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The Handmaid's Tale (Contemporary Classics) [Paperback]

Margaret Atwood
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (327 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 July 1996 Contemporary Classics

The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.

Brilliantly conceived and executed, this powerful evocation of twenty-first century America gives full rein to Margaret Atwood's devastating irony, wit and astute perception.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (5 July 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099740915
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099740919
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 12.5 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (327 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Margaret Atwood is the author of more than thirty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays.

In addition to the classic The Handmaid's Tale, her novels include Cat's Eye, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy, The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize and Oryx and Crake, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, was published in 2009. She was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature in 2008.

Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto, Canada.

(Photo credit: George Whitside)

Product Description


"The Handmaid's Tale is both a superlative exercise in science fiction and a profoundly felt moral story" (Angela Carter)

"Out of a narrative shadowed by terror, gleam sharp perceptions, brilliant intense images and sardonic wit" (Peter Kemp Independent)

"The images of brilliant emptiness are one of the most striking aspects of this novel about totalitarian blindness...the effect is chilling" (Linda Taylor Sunday Times)

"Powerful...admirable" (Robert Irwin Time Out)

"Fiercely political and bleak, yet witting and wise...this novel seems ever more vital in the present day" (Observer)

Book Description

'Compulsively readable' Daily Telegraph

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential 16 Jun 2005
By jfp2006
Following a Christian fundamentalist coup d'état in New England at some point towards the end of the twentieth century, a Handmaid is one of a tiny minority of fertile women in a society which has been devastated by unspecified environmental catastrophes. Her function is to provide offspring for the ruling elite, and to be sent to her death if she fails. She lives in a nightmare world of public executions, lynchings, propaganda, impregnation ceremonies... "The Handmaid's Tale" is the story of her inner rebellion, and her struggle to retain her sanity and her memories of "the time before".
Margaret Atwood has been at pains to stress that her novel is not "science-fiction", but "speculative fiction". In other words, it is not about little green men arriving from other planets, but about what happens if men from the planet Earth decide to take some of their more extreme ideas to their logical conclusions. The novel was published in the mid 1980s, against the background of the rise to prominence of the religious right during the Reagan years. In the opening years of the twenty-first century, it has lost none of its relevance. Au contraire...
"Whatever is silenced will clamour to be heard, though silently." The novel constantly testifies to the vitality of the human spirit and its ability to survive in extreme adversity. "The Handmaid's Tale" has repeatedly been compared to "1984", but in fact is a much richer and deeper novel. Orwell's story is an important landmark in the novel of ideas, but Atwood, in addition to her ideas, has written a highly wrought poetic story, incorporating intensely moving meditations on love, loss and memory.
"The Handmaid's Tale" is without question one of the most important novels of the twentieth century. It demands to be read again and again and, in reading it, we must hope and hope that it never comes true.
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184 of 195 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still good 20 years on 3 Sep 2006
By Magpie
I still don't know what inspired me to take this book home from the library that day back when I was 16- up until then the only "grown up" literature I had read had been formulaic historical romances of the Catherine Cookson variety.

I can now credit this book with opening the door to a whole different world of books from what I was used to- books that demanded me to THINK.

And, being only 16, and not reading this book as part of my English class but rather just for myself, I was swept away by it.

Then, a couple of years ago, I got hold of a copy and read it again, curious if it would still seem so mind-blowing (I remember re-reading my beloved Narnia stories as an adult and getting the shock of my life).

And I can say that, half a life later, this book remains one of the best books I have ever read. Why?

I am still amazed at the author's imagination. How did she manage to describe the menace of a totalitarian regime so well? Science Fiction often dates quickly, seeming at best naive decades after it was written. And for me, reading this book 20-odd years after it was written, in this older and wiser post-9/11 world, certain aspects of the book took on new meaning (religious fundamental regime, strict rules about women's dress, football stadium executions).

It may not be a perfect book, but I think it is worth reading for its ideas (and warnings). And all that aside, it's a gripping read!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This book has to be one of the most powerful, terrifying, and insightful books ever written about a very plausible future, where religion and politics win over morality. Margaret Atwood, has shown a deep understanding of the threats that women have faced in the past, and what they may possibly face in the future.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A chilling warning 28 Feb 1999
By A Customer
truly an underrated masterpiece, Margaret Atwood uses her immense skill of the language to draw the reader into the life of Offred, A woman who has been forcibly given "freedom from"the world as we know it today, to become a breeding macine to the ailing elite in a christian dictatorship.The overriding theme is not one of a barren heartless world,but more of a story of passion and change,in the life of the character . This book is truly Margaret Atwood in stye, which may confuse those not familiar to her work.If you have seen the film the book far,far,far surpasses any expectations you may have. The content of the book is terrifyingly brilliant, and two pieces of information shoud scare you the most 1) every attrocity in the book is real -has happened in the real world,and2) Gilead could be formed tomorrow.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Handmaid's Tale 18 Jan 2003
This book is a powerful post-Apocolyptic dystopic text. Margaret atwoods immense skill as a writer is demonstrated in this novel with great effect. It is full of intrigue, feminist politics, sex and conflict, throughout the text is littered with emotional turmoil and a wonderful stream of consciousness. The characters and their attributes are enthralling and although written many years ago, issues raised in this novel are, on occasion, frighteninlgny relavent in todays society. The book tells the tale of "offed" and how she is thrust into a world where she is forced to procreate to prevent the collapse of the human race, her and many other handmaids. Her struggle for freedom and how she is sucked into this world and her own mind is altered by the regime of "Gilead" is tantalisingly written by Atwood, the desperation of "Offred" and her battles is one of the many themes in this novel that compell you to read this text and to discover, does she break free from this opreesive patriarchal society, or does it draw her in and turn her into one of "Gileads" many minions of the cause, the only way to find out is to read this book and you shall not regret it!
Matthew. Age 16 A Level student studying this novel.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars terrible book, I do not understand why this is ...
terrible book, I do not understand why this is not considered a teenager book as it is written terribly and poorly
Published 8 hours ago by Carla Castiella
1.0 out of 5 stars I bought it under the assumption that it was in good condition. To me...
The condition of the book was not as described. I bought it under the assumption that it was in good condition. Read more
Published 2 days ago by joanne e price
5.0 out of 5 stars It was excellent in the way it slowly drew you into the ...
It was excellent in the way it slowly drew you into the story, finding out a bit at time so you can't put it down.
Published 5 days ago by Jane Hawkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it!
Excellent, though very unusual book. Well worth reading.
Published 5 days ago by Kate
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, strangely prophetic
Resonates even more today than the first time I read it over 20 years ago. Prophetic. Couldn't put it down.
Published 9 days ago by Mary D
4.0 out of 5 stars Thinking Book
I think it was very good. The way it was laid out, going back and forth from the present to to past was so much like thoughts, you really felt that you got inside of her head. Read more
Published 12 days ago by kirsteen
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very thought-provoking!
Published 13 days ago by Julesta
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping
I am a huge fan of Margaret Atwood and feel that this is one of her best novels. I couldn't put it down. Highly recommended.
Published 13 days ago by Rebecca Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars The Handmaid's Tale - Amazing!
I studied this book for GCSE English Literature, and kept promising myself I'd read it again....17 years later....amazingly powerful novel. Highly recommended!
Published 16 days ago by T L DICKSON
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 16 days ago by Sal
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