions were irritating. The story had potential though.

a
annavital
Apr 09, 2021

Probably because of all the hype, I expected more from this book. The idea is interesting and the problems raised are frighteningly real but on the whole the book, in my opinion, underdelivers. Still worth reading, if only do get a first-hand experience and know what all the fuss is about.

k
kwsmith
Mar 28, 2021

"Don't let the bastards grind you down." Written in 1985, this classic dystopian novel explores the role of exploited women in a highly religious and mostly patriarchal society. Gilead is a dark future version of the United States after a radical quasi-religious political group (the "Sons of Jacob") stages a grassroots coup, storms the capital, executes most of Congress, and installs a military dictatorship. [Science Fiction is absurd; that could totally never happen, right?]

t
TEENREVIEWBOARD
Mar 22, 2021

I am at a loss for words! I have heard many comments about this novel, but I never thought I would have the chance to read this legendary piece of literature. I was drawn in by the characters, moved and had empathy for so many. While this society is fictional, how can you not see the parallels to the real world? The most thrilling part is when you realise that everything in this novel happened at some point in history, and that eye-opening moment pulls you deeper and deeper into the pages. The main character, Offred, is a Handmaid in the fictional society of Gilead, and it was fascinating to see how she interacted with others. Not only that, but the experiences Offred endured and how she responds is not what most would expect. Every twist and turn leaves you wondering what else is left in store, and it will most definitely keep you up reading at night! I would recommend this book to older people due to some of the content. 4/5
@booklover327 of The Hamilton Public Library's Teen Review Board

The dystopian aspect of the book makes it a mature read, that I recommend to older audiences. I found this to be a quick read due to the very short chapters, which I personally don't mind. What I didn't like about this book is that it is written in 1st person and the action doesn't start until well after the first half of the book however, this made me interested in reading the sequel. If the story was written in 3rd person it wouldn't require so much reading between the lines and would have likely earned it a higher rating. The Handmaid's Tale has an emotional appeal and important message regarding feminism. Though I wasn't too fond of the beginning once the action picked up it became addicting. The purpose of this book is not for it to be a happy read but a somber one. One of the themes is hope which mixes well with the depressing tone of the book. This is another thing I liked about it. Overall, it is a good read for those who prefer serious/ gruesome topics, like me. If the style of writing had been different, I would easily give it five stars.
@beachreader of the Hamilton Public Library's Teen Review Board

l
lkim17
Mar 10, 2021

Set in a dystopian Puritan society, people in the US now live in the Republic of Gilead. The main character, Offred, is a handmaiden to the Commander. In a new time where births are getting more and more uncommon, handmaidens such as Offred are valued for their abilities to give birth. In Gilead, women are not allowed to read, write, drive, or assume any activities from their life post-Gilead(today’s society). The culture Margaret Atwood creates is eerily haunting and shows the critique of society and its relations to women. This book is best suited for those who enjoy dystopian fiction.

d
dejesusa1
Mar 03, 2021

Nothing like the series on Hulu.

s
Sborn33
Jan 21, 2021

A dystopian Novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, an interesting narrative tone is used to describe Offred and her life in Gilead, a fictional religious society, and the civil and feminists rights that are violated in this totalitarian nation. Atwood campaigns for Women's rights, drawing parallels to issues in modern society and providing a terrible vision of a world, were extreme politics have made ordinary female freedoms non-existent.

a
avocadotree
Jan 09, 2021

Good read.

t
Tylerr25
Dec 22, 2020

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, is a dystopian style novel where women have no rights and must abide by the rules of men. Offred, a handmaid, is placed in a home with a commander where she is used for her fertility to give the commander and his wife the child they are incapable of having. The Republic of Gilead has eyes on everyone and everything but many people will risk their life in order to escape into the normal world again. This book is great for those who like the reading about possible futures and new world ideas. It also captures readers' imaginations and may interest those who like the study of politics and culture. I enjoyed the dystopian aspect of this novel and how it used a totalitarian government in order to provide perspective on different political powers.

a
Anita_Dickey
Dec 15, 2020

I read this book to fulfil the goal read a book with only images and no words on the cover (this wasn't the exact copy i had, but it is the same story.) It is like george orwell's 1984 which both bore me and scare me. I was planning to write a very negitive review. I found the book a little confusing and the characters unrelatable, and then the book ended. just like that. I was so surprised and upset. I discovered there is a sequel and i have to read it. so, yes, i guess i will call it a good book. it certainly sparked an emotion in me. It is #63 on Listopia's 300 books everyone should read once list. I say it deserves its place there, and as soon as i can i'm reading the sequel.

