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.
“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)
I read this book many years ago, and I was interested to hear it performed by one of the A listers. There are a great many reviews of the book already - it is fantastic and important and chilling. It needs to be read.
Claire Danes, however, did a great job with the narration. I won't say fabulous - I do think that she got a little too 'dramatic' with the pauses and timing now and then - but it was a thoroughly enjoyable (?) performance.
Sad, disturbing, borderline scary. What would I do?... But we human can adjust to just about anything... and there will always be love and the quest for belonging, for a touch and for an identity. Great, thought-provoking book. I wish the ending was more revealing...
If there was any sense of the story going anywhere except around in cirlces.
The fact that what little action exists (meaning anything to advance the plot) is mired in irrelevant flashback and endless introspection by the narrator. Listening to this story was frustrating because one needs to put up with a barrage of pointless observations, trivial references and constant reminiscing before the story takes even a half-step formward.
I don't recall ever falling asleep during any parts where Ms. Danes was performing as Aunt Lydia. However, that's not saying much. The rest of the characters were transparent to point of non-existence.
Although most of this book was easily forgettable the scenes in which the narrator recalled her mother were particularly hard to sit through.
I've rarely given up on a book no matter how bad because I always choose to believe that it's got to get better. For me to abandon this audiobook after paying what I consider to be a expensive price, shows how unpleasant listening to this audio book was for me.
I think Claire Danes did as good a job as this material would allow her to do. Unfortunately, despite her talents, the story itself served as nothing more than a sleeping aid for me. I can't believe this book won the Arthur C. Clarke award.
I read this book because it's on a number of top one hundred sci-fi novels lists. The story is interesting and has an original premise.
That said, I'm not a fan (to put it mildly) of stream of consciousness writing. And this story is written largely in that style. I finished the book, but it was a struggle.
I've read another Margaret Atwood novel and I'll probably get kicked out of Canada for saying this, but I'm not a big fan of her style. I know she has a huge following, but her writing is too literary for my simple tastes.
If you don't mind stream of consciousness writing, you may enjoy this feminist dystopian tale.
The main character was still young, but spoke of the past the way a grandchild might speak of the grandparent's time - not the way a person would speak of their own not so distant past. She mentioned a time before when women made rugs in their 'spare time'. As though the hard work that women performed was related to leisure activities - I doubt anyone was familiar with the term 'spare time' when that level of effort was required to maintain a home. It was like the writer wasn't from planet earth, and had just read about it and interpreted the story incorrectly. There was a long introduction of nothing much happening that I thought might lead up to something interesting, but it never did. It reminded of the ramblings of a schizophrenic full of distorted thoughts and hallucinations. A dialog with snippets of songs, books, and TV shows all mixed in with odd references to history, paintings, and school - the pieces not fitting together. A bland recipe with garbage thrown in to spice it up. Altogether a bad experience - I listened for hours, but I just couldn't finish. I didn't care how the character got where she was or what happened after and I certainly didn't want to waste any more time on the story. I wish I could wash the whole thing out of my mind.
This book has been on my wish list for some time. I was just waiting for the right opportunity. So well reviewed! Arthur C. Clarke award. It all sounded amazing, including the synopsis.
I am 3/4 of the way through and I am ready to give up. I remember now why Margaret Atwood was on my blacklist from about 12 years ago. It's all coming back to me.
There is hardly any plot progression. The narration is first person and meanders through an ENDLESS internal dialogue with incessant flashbacks, meanwhile, in the present tense - nothing is happening. Everything is unnecessarily over-described. Every thought, every emotion, every item in the room. The clock, the mantle, the wallpaper in the bathroom (Small flowers, forget-me-nots, purple). I don't need car chases, hijacks and bombs, but this is just exasperating.
I get the symbolism, the eggs, the eyes, the flowers. I get the themes, but it all seems like tokenism. They all seem 'glued onto the outside'.
When I come back to the book, I am rewinding and forwarding through the book, all to try to find the place where I was the last time I listened, to remember what was happening, who did what, who said what, even though it was 4 hours ago when I last listened. There are no plot points to attach a memory to.
I would press on, but I read the ending was a disappointment too...so I am in a dilemma.
I think I just don't like her writing style. 90% of the plot happened in the past and is meted out in tiny portions and almost nothing happens in the present, which is slow and overly descriptive. Not my thing.
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.
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.
former nuclear scientist
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.
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.
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!
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