I read this book back when it came out in the 80's and liked it very much. I saw a lot of correlations at the time with the women's movement and drew connections to the late sixties and early seventies when I was coming of age. It has been almost 30 years since that reading, but a true classic brings something new to every re-reading.
Now I find that, like all good literature, it adapts and applies itself to each new period. When I began this re-reading I remembered the gist of the story and, along with other Atwood books that I have read, the quality of the writing. I did not expect to be blown away with connections to our current times. Money became obsolete and replaced by the card- no biggie. The environmental and even nuclear destruction elements are a common plot line. A bloody coup by duplicitous, ultraconservative, far right, religious fundamentalists that replace the US government with a monotheistic totalitarian society and then proceed to dumb down all thought by or opportunity for the populace? And they pinned the blame for that demise of the US government on the Muslim countries! And that's just the beginning. Wow!
Obviously, I give this book 5 stars across the board. Claire Danes does a fine job reading this book. She sounds the part and performs perfectly with all the necessary nuance and inflection. A great rendition! I'll look for more from her and will start re-reading Atwood's other works as well.
Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.
First of all, this book is out of my usual genre, but it is chillingly, amazingly one of the best audio books I have listened to. While I listened, I thought, wow, she has captured, without bias, the essence of life in the current times . . . single women sleeping with married men, without shame, lesbian relationships . . . JUST DESCRIBED them . . . no judgement, no hate, no opinion whatsoever. Night clubs, college days, magazines, all the things in the BEFORE time . . . and then everything changed. Then the US government was overthrown, and the state of Gilead began. What is so engaging and refreshing about this book is the author's ability to suss out tiny bits of truth, which you have to really listen to catch. Before the take over of the government, Bibles were freely available, in every hotel room night stand. Afterward, they are locked up, only for the Commanders to read, and then only on special occasions. Scripture is taken completely out of context. Hymns of mercy and grace are banned in Gilead. The handmaid wistfully remembers churches and the freedom to sing in the BEFORE time. She spends a lot of time examining her own life before and after. The relationships formed by the handmaids is touching and encouraging to me. That mercy and love survives in times of persecution, in fact thrives during it, is the evidence of a God who never forsakes those who are suffering. There are strong parallels between the Jews in World War II and this fictional Gilead, as well as between the extreme treatment of women in the Muslim faith. Evil is evil. Period. There is nothing Christian about Gilead, let's make that clear. People have been doing evil in the name of God for centuries. What they did and are still doing is making themselves into mini gods . . . and yes, this could happen, even here in the USA.
This is the story of a conquered United States, that has been taken over by a radical religious government. Within this new nation, women have lost their identity except for a few. Those few reign above other women, thus keeping the masses in line. Offred is a handmaid, her healthy body in this toxic world has one purpose, to reproduce for the sterile women of the ruling government. Her story is of this oppressive existence and how it came to be.
The narration of Claire Danes was brilliant. She was able to create a subtle enough difference between the character voices to be effective but not distracting, A+. Her portrayal of emotion was also perfectly appropriate and natural without intruding on my own interpretation of the story. The production team could have done a better job with smoothing out some of the strong "s" sounds, but that is my only issue with the audio. I would give it 4.5 stars for the listen.
Read the book.
You might have the same lifetime reading experience that I have. There are books I have read, some I recall from childhood (Where the Red Fern Grows, for example) that have a definite Before and After effect on my life. There is life before reading, and an unmistakable demarcation of life after reading them. I get to the end and can feel myself slipping the book onto my inner "After" shelf. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood, is, for me, one of these books.
Wow...where to begin. Words to describe this story: Brilliant. Terrifying. Brutal. Hopeful. Hopeless. Bleak. Disturbing. Intimate. Believable.
As I progressed through the story and my relationship with Offred developed, through Atwood's very effective first-person perspective, I became more and more aware of just how easily we could find ourselves in Offred's situation under the same circumstances. The empathy that Atwood was able to create and stimulate was chilling. There was an almost palpable sense of Atwood's struggle in Offred's story. She was very effective in staying true to the narration perspective of the character. She didn't deviate from what Offred experienced and saw. I could feel the struggle in Offred's psyche; her shock, her hopelessness, her disgust, and then her acceptance, and then her shame.