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Quotes

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c
CAnder14
Oct 11, 2020

Pg. 463

Humanity is so adaptable, my Mother would say. Truly amazing, what people can get used to, as long as there are a few compensations.

c
CAnder14
Oct 11, 2020

Pg. 411

"Well officially," he says. "But everyone's human, after all."

I wait for him to elaborate on this, but he doesn't, so I say, "What does that mean?"

"It means you can't cheat Nature," he says. "Nature demands variety, for men. It stands to reason, it's part of the procreational strategy. It's Nature's plan." I don't say anything, so he goes on. "Women know that instinctively. Why did they buy so many different clothes, in the old days? To trick the men into thinking they were several different women. A new one each day."

"So now that we don't have different clothes," I say, "you merely have different women." This is irony , but he doesn't acknowledge it.

"It solves a lot of problems," he says, without a twitch.

c
CAnder14
Oct 11, 2020

Pg. 392

With that man you wanted it to work, to work out. Working out was also something you did to keep your body in shape, for the man. If you worked out enough, maybe the man would too. Maybe you would be able to work it out together, as if the two of you were a puzzle that could be solved; otherwise, one of you, most likely the man, would go wandering off on a trajectory of his own, taking his addictive body with him and leaving you with bad withdrawal, which you could counteract by exercise.

If you don't like it, change it, we said, to each other and to ourselves. and so we would change the man, for another one. Change, we were sure, was for the better always. We were revisionists; what we revised was ourselves.

c
CAnder14
Oct 11, 2020

Pg. 391

The more difficult it was to love the particular man beside us, the more we believed in Love, abstract and total. We were waiting, always for the incarnation. That word, made flesh.

And sometimes it happened, for a time. That kind of love comes and goes and is hard to remember afterwards, like pain. You would think, I loved you, and the tense would be past, and you would be filled with a sense of wonder, because it was such an amazing and precarious and dumb thing to have done; and you would know too why your friends had been evasive about it, at the time.

c
CAnder14
Oct 11, 2020

Pg. 380

We've given them more than we've taken away, said the Commander. Think of the trouble they had before. Don't you remember the singles' bars, the indignity of high school blind dates? The meat market. Don't you remember the terrible gap between the ones who could get a man easily and the ones who couldn't? Some of them were desperate, they starved themselves think of pumped their breasts full of silicone, had their noses cut off. Think of the human misery.

c
CAnder14
Oct 11, 2020

Pg. 366

Better never means better for everyone, he (The Commander) says. It always means worse, for some.

c
CAnder14
Oct 11, 2020

Pg. 340

Knowing was a temptation. What you don't know won't tempt you, Aunt Lydia use to say.

c
CAnder14
Oct 11, 2020

Pg. 338

But she (Aunt Lydia) knew too the spiritual value of bodily rigidity, of muscle strain: a little pain cleans out the mind, she'd say.

c
CAnder14
Oct 11, 2020

Pg. 334

What the commander said is true. One and one and one and one doesn't equal four. Each one remains unique, there is no way of joining them together. They cannot be exchanged, one for the other. They cannot replace each other.

c
CAnder14
Oct 11, 2020

Pg. 282

You can only be jealous of someone who has something you think you ought to have.

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Age Suitability

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s
Sean_Exon
Sep 16, 2020

Sean_Exon thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

a
Anirudh_Kannan
Aug 21, 2020

Anirudh_Kannan thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

s
steven_hahn
Jun 01, 2018

steven_hahn thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

b
blue_cat_16312
May 18, 2018

blue_cat_16312 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

j
jmli
Jan 28, 2018

jmli thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

j
jjwoodard
Jun 01, 2017

jjwoodard thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

c
csrestall
Jun 01, 2017

csrestall thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

e
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

s
Saralovebaig
Nov 28, 2012

Saralovebaig thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over

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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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