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Handmaid's Tale Paperback – 3 Apr 1987

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Product details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (3 April 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0860688666
  • ISBN-13: 978-0860688662
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (445 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 186,004 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


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

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

"'Our 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" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

'Compulsively readable' Daily Telegraph --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Michael Heron TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 10 Mar. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Handmaid's Tale isn't the bleakest book I've ever read, but it certainly wouldn't look stupid on a short-list of contenders for the award. It's not the kind of thing I would casually recommend to anyone just looking for something 'good to read', but it's an extremely worthy book full of beautiful language, big (and depressing) ideas and keenly observed commentaries on society. Atwood manages to make an extreme dystopian view of the world seem like a credible possibility by framing it both within the context of a widespread 'war on terror'[1] and as a hard-line religious backlash against the permissiveness of modern America[2].

Two themes from the book spoke to me especially. One was the way in which comfort and safety was packaged through a subversion of the concept of 'freedom'. Atwood argues that there are two kinds of freedom... 'freedom *to*' and freedom *from*'. In many respects, 'Freedom to' is the extent to which an individual can place their desires above that of the collective, and 'freedom from' is the opposite. Freedom from rape, violence, theft, and so on all require a shift of freedom from the individual to the state. And in that we find the second big theme of the book - it's largely a book about social responsibility and the part that the state should play in enforcing it. The story is told in the context of a birth-rate that dipped below the the level required for replenishment, married to increasing rates of sterilisation due to chemical and nuclear waste in the ecological systems. While we may baulk at the 'solution' presented in the Handmaid's Tale, the book raises questions about to what extent the State can overrule the 'freedom to' when the very existence or future of humanity is at risk.
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191 of 204 people found the following review helpful By Magpie on 3 Sept. 2006
Format: Paperback
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 28 Feb. 1999
Format: Paperback
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 By Molly Dowrick on 28 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback
New to the genre of dystopian literature, I wasn't sure what to expect when told by my English Teacher that my class and I would be studying "The Handmaid's Tale" by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, as part of our A-Level study, but this intense and powerful book had me gripped from the beginning.

The Handmaid's Tale successfully explores a range of themes to enable the reader to question the totalitarian state system and fill their heads with `what if' questions as to what would happen if our lives were dictated by a ruling authority. Two particularly significant themes in the anti-utopian novel comprise of women's role in society and society's control over its citizens in the "Republic of Gilead", a futuristic USA, but instead of a United States symbolising freedom, Gilead oppresses its citizens and instead emphasises racist, homophobic and traditionalist Christian morals and attitudes, so much so that going against the ruling regime is just asking for death.

Considered special as she is one of only a few fertile women, after infertility caused by AIDS and other diseases swept across Gilead, the novels protagonist `Offred', has just one function: to breed. Known as a `handmaid', a role Offred chose purely to escape being sentenced to `the Colonies' (a place full of pollution and nuclear radiation), along with those classed as `incapable of social integration' including feminists, lesbians and nuns, Offred is allocated a high-ranked couple and is employed by them to sleep with the husband, known as the `Commander', in order to become a surrogate mother for his wife, who is presumed to be infertile in a society that blames all problems on women.
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