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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

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  •  
    Julie 04-17-14
    Julie 04-17-14
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    "Interesting, futuristic, Clare Danes is great!"

    The title sounded familiar so I thought I would try it. I was surprised to find out that it was an older book. The story was a little bizarre but interesting. At the end, I guess I needed a little more explanation of what happened to her and her family. Very futuristic, not usually my first pick but I did enjoy the listen.
    The narration was great!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Drew (@drewsant) Watertown, MA, United States 04-08-14
    Drew (@drewsant) Watertown, MA, United States 04-08-14 Member Since 2012

    Post apocalyptic listener with some thrillers mixed in. Follow me on twitter at @drewsant

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    "Too ridiculous, poor performance"

    I’ll preface my review by saying that I couldn’t get through “The Handmaid’s Tale”. The whole idea of the way the society is structured was just too ridiculous for me and coming from someone who likes zombie books that’s saying a lot. I enjoyed the way the book jumped between the present and giving glimpses of the past, but getting more than 50% through the book and not really knowing what happened to make the world transition was annoying. Also through the first half the author does a good job of putting you in the story but the story doesn’t really move anywhere. I was going to continue through and finish it but then I realized I don’t like the books so I should spend my time reading something I would actually enjoy.

    Claire Danes reads the book rather than narrates it. There is very little (if any) distinction between the voices of the characters. Her reading of the book is flat which may be her trying to convey the subservience of the women in the book but just makes the book seem even less interesting.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donald E. Campbell Pearl, MS USA 04-06-14
    Donald E. Campbell Pearl, MS USA 04-06-14 Member Since 2012

    reader

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    "Needs to be updated post 9/11"
    Any additional comments?

    I remember the first time I read this book -- it was in the mid-1990s. It was at the time of the rise of the Religious Right. And let me say -- I really though this could happen. It was scary. This time through, after 9/11, I was a little less impressed. It's not that I do not believe that a religious oligarchy could not gain power in the US, but the way it happened in this book was a little forced. It just seemed to happen too quickly and the response was too one-sided (fundamentalist). I know that Atwood had to do this to have a character straddling the old life and the new, but the timing seemed forced. If she were rewriting it today, I wonder if she would incorporate a slower more evolutionary move toward a society that no one recognizes today. For example, Supreme Court opinions that give more and more rights to corporations, the growing income inequality gap, the dysfunctional legislative system, and the use of technology to monitor citizens. All of these lead to a society that is very different from what exists today. I can't help but wonder how Atwood's Gilead would look with these current features taken into account.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Merideth 04-01-14
    Merideth 04-01-14 Member Since 2013
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    "A great book made even better...."

    Absolutely phenomenal narration!! One of the best Audio books I have listened to. This book has been on my 'To Read' pile for almost a year now. When I came upon the audio version and listened to a sample I knew I could wait no longer. Claire Danes brings the book to life. She delivers every emotion so perfectly that you almost feel like your part of it. Several times while listening to this I found that I had stopped moving altogether and was so entranced by the story I hadn't noticed. I could have gone on listening for days!
    There are so many layers to this book but it feels so simple at the same time. When Offred is remembering her past and its so much like life today its easy to see how life could be when she transitions her story to her present life. Its easy to see how this could happen just by watching the news. Of all the dystopian books I have to say this one hit home. Considering it was written in the 80's and rings true to all our fears today is astonishing. It wasn't a fight to the death for survival like so many newer books are, but begs the question. What do you do when everyone you love is already gone, and you have no idea who to trust? Who do you ask if they're still alive? And more so, with the atrocities you have heard of or witnessed, do you even want to know. Or would it be better just to believe them safe. To believe them dead. I can't even imagine, yet after hearing this book you have to wonder... what if?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gillian Austin, TX, United States 03-30-14
    Gillian Austin, TX, United States 03-30-14 Member Since 2015

    SciFi/Fantasy and Classics to History, Adventure and Memoirs to Social Commentary—I love and listen to it all!

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    "Flawless Narration of Beautiful Prose!"

    I read The Handmaid's Tale quite some time ago but read such amazing reviews of Clare Danes I was drawn into getting the audible version. What a breathtaking experience.
    In the first place, Margaret Atwood's world building abilities here really shine. Everything is covered in the country of Gilead, the lead up to the overthrow of the world as we know it, the new political structure, religion, tension outlets (via partaking in executions) for the Handmaids, daily life and the lack of reading opportunities for women as they shop (all in pictures: mustn't have literate women!), and a shady underworld that shows that, for the powerful, things are just as seedy as they've ever been. So much thought has been put into every scene, every image, it's almost impossible not to be drawn in by it all, totally blown away by the world we get to walk through. I really, really appreciate being completely pulled into stories, and it's very rare. Hell, it's five-star rare!
    I've never been a huge fan of Clare Danes, didn't dislike her mind you, simply have never thought much of her one way or another. But her delivery of the story is heartbreaking, moving, confusing: she completely inhabits the skin, the very soul and spirit of Offred (and it was genius on Atwood's part that we never know her name, though it's alluded to). As one other reviewer pointed out, she is the character, she is the story, down to the inhalation of a puff of a cigarette. How can you not find that to be a sheer delight? How can you not be that person yourself?
    Treat yourself to this book. I'm not an Everything-Atwood kind of person, but this book is written so fluidly, with such beautiful metaphors, and such powerful word choices, it's hard not to shout it from the rooftops. With Danes at the helm, guiding is through, it's a five-star home run, well worth the credit, well worth the time. Brava to both women!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Simonton Texas, USA 03-25-14
    J. Simonton Texas, USA 03-25-14 Member Since 2012

    Fun Happens

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    "My favorite listen so far"
    Where does The Handmaid's Tale rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is in the top two books I have listened to. I bought this as a Deal of Day because I love Claire Danes. The story is amazing and her narrtion was spot on. I can't believe I had never heard of this book before, but once I mentioned it to a few friends they all told me how much they loved it. I was afraid this might set my expectations too high, but I was not disappointed at all.


