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The Handmaid's Tale | [Margaret Atwood]

The Handmaid's Tale

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name....
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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential - Margaret Atwood’s modern classic is one of the most stunning and powerful works of speculative fiction ever written, and it took a lot of careful consideration to determine who would best narrate this important book. Claire Danes elevates the frightening dystopic vision by lending a sheen of reality with her performance. She doesn't act, and she doesn't need to. She recounts. She breathes out the tale as if she is living it. Resigned, beaten down, traveling through hell by putting one step ahead of the other. I was utterly convinced by her performance. —Emily

Publisher's Summary

Audie Award, Fiction, 2013

Margaret Atwood's popular dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale explores a broad range of issues relating to power, gender and religious politics. Multiple Golden Globe award-winner Claire Danes (Romeo and Juliet, The Hours) gives a stirring performance of this classic in speculative fiction, one of the most powerful and widely read novels of our time.

After a staged terrorist attack kills the President and most of Congress, the government is deposed and taken over by the oppressive and all controlling Republic of Gilead. Offred, now a Handmaid serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife, can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Despite the danger, Offred learns to navigate the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules in hopes of ending this oppression.

The Handmaid's Tale is part of Audible’s A-List Collection, featuring the world’s most celebrated actors narrating distinguished works of literature that each star had a hand in selecting. For more great books performed by Hollywood’s finest, click here.

©1985 Margaret Atwood (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“Claire Danes sparkles in this performance…Danes’s Offred is complex, and her flashes of intense strength highlight her vulnerability. This is a consuming listen, thanks to Danes’s emotional subtleties.” (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    jack annapolis, MD, United States 06-04-13
    jack annapolis, MD, United States 06-04-13 Member Since 2009
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    "A poorly thought out concept"

    The majority of people in the world would be happy to live in the society and the political system described herein. It would be a vast improvement in their current circumstances. This would include about half of the people in the United States. Almost all of the people in Central and South America, Almost all of the people in Russia and Eastern Europe, Almost all of Africa, most of the middle East and most of Asia.
    For perhaps 2/3 of the world's population their circumstances would be vastly improved by living in Gilead. There would be ample food and shelter, ample jobs and freedom from. Granted their would no be romance, but romance is not present where there is an absence of food and shelter and people are in survival mode. Think Uganda, Rwanda, The Congo, Iran,Iraq,Syria North Korea, Appalachia, Detroit and compare them to the handmaids circumstances and their is no contest. I would opt for the benevolent fascist state described here.
    What makes it scary for most reader's is it has happened to well educated, wealthy Wasps in the United States, some of whom have been deprived of some simple privileges. They can't smoke or drink alcohol easily, they can't read magazines, they can't get ice cream, and sometimes they can't randomly choose their mates and sex. Most people in the world don't have these privileges. Also, they are stuck in a cast system. Most people in the world have a cast system or class system.
    Mrs Atwood is a very talented writer and able to make ordinary events quite scary by renaming them or using them in a different context. For instance by renaming Senators commanders they take on a more Sinister identity (although I'm not certain anything could be more sinister than a senator). Their wives have become sterile and the need proxy carriers for their babies (not that much different than the wealthy do now). As, I mentioned Margaret Atwood is a talented writer and able to use language to convey an ominous mood that disappears when examined in the light of day. I should also mention that all of the Ethnics in our current society seem to have disappeared without explanation. Maybe this is the scary part. All of the Jews (all 12 million of them have emigrated to Israel). unless they were loud or obnoxious and they were dealt with differently (not that different then current society). All of the black people and Latinos have disappeared The disappearance of ethnic diversity may be a little bit scary.
    I agree that Clare Danes reading is first class and almost makes one forget about how silly this book is compared to reality which is really scary. What is surprising is the willing suspension of disbelief of the readers who have evaluated this book and that any thinking person could take this book seriously after we have lived through Nazi Germany.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brenda CENTRAL POINT, OR, United States 06-01-13
    Brenda CENTRAL POINT, OR, United States 06-01-13 Member Since 2011
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    "That's It?!"

    Claire Danes narration is flawless and totally believable. The story sort of grabs you and leads you down a path but the ending---no...that can not be the end...I went back and looked for another section---nothing...I back up the player to see if I missed something--nope...the end is just the end- no resolution, no nothing- just a good-bye-that's-all. Somebody should really finish the story.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynbee San Jose, CA, United States 02-01-13
    Cynbee San Jose, CA, United States 02-01-13 Member Since 2012

    former nuclear scientist

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A maudlin take on an alternate history"

    This book has an interesting premise: in an alternate history where sometime in the late 80s a series of environmental and nuclear disasters renders white people in the USA almost infertile, society devolves into patriarchal religious fascism where state-sanctioned - even mandated - sexual slavery goes on. Women known to be fertile are coerced into becoming handmaidens for the childless powerful. A rigid society with restrictions on everyone is imposed; life is simultaneously revered and discarded when personality is inconvenient.

    We learn bits and pieces of this story through the stream-of-consciousness narrative of a nameless handmaiden, whose slave name is "of Fred," indicating that she is trying to conceive a child for Fred. It could have been a powerful reflection on the power of mass hysteria to remake history, if it weren't so excruciatingly maudlin. It sounds like a high school sophomore's diary, like a fourteen year old girl fat with amorphous resentment, an unconscious undermining of greater tragedy. Did you like that sentence? Because then you might like this book. Atwood doesn't limit herself to one simile when she could use three or four, and loves nonsensical metaphors such as "geometric roundness of the words." These could have been delightful if sprinkled judiciously throughout the book, but instead this type of sentence makes up 80% of the narrative portion, which in turn makes up 80% of the novel.

