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 thought the story was slow and jumped around so much that it was frustrating. It was interesting enough that I wanted to finish the story, but then the end was a huge let down. I expected more. I feel like I was left to make up the rest of the story myself. Despite the frustration, Claire Danes did a great job narrarating.
SPOILERS: Well, in a world where fanatics take over, in which the Bible can be taken literally, women are seen as a womb on two legs and that is it. I cringed throughout the whole story, not to say it was terrible, it was mesmerizing. It makes me fear that the rights women currently fight for and are being taken away, state by red state, may lead to this. And another holocaust as the book concludes, to finally have an inside view of what was really going on behind the characters point of view to the rest of the country, as historians look back at the so called theoretical Gilliad Period. A very good read. Makes you appreciate progress and to remember to keep fighting for civil rights when seen fit.
A fantastic story magnificently executed and read by Claire Danes. However, maybe not the best choice to listen to as our country is on the brink of a Christian Right Wing Totalitarian government run by white males intent on disenfranchising equality and defunding women's services.
With the presidential inauguration impending and the wake of a contentious election, this may have been the time to read this book. At first it took me awhile to get into the strange sentence construction of the narrator. Soon though it transported me to a dystopian future rife with fear, control and manipulation of women. The character slowly revealed how this new world worked and how the old one fell apart. She was both believable and annoyingly frustrating in her futile approach to life. I loved and was terrified by how realistic and normalizing this story was. Hands down my favorite chapter was the final one where so many pieces come together in an additionally ambiguous fashion. Must read!
First, the narration was excellent. Her inflection and pacing and all other important elements of narration were flawless. Now, about the story...
*Unpopular Opinion Time*
My actual rating of the story would be more in the 2.5 range.
I missed the boat on this book when it was (and maybe still is) a popular high school read, and just read it -- or listened to it -- for the first time as an adult. I'll go ahead and concede that I might have enjoyed this more if accompanied by a lively discussion in AP English class. As thought-provoking and inherently pro-feminist (more on that later...) as this book was, I feel like there was just something missing from the main character and the overall story. What were Offred's motivations? Yes, she wants her daughter, but I didn't feel like Atwood really developed the character's prevailing sense of maternal yearning and ultimate, if even fool-hearty, goals for herself and possibly her daughter. Basically, during the time that Offred is recording her diary, she has essentially gotten to the point of resigning herself to the diminished and powerless role that the ruling society has assigned her. But, we're getting her deepest thoughts here -- is it too much to hope that she still has enough lingering feelings of outrage and strength-of-will to, at the least, express those feelings within this private forum? When she flashes back to her conversation with Luke about having her rights stripped away, and he says, "you know I'll always protect you," her immediate internal reaction drifts in the appropriate feminist direction, but she dismisses those thoughts and just accepts this as "love." That was a safe environment for Offred, and she still didn't stand up for herself and her gender. So, I suppose it follows that she wouldn't take a stand when the stakes became infinitely higher. It just nags at me that as readers, the inherent feminist themes of the book are left to be deduced and inferred from a bird's eye perspective. Yes, the story inspires outrage, it implies outrage, but I want some more blatant outrage from the main character (if even hidden within a diary).
I didn't really know what to expect going in, but I was riveted right up until the end. Well written and well narrorated, I was enthralled with this 1984-esque tale of dystopia and religious, governmental control as one would a calamity from a safe distance. Told from a woman's point of view, this story gave me chills and much to think about as I pieced together what happened to move a world as modern and parallel to that of our own to one of religious zeal, fear, double think, and oppression.
I would listen to this book again. The story was simply told but very complex. I found myself concentrating on one aspect of the story and thinking about it as I was listening, and at the same time, I realized there were other concepts I wasn't focused on or thinking about. I can see myself getting at couple listens out of this book there is so much in it to think about.
This book didn't make me laugh or cry, but it did give me foreboding chills. I have never read this book before, and a few commenters on news articles I read about recent political developments and actions around the country kept saying that the previously seemingly extreme plot of this book seemed more possible. I was curious and wanted to find out if that was true. I'd heard a lot about this book and wanted to see for myself how dystopian it was and whether or not it seemed more possible now. I have to admit, after reading the book, the seeds that started the plot in this book I can see in current happenings and that did give me chills. I still think the book it extreme in it's premise, extreme to make a point and issue a warning of how easily rights can be taken away and that there are more than a few in this world who would like to take those rights away. While I think A Handmaiden's Tale is still an extreme representation, I know it seems closer to really happening now that it would have if I'd read it a year ago.
The narrator did very well. She conveyed nuance and emotions in a simple, sparely worded story, when often all there was to go on was brief descriptions and spoken words without tone descriptors, the narrator communicated the inflection perfectly to the story!
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