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on 19 September 2017
Oh wow! What a book; I'll be thinking about this extraordinary story long after I've finished reading it. Grim, disturbing, shocking, menacing I had a horrible sense of foreboding every time I picked it up wondering what harrowing circumstances those poor people would have to further endure and the ending just created more unanswered questions and left you wondering about possible scenarios on so many different levels. I couldn't put it down though; this will be hard to beat and it kept me gripped from start to finish; it will be hard to find a book equally as enthralling for a future read.
The book describes a dystopian world where many women have been left barren by nuclear toxicity in an area of North America named Gilead; consequently the new regime forces fertile women to live with the families of high ranking officials in order to provide babies for the elite. It is a terrifying world where women's rights have been taken away from them, for example it is a crime for them to read and write; the handmaids are under the jurisdiction of the ferocious aunts who seem to take pleasure in subjugating their charges by torturing and punishing them for every minor misdemeanour with their inhumane cattle prod.
I loved the symbolism of the book with the handmaids clothed as demure Quakers in long dresses complete with white winged hats which restricted their viewing; yet the dresses were scarlet as opposed to the Marthas attired in brown and the high ranking wives decked in blue; are the handmaids dressed in red because in man's Utopian world he has a vision/ fantasy of women with the subservience and obedience of a Quaker but the sexuality of a scarlet woman? The wives and aunts had control over the handmaids who all lived in fear of being shipped to the colonies where victims there were forced to clear up toxic waste without the benefit of any protective clothing whatsoever which led to their cruel and painful deaths within a few short years. All communities lived in terror and dread of the secret eyes who covertly spied upon the population ready to pick up offenders in their menacing black vans to steal them away to some unspeakable end.
The disturbing ending raised more questions than it answered although some clues are provided in the historical notes which provides further food for thought on the terrifying issues evoked. One thought Offred gave voice to remains chillingly in my head; she stated how humans accept and adapt so quickly and easily to changes in circumstances no matter how bad or wrong those circumstances are. I will finish now for fear of giving too much of the plot away but what a brilliant book, I will be thinking about this for a very long time.
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on 28 May 2018
Living in the future where all women serve one purpose only, which is to recreate, Offred a handmaid relates her story. That of women who are oppressed in a world which crushes any joy and no freedom.
I found this rather disturbing novel a strangely compulsive read. However I’m not sure that I enjoyed it that much,whether it was the style of writing or that I felt it quite long winded, or the fact that in my opinion there are too many unanswered questions. On saying that, I did need to know how it ended.
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on 18 April 2018
I bought this because I'd heard good reviews on the radio. As it turned out, there wasn't as much more to learn by reading it in addition to what I'd gleaned from the reviews as I had expected. I found the writing style rather irritating, but that's just a matter of personal preference. I'm sure that many people would enjoy it. All that said, it is a salutary story about how easy it would be for fundamentalist beliefs to take over our society. In these days of Trump and the Christian far right, we do well to keep it in mind.
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on 18 July 2017
A very thought provoking book indeed. Amazing. It's been on my reading list for ages. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
Found the echoes with what's going on in parts of the world to day uncomfortable.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 17 October 2014
This famous 1980s dystopian novel paints a vivid and bleak portrayal of a repressive regime (Gilead) set up in America after some kind of traditionalist right wing takeover, which involves placing most women in utterly subordinate roles as "baby carriers" for the wives of the ruling men in this society. Indeed, one of the new society's slogan is an ironic distortion of the famous Marxist Leninist slogan: "from each according to her ability, to each according to his needs". The new regime also destroys books, luxury items and clothes, and bans and represses all non-Christian religions, or indeed non-conforming Christians. An interesting scenario, though we don't really find out the back story as to how this perverted society arose until over half way through the novel. The coup apparently involved the massacring of the President and Congress, blamed on Islamic fanatics (though this is a throw away sentence which isn't explored any further); then comes suspension of the Constitution, censorship and closing down of the press, then laws stopping women from holding jobs or owning money or property (or even from reading books or magazines). By the time our unnamed Handmaid is telling her tale, the regime has been in place for a few years, though as she also says that the earlier pre-coup life is well within the memory of 14 year old girls, it seems a little surprising that the new order has embedded itself so completely in such a comparatively short time. We don't find out the ultimate fate of our heroine, though in a postscript set 200 years into the future, her tale is being discussed at an academic conference as a source of evidence of Gileadean theocracy.

Despite this fascinating scenario and the commentary it no doubt provides, to a degree, on right wing Christian fundamentalism in the United States, I didn't really much enjoy reading the novel. I found the author's writing style a bit of a chore in a number of places and novels written in the present tense tend to grate on me. It was sometimes unclear whether the Handmaid was describing events in her present or her past and exactly how other events related to each other in time. So, a significant novel but not, in my view, a great one.
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on 17 October 2017
What more can one add to the fantastic reviews this has received. I only came across it because of the tv series and needed to find out more. I was not disappointed and, whilst the series does not follow the book slavishly, the book stands alone as a very thought provoking read. It's amazing that it was written quite a while ago as the topics covered are very contempory.
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on 17 October 2017
Having failed to watch the TV dramatization beyond the first episode I felt a growing need to find out just what this was about. A very readable and thought provoking book. We know to much about mankind and the brutality of fanatical power to dismiss the story out of hand. It is another rather chilling tale about the inhumanity of man blanketed by a thin veneer of religion.
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on 24 August 2017
Not to my taste. Too long and drawn out. No satisfactory ending.
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on 6 June 2018
I liked the story behind the handrails tale , I am currently watching the Channel 4 adaptation - so thought I would read the book also. Unfortunately I did not find the book as enthralling as the screen adaptation. I found the lack of punctuation very difficult and off putting - I understand the purpose is to create the feelings of haste and fear but this was just poor. The lack of clarity of the events was also slightly disappointing there was no real climactic story , no propped conclusive ending.
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on 7 September 2017
Extraordinary writing: evocative and unsparing. This is the story of a young woman trying to survive a fundamental Christian regime in a chemically toxic world where reproductively healthy women are enslaved to produce offspring for the barren elite.

But this story-telling that reveals the truth inherent in every fundamentalist regime regardless of its flavour and is as relevant now ever. So called Islamic State, Trumpism; National Socialism; the excesses of Capitalism: Margaret Attwood shines a light into the corrupted murkiness but leaves us with at least a ray of hope.
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