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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential
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...
Published on 16 Jun 2005 by jfp2006

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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars artificial insemination
Margaret Atwood sure likes to implant a horrific view of our future. The Handmaid's Tale, written in the mid 1980's, is a chilling precursor to her latest foray, Oryx and Crake; both dealing with the toxic and political contamination of society and civilisation. Worlds created from what we have, with all the negatives - manipulation, prejudice, science overload,...
Published on 7 May 2004 by mfl


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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential, 16 Jun 2005
By 
jfp2006 (PARIS/France) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Handmaid's Tale (Contemporary Classics) (Paperback)
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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185 of 196 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still good 20 years on, 3 Sep 2006
By 
Magpie (Czech Republic) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Handmaid's Tale (Contemporary Classics) (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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, it will terrify and move you with each word., 26 April 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Handmaid's Tale (Contemporary Classics) (Paperback)
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
This review is from: The Handmaid's Tale (Contemporary Classics) (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
5.0 out of 5 stars The Handmaid's Tale, 18 Jan 2003
This review is from: Handmaid's Tale (Paperback)
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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44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully crafted and utterly absorbing narrative, 16 Dec 2000
By 
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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Poignant today than ever, 17 Oct 2005
By 
DevJohn01 (Somerset, NJ) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Handmaid's Tale (Contemporary Classics) (Paperback)
I was very excited to begin reading this book. I loved the premise and thought that it would be interesting, but as I began reading I was looking for answers that Atwood didn't seem to want to provide. I wanted to know how this society where women were allowed no freedoms and were torn from their families and friends came about. How America, once the land of the free became the land of the oppressed. Call me impatient but as I read every chapter that left these questions unanswered the more bored I grew with this book. Until Atwood began to slowly reveal the events that led up to the existence of such a society and it was almost like a punch in the stomach when she did. It is impossible not to compare the events in this book with the events of the last few years and how our world is slowly changing, not necessarily in this direction, but it definitely makes you see how anything is possible.
I was only seven years old when this book was first published so I am not sure if Atwood was that prophetic or if the direction that this country was headed in was clear even then. I am sure the case is true more of the latter than the former. If you haven't read this book already I definitely suggest that you order a copy, it is worth the read. Personally I plan to pass my copy on to all of my friends and anyone else who may want to read it. This may be a hard title to find at your local bookstore but order it if need be, it is worth it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Insightful and Haunting Futuristic Novel, 16 April 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Handmaid's Tale (Contemporary Classics) (Paperback)
This is a chilling glimpse into a future where women are imprisoned and reduced to breeding machines. The writing is stark and unsentimental, yet the humanity of the repressed women is revealed through their courage. Glimpses into the narrator's life (particularly with her family) before the regime add insight and poignancy.
Horrifyingly, many aspects of the scenario are quite reminiscent of certain sects and ultra-conservative ideologies in the current world. Anti-feminist ideals are starkly taken to their ugly conclusion and women exist solely for the use of men. The bodies of those who used to perform abortions are found hanging from hooks. Those in positions of power do little to help those forced to be beneath them.
Anti-feminists (with feminism simply meaning equal rights) are likely to become annoyed by this book, because the conclusion to which it takes their standpoint is extremely ugly. However, personally I found it gripping and absolutely fascinating. This is highly recommended reading as a reminder of the horrors of totalitarianism from a female perspective.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Modern Masterpiece!, 27 July 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Handmaid's Tale (Contemporary Classics) (Paperback)
For me, The Handmaid's Tale is not only an expansive work of fiction but a timely warning to modern day society, one of the most important novels of recent years written firmly in the tradition of Brave New World and 1984. Atwood offers an erudite dissection of the human psyche against the backdrop of a cold and faceless futuristic world. A society which is, as she illustrates in the Historical Notes, a not implausible successor of that in which we live. Themes such as religious extremism and the effects of isolation are covered, but Atwood is primarily concerned with humanity's capacity to inflict pain and suffering on it's own kind, irrespective of gender. Although The Handmaid's Tale is often categorised as a 'feminist' work to do so is to marginalise it's message. However, illustrated in both the meticulous characterisation of Offred and the nature of Gilead itself is the human capacity for survival, and in this respect a message of hope emerges. This is one theme of the novel, there are many, many more - a thought provoking, emotive and entertaining work.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent fictional depiction of a future dystopian society, 8 April 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Handmaid's Tale (Contemporary Classics) (Paperback)
This book is one of the best depictions i have read about a anti-utopian future society, along with others like '1984' and 'Brave New World'.
It combines a futuristic reality, feminism and politics to create a very detailed novel considering many different aspects of 'Gilead'.
'Offred' is the complex lead character who draws us into the seemingly perfect but corrupt world of Gilead. Her pain is experienced by the readers who long to remember exactly what she has forgotten, and what she wants to find out.
The experiences she goes through are strange, sometimes outright bizarre,and her world comes crashing down on us.
'The Handmaids Tale' is very thought-provoking, the future of women and indeed the world lies in the actions of today's society, and Atwood uses her perceptions of the present world to support the background of her novel.
Altogether 'The Handmaids Tale offers what all novels should: love, loss, action, comedy(ironic,but appropriate) vision, plot. It plays with all emotions.
A very good read.
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The Handmaid's Tale (Contemporary Classics)
The Handmaid's Tale (Contemporary Classics) by Margaret Atwood (Paperback - 5 July 1996)
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