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.
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©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 loved this story. It is hard to believe that it is already 30 years old. It could be written today and carry the same weight. We, as society, ought to be more careful with our freedoms and heed Stwood's warning against apathy.
The story is beautifully told, yet there are so many questions unanswered. The book seems to be like a cautionary tale, like so many stories, to people who live there lives without questioning authority. That if we become complacent, we to could end up like so many of the characters in this fictional work of art.
Atwood's use of language and simile creates a gripping tale of one women's memories of life prior and during a dystopia society. While fictional works on such societies are popular (consider the recent popularity of youth novels like Hunger Games or Divergent) not many deal with the transitional phases of a society into a totalitarian regime. Claire Danes's narration of the work is beautiful but hard, which lends itself perfectly to the writing style. It is hard not get wrapped up in Offred's world and feel concern, worry and dread for her. Be advised, you will want to listen at all times. I found myself working out, driving, working and folding laundry to this reading. It's nearly impossible to stop.
It's important when reviewing a book to appreciate it for what it really is and not what you want it to be. If this book had done what I wanted, had resolved neatly, had given me a fairy tale ending, it's possible I would have liked it more, but it most likely would have impacted me less. As it is, the writing is lovely, if not laboriously descriptive and the narration is captivating. I also found myself thinking about women all over the world who face similar circumstances, not in some dystopian future, but right now, today. Highly recommend.
This is one of my favorite books, and the audio version did not disappoint. Really enjoyed the narration, and it is incredibly written.
I puzzled over how to rate this book. (My first review.)
On one hand, it was well written by Margaret Atwood and expertly delivered by Claire Danes.
On the other hand, I didn't *like* it. I hate that Offred may have had a happy ending, or may have had an even worse ending than what she had suffered thus far. I don't like not knowing. I hate how it made me seriously consider the possibility of such a regime in my own world, and the true stories of oppression abroad that I read about in the news. This book's dark subject matter and the way I became immersed adversely affected my daily mood and overall happiness for the duration of my listening.
So, I don't like the book.
But it did change me and my perspective. ...and is that not the hallmark of an excellent book?
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