This is probably the most powerful and well written book about what it means to be a woman, and our human vulnerability to oppression and fear, that I have ever read. When Offred loses her job and then has her bank account frozen, and her husband comes home and she tells him about it, and he says "we'll be okay." Offred's reaction, where she realizes that he not only doesn't get it from her pespective, and doesn't seem to be "upset enough," but that it almost seems as if he could maybe like it a little bit...that was magnificent. I want my friend to read this book. I've been talking about it all week. My friend is a man. I'm not sure if a man can truly appreciate the depth and affect of this story. I hope so.
The ending... I thought it was absolutely perfect. I won't spoil it, but it is what pushed it over the edge to definitely be a "Before and After" book. And I will point out that I mean this for both endings...the story ending and the "historical note" ending. Both perfect.
No time to read, so love the audio books!
I read this book years ago and could not resist getting the audio to experience it in a different medium. Wonderful. Loved the narration by Ms Danes. The story is still as powerful to hear as to read.
This is the perfect book for a casual reader or a literary connoisseur. It's beautifully composed with an engaging and occasionally frustrating unreliable narrator. I think the title doesn't do the novel justice. It's compelling and modern, while possessing great depth and a timeliness that's almost frightening. Danes as the narrator is simply icing on an already rich and complex cake.
Regular Amazon shopper
I selected this book based on three things (in this order): 1) It was a recommendation by Audibel. 2) It had a high star rating. 3). It was narrated by Claire Danes. I knew nothing else about it, which is probably a good thing as I had no expectations.
The Handmaid's Tale was gripping. I couldn't wait to get back to the story to see what would happen next, each and every time I had to turn it off. I was obsessed! And Claire Danes was spectacular. Sadly, she has spoiled me, as I now hold every other narrator to her impeccable standard of storytelling.
Looking for complex, believable characters, an engaging storyline, and good narration! Fan of sci-fi, fantasy, adventure, and horror.
This story really put me in a dark place. I've had a bad string of listens lately and even though this book is very well written and had excellent narration by Claire Danes, it was not the best experience for me. Maybe I'm too sensitive? I really felt like I was a prisoner in a religious dictatorship, so kudos to Margaret Atwood for transporting me to this world, even though its not a nice place to be.
The handmaid is telling her story in her head. It is rambling and jumps around from memory to memory, as if she is going over details so that she doesn't forget them. After some time it becomes apparent that she is a basically a slave with no rights and having no access to pen and paper, she is fine tuning her tale in her mind in the hopes of recording it one day. She doesn't want to forget one single detail. So sometimes she muses on flowers, or the ceiling above her head. Her confinement and feelings of helplessness come across so clearly that it made it hard for me to finish. Not having a name, not being allowed to speak, not being able to touch another person unless directed to do so, are things that have worn this woman down to a nub and all she has left is the voice in her head.
Why is she a prisoner? What happened to society? These answers unfold very slowly and not in a linear manner. Warning! This story is very depressing with hardly any pay off in the end!! But at the end you will have a greater appreciation for the small freedoms in life.
I'm a web developer based out of Sacramento, I listen to books while I work, and love audible.
This was a great story of a Dystopian future where women are basically slaves. It all starts when the military kills congress and the president, then blames it on muslim extremists and institutes measure to keep every one "safe". Such as outlawing protesting and most basic rights we have.
This was written in the 80s, but the pretext of muslim extremists used to take away civil liberties, somehow makes me wonder of the author could see the future.
A well-written and interesting dystopian novel. Given how famous it is, I was a bit disappointed. But I tend to be a little impatient with the method of narration that keeps many things mysterious and leaks out what's going on bit by bit. Still, it's an impressive feat of imagination. The narration was decent, but somewhat lacking in variety of voice or tone.