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

    It really made me think of Going Clear- the story does not seem that far fetched when compared to small factions of religious extremism we see today. Up against what is reported about oppression occurring today in Saudi Arabia, Scientology or polygamous cults, this book is terrifyingly plausible.


    What about Claire Danes’s performance did you like?

    Her tone was perfect. She showed the right amount of emotion at the appropriate moments. At first it didn't really sound like how I remembered her voice being. But then I was probably thinking of her in My So Called Life from my teen years, so it isn't surprising that she sounds much more grown up now.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I definitely was left wanting more, just a few more minutes each time I had to put the audibook down for a bit. I really wish there was a sequel, but in a way that might mess up the perfect ending to this book.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carolina Montreal, QC, Canada 03-25-14
    Carolina Montreal, QC, Canada 03-25-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Freedom, like anything else, is relative"

    Originally posted at: A Girl that Likes Books

    Why I read this book

    Last year (2013) I read my first book from Margaret Atwood, The Edible Woman, and loved it. The way she threw fiction elements while making a very impressive critique of society was amazing for me, and so I wanted to keep reading her work. The Handmaid's Tale has been mentioned several times as an iconic part of her work and when I saw it on my recommended on Audible it was a no brainer to get myself a copy.

    What the book is about

    The book is set in a dystopian future, taking place mostly in what used to be Massachusetts. After a "terrorist" attack, a theocratic, Christian regime has taken over. Women have lost any right they might've had and all "sinners" (homosexuals, people who committed adultery, people of other faiths) have been either killed or "re educated" (are you cringing already?) . The story is told by a woman we learn to know as Offred, this implying that she is a possession of a man with Fred on his surname. Offred has been made a Handmaid which in this new country, more than servant, implies child bearer. It is explained through the book that due to chemical contamination, radiation and other factors, procreation has been in declined in the country, and hence the government have established that officials not only have a wife, but also access to women (the handmaids) that will carry their child, sort off surrogate mothers. After delivery, the child is given to the wife to raise. Offred's destiny depends on her submission and her ability to bear children.

    First impressions

    Listening to this book was hard, mostly because of the way women are treated, but also because you feel that this speculative work of fiction could easily take place again (references to other theocratic regimes are easily spotted, particularly Iran). Jumps from present to past are sometimes abrupt, but it carries a good feeling of how train of thought sometimes takes place and, in my case at least, makes the connection with the protagonist even deeper. That type of writing made me feel pain, angst and helplessness as Offred was feeling them too.

    Final thoughts

    Is hard for me to put into words my final thoughts. See, I have a lot of feelings when I think of this book, but they are not easy to put into paper, simply because they touch so deep. But let's try.

    I felt rage as a woman, at to how women were treated. I've read some other reviews saying "well this would never happen; oh our society would never let this happen to women". And yet look at all the contraception legislation in the USA, most of the definitions are being taken by male politicians, and people are going with it.

    I felt afraid of this being a plausible thing, maybe not right now where I am, but somewhere in the world there is right now a totalitarian movement, feeding, slowly maybe, and growing and getting more and more powerful. There are things that seem to happen suddenly when you are far away, but is just because you weren't in site to see the tiny changes that carried a big one. And this applies to any type of changes, positive or negative, particularly since this label is so subjective. The critic about how money was not physical anymore hit a stroke in me. I never thought about how I rely on plastic more and more. Not on credit, but I use my debit card most of the time and hence my contact with physical money has been decreasing more and more.

    I felt sad at the different situations Offred had to go through, leaving her past behind, having so many memories, so many loved ones that she lost, almost overnight.

    I felt a bit frustrated at the end of the book, because I wanted more closure, but at the same time, the way the author rounds the whole thing up, made me "forgive" the not knowing.

    I loved Claire Danes as a narrator. At first I thought her tone was a bit flat, but this was at very beginning when the character was just stating facts. As emotions surged, as different characters appeared, so did new tones, new inflictions in her voice that made me get more into the whole story.

    Nobody dies of lack of sex, is lack of love we die from

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Megan St. Louis, MO, United States 03-24-14
    Megan St. Louis, MO, United States 03-24-14
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    "Great read for the post-apocalyptic narrative fan"
    What did you love best about The Handmaid's Tale?

    Claire Danes gives the narrator a chilling real-life quality in this war/post war dystopia. A great selection if you are looking for a beautiful and tragic novel.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ronald Albury Cincinnati, OH USA 03-15-14
    Ronald Albury Cincinnati, OH USA 03-15-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Slow paced but well done."

    An interesting book - interesting look at the future. However, do NOT expect action. At first I thought this would be sort of like Hunger Games and kept waiting for "things"to get going. However, once I got over my preconceptions I found I enjoyed the book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    T. Cox NC 03-11-14
    T. Cox NC 03-11-14
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    "Attention Author: Stop while your ahead!"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    The last chapter is boring, and a waste. The story of this woman deserved a much better finale. The author jumps right into this confusing tale, without warning. She continues to jump around throughout.


    Has The Handmaid's Tale turned you off from other books in this genre?

    The quasi historical lecture at the end, it was unnecessary and boring. The author could have made this a much better story by following with the woman's story to the end.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    No.


    Any additional comments?

    Claire Dane's was the best part of this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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