    I am biased against stream-of-consciousness writing, as it can be hard to follow without actually slipping into the delights of magical realism. Here it was at times very difficult to understand. It's possible that in the book, reminisces are italicized, but Claire Danes, as talented and decorated an actress as she is, cannot italicize her voice. She brings an urgency to every sentence that conflicts with the self-described lassitude of the character, and she often infuses a laugh into her voice that turns bitterness into sardonicism and tragedy into irony. I felt like the narrator was untouched by the story, instead of recounting something that has happened to her. Plus, I've watched too much Homeland recently and I kept picturing Carrie Mathison in every scene. I found it distracting, hence the relatively low rating for the performance.

    The end, which recounts faux future historians examining the narrative and trying to explain away some of the many flaws in the story, attempts to drive home America's fall from grace and gives some British characters the chance to ridicule the treatment of women during "The Gilead Period." It lets them pretend that they never treated women similarly, much as they pretend that slavery was only an American institution. I did find this summing up somewhat interesting, since it gave the author an excuse to probe the various aspects of such a society, but it mostly served to make the story feel outdated. I wasn't surprised to hear at the end that the copyright was 1986.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pamela M. Southern California 10-17-12
    Pamela M. Southern California 10-17-12 Member Since 2012

    A book can get you out of your house, your town, even out of the country. I'm an avid reader believing reviews help find the good ones.

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    "Intense & Frightening!"

    A friend of mine recommended this book because she knew I liked unique reads.
    This book is unlike any book I have ever come across. Much of it was written in short sentences and didn’t have a flow to it that was easy to follow. It took me awhile to surrender to this but once I did I found it quite engaging. Claire Danes was monotone in her narration, however it fit the story.

    This book is a dystopian fable with a frightening view of the future. Women are treated as nameless “its”. They have no freedoms or rights and are valued by their ability to birth healthy normal babies. If you’re into dystopian you will probably enjoy this if your not I think you may like it but not love it! Women-libbers are going HATE it!

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Doug D. Eigsti Colorado Springs, Colorado United States 04-03-13
    Doug D. Eigsti Colorado Springs, Colorado United States 04-03-13 Member Since 2013

    Increasing my ops tempo by allowing storytellers to whisper in my ear(buds).

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Anti-Capitalist Anti-Christian Dystopian Fable"

    I found this to be a pointless and depressing book. The characters are very human in their frailties and susceptibility to Political Correct thinking. I can see echoes of our own society in this book, but what I see is coming from the statists already in power and not from the religious wing of the populace. Hypocrisy is, of course, a theme in any such work, and, ironically, this one gets quite preachy when it comes to the dangers of religiosity. Several times the subject of the abolishment of abortion is raised as if it were some great symbolic tragedy indicative of the decline of the America that once was. I found the protagonist to be as sort of anti-heroine. She does not inspire us to greatness. But her plight does cause us to reflect on what we might do in similar circumstances. No causes are offered. No solutions. The life of the Handmaid is pointless.

    Clare Danes is a fine reader. I found her narration quite droll and sarcastic throughout which fits the text. After a few chapters her voice warms up and some emotion occasionally creeps into the text.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Benoibe New Orleans, LA, United States 01-28-13
    Benoibe New Orleans, LA, United States 01-28-13 Member Since 2010

    Audio-addict!!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A classic. Narration is OUTSTANDING!"

    This book fills me with despair. However, it is important and is a must-read.

    Claire Danes' performance is absolutely amazing. I was wary of famous actors as narrators. Once I started listening, I realized Danes is a natural. She adds a special something to this story, making this audiobook as classic and essential as the book itself!

    More Claire Danes!!!

    5 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jessica Smarr 08-24-15 Member Since 2015
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    "There's a reason it's a 'classic'"
    What made the experience of listening to The Handmaid's Tale the most enjoyable?

    I absolutely devoured this book. It maintains the suspense throughout with slow, maintained reveals throughout the story. It's paced beautifully. The character development is also incredibly believable. While I sometimes had a hard time suspending my disbelief in regards to the plot and the built world, the characters are heartbreakingly realistic.


    What other book might you compare The Handmaid's Tale to and why?

    For me, this book is the feminist sister to "1984" and "Brave New World."


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Biering Stone Mountain, GA United States 08-20-15
    Mark Biering Stone Mountain, GA United States 08-20-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Just as involving and as devastating as ever"

    I enjoyed this just a much as I did when I first read it back in the 80's - probably more, as Danes' narration really does add something to the material. She has a good feel for the characters, especially the protagonist (as you would hope), and does a fine job of conveying Offred's emotional state as she's dragged through one indignity after another.

    The few technical details that might seem dated don't detract from the story - it just feels like an alternate version of the USA, one where many things headed in different directions than our version.

    As always, Margaret Atwood's lovely, poetic prose adds a delicious sense of gravity and portent to every scene.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    olivia 08-19-15
    olivia 08-19-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Horrible"

    Hard to follow. Too many unanswered questions. I bought it because of the ratings, boy was I wrong. What a waste of credit.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    joylina Distel 08-18-15 Member Since 2015
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    "Starts slow but interesting"

    This book was one that starts slow and carefully unfolds itself to allow you to see traits in society and people you can identify with.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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