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

Margaret Atwood
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (290 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Oct 2010 Vintage Classics
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She has 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.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics (7 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099511665
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099511663
  • Product Dimensions: 2.1 x 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (290 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 220,241 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


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

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

"Moving, vivid and terrifying. I only hope it's not prophetic" (Conor Cruise O'Brien The Listener)

"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)

Book Description

'Compulsively readable' Daily Telegraph

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
175 of 184 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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57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than a feminist polemic ... 22 Jan 2002
By A Customer
... it's a rattling good read.
Think about your ability to browse through an internet shop, the power you have to earn money, to hold it and to choose how you spend it. Think about your right to education, should you chose to exercise it. Think about warmth and love and husbands and children.
Imagine all that taken away, the sense of loss, love vanquished, family disappeared, and the comfort of books denied you. Imagine women colluding in oppressing their own sex.
But there is redemption in subversion and small acts of defiance.
It's a clever book, ideas subtly woven, like a fairy tale invoking the dark with the faint promise of light.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
A stunning novel which depicts a world all too possible in reaction to today's permissive society. It tells the story of Offred, condemned after a military coup, in which she is forcibly separated from her husband and daughter, to become a handmaid, whose function is to produce a child for an infertile older woman. Atwood's remarkable non-linear narrative technique takes getting used to, the main plot being punctuated by both recent and 'time before' flashbacks, but the story is so absorbing that you quickly get accustomed to the style. The novel is eloquently written with its fascination for the nuances of language; (natural communication is suppressed, a common feature of dystopian fiction.) As time passes, Offred's desire for freedom and determination to resist the regime (a Christian fundamentalist state, closely based on misogynistic Old Testament teachings) increase. We are entirely gripped by her plight and willing her to succeed. Does she? You will need to read the book to find out, but I can promise you, you will not anticipate the very unusual ending.
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8 of 8 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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19 of 20 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, easy read, and thought provoking
I like the Handmaid's Tale, as a piece of creative writing with some interesting nuances around the female agenda. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Pamplin
5.0 out of 5 stars Good
Very good. Couldn't put it done. And the review wants more words. Cos I can't submit it till it has 20!!!!
Published 4 days ago by Shell
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm so glad that I finally read this classic mind-opening novel
For years I've heard about this book, but only recently got around to reading it. The voice of Margaret Atwood is forboding, dark and sends a warning to everyone about a... Read more
Published 12 days ago by Lisa Devaney
5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual
A story with a difference that keeps you hooked from page one. Can't really say more than that even though the review wants me to.
Published 14 days ago by Annie
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Really good book, I enjoyed it very much and would recommend to readers who enjoy novels about dystopian futures. Definitely makes you think.
Published 15 days ago by Miss Suzanne E Davies
5.0 out of 5 stars Nightmares are best served cold
Atwood's prose is an infinite treat. Her imagination is boundless. Her crafting of characters is rarely matched. Read more
Published 25 days ago by Critic21
4.0 out of 5 stars scary view of a near future
although told in a quite static way without much conversations and dialogues, the books leads you to a world in the future where woman don't have much to say, no to say almost... Read more
Published 1 month ago by laros76
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
An early Atwood classic. If you like Atwood, which I do. Then you will enjoy. A domestic twist on a utopian world.
Published 1 month ago by ms jojo
5.0 out of 5 stars EXCELLENT
Published 1 month ago by winitlady
5.0 out of 5 stars The best
I first read this in my very early twenties, and, twenty something years on, it's still one of my favourites novels of all times...and I still find its themes incredibly powerful. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Erudite
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