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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

4.1 (3433 )
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Performance
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  •  
    T. White 07-01-14
    T. White 07-01-14
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    2
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    "Unbelievable"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    A better premise for the story. Only read this if you have given up all hope for the future.


    What could Margaret Atwood have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    I prefer uplifting books. This one is not.


    What aspect of Claire Danes’s performance would you have changed?

    She was fine. The problem was the book.


    What character would you cut from The Handmaid's Tale?

    I wish I could get all of these characters out of my head. They are all depressing.


    Any additional comments?

    This a good one to skip.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nyoka Brownstown, MI, United States 11-09-13
    Nyoka Brownstown, MI, United States 11-09-13 Member Since 2011

    Nyoka Mullins

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    "Totally Bored to Death"

    I found nothing at all interesting in this book, I should have sent it back, but for $4.95 I just suffered it out, it had not plot, nothing at all made sense to me...would not recommend to anyone, even if it's free

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    carole Portland, OR, United States 10-09-13
    carole Portland, OR, United States 10-09-13
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    "The Handmaid's Tale"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    This story is stupid. It takes forever to get to the story and even then it's so stupid. It could've been a good story but the reader and story was very boring.


    How did the narrator detract from the book?

    The read just read the book.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Handmaid's Tale?

    most of it.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    History Buff Maryland 08-27-13
    History Buff Maryland 08-27-13 Member Since 2005

    Grace

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    "I read the eBook, didn't listen"

    Well, I'm basically rating this just to get it checked off. I had previously purchased the Kindle version and forgot about it. Then, when I wanted to read it, I thought I would listen to it--especially when I heard Claire Danes was narrating it. I've never heard a book by her (to my knowledge), but thought I knew something about her.

    Well, I really disliked the book, so didn't want listen to it!! Sorry, just wasn't my cup-of-tea!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Trick Brown Proud and ashamed to be from the Empire State. 08-09-13
    Trick Brown Proud and ashamed to be from the Empire State. 08-09-13 Member Since 2013

    Just enjoying my readin', 'ritin', and 'rithmatic.

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    "A thoughtful read, if and only if, you think about"

    The Handmaid's Tale is a relatively "old" book in that it was first published in 1985, but it is still popular/well-known. This is not surprising as Margaret Atwood is one of those author’s whose work will endure as "literature" and she will still be well known in 100 years. That is, unless the Handmaid's Tale is prophetic and all secular literature is burned.

    Don't worry, it won't be. However, it does have some elements that could be argued as being a caricature of modern day happenings. There are plenty of reviews out there that give a run down of the plot and how they feel it's all happening right now. No doubt many of these reviews are from women, and justifiably so since this book "speaks to them". So I'm going to discuss the subtext of the novel, and hopefully, I can get a few guys to read this book because there is stuff in it for them.

    The background story is that The United States has been taken over by religious fundamentalists. The religion is never mentioned by name, but it is clearly Christian/Jewish/Islamic. When it comes to their respective flavors of fundamentalism, they all bear a striking resemblance to one another whether they want to admit it or not. This is not surprising, since they all worship the same god and use overlapping religious texts. If you're curious about the tale of how this happened, this is not the book for you. After all, this is the Handmaid's Tale. All you get is the story of one woman starting probably about 10 years after an event called "The President's Day Massacre", i.e. the coup where the fundamentalists took over.

    Personally, I do not think such a regime could take over in such a simple manner, but what followed after the coup is more plausible. As I said, we don't get much of this story directly, but we hear snippets of how, slowly, over the course of weeks and months, oppressive policies are implemented and they are always implemented for the same reasons that such policies are implemented today. Namely, the safety of the public, the betterment of society, etc. At the same time, women are slowly and unequally stripped of their rights.

    If you think that women could never be usurped of their identities in this way, and no one would stand for it, blah, blah, blah. You are wrong. All it takes is the right social pressure. Imagine a scenario where the number of women capable of bearing children is cut to a small percentage. They then become a "national resource". (My words, not the author's.) When it comes to resources, there will always be people (usually men, and this is coming from a man) in power who will want to exploit and seize control of such resources. This is how such things can happen. And this is the scenario used by Atwood in The Handmaid's Tale.

    When I was younger, I probably would never have bought that line of reasoning and not terribly enjoyed this story. As I've aged to a venerable 40 years and some of my Platonic idealism has tarnished, I have learned to accept that "the masses" don't get as outraged as individuals do. Most of the time, groups of people are scared when it comes to dramatic change and accept it if fed the line that it is temporary and for the good of all. Most of the time, these changes are never about being for the good of all, they are simply about control.

    A past example to show even women are not above this: The Temperance movement to abolish alcohol. Propelled by religious minded women, fresh with their new ability to vote. Despite Jesus being pro-wine they felt it their duty to rid the world of drink. You can argue the details all you want, but at the end of the day, it was about asserting power and control.

    A modern example: For the past 12 years, the U. S. citizens have been force fed the line that we are all living under a faceless threat of "Terror" and in this time we have fought two wars, one of which we are still fighting, and most of us don't really know why, other than we are "fighting terror". These wars are not as openly covered as the Vietnam War, because our government has learned that atrocities that are not visited daily are quickly forgotten because people prefer to stick their head in the sand. And so people forget. They don't get outraged. They simply accept the situation because it is supposedly temporary, for the good of us all, for all our safety, blah, blah, blah. What are we looking to control? Some say oil, others say that the area is strategically located real estate. Regardless, it is about control.

    So do I think a "fast coup" could take over and make such radical changes? No. But a slow insidious change over the course of a decade or two? Well, I have seen it with my own eyes, so yes, the scenario in The Handmaid's Tale is plausible to me, but I know that such a shift would happen over years, not months. Anyone who thinks otherwise is sticking their fingers in their ears, closing their eyes, and repeating the above blah, blah, blahs.

    A possible future example that's been a long time in the making: During the 80's (my youth) religious fundamentalists (in this country) blew up abortion clinics because they were outraged and wanted change. Presumably, they wanted things to return to the way they were when abortions were illegal, in back allies with coat hangers. Just in my lifetime, they have since learned that getting people upset only motivates them to stand with or against you. And if you're the one blowing up teenagers, it's tough to motivate people to stand with you. They have taken their fight political, a realm where everybody's eyes glaze over and become dispassionate, and they have slowly set about making laws against birth control and abortion clinics. As someone who is pro-choice, I can't say all of these laws are bad. Many are simply requiring clinics to uphold standard medical cleanliness practices. The laws that really hurt, are the laws that reduce or eliminate funding preventing the clinics from having the money to be able to upgrade their facilities and are forced to shut down. You can tell this is about the control of others and not about any religious objection because the number one cited religious reason is the belief that life begins at conception. Rather than supporting research for birth control that simply prevents conception, they politically attack all avenues of abortion and birth control. So even if you address their concerns, it does not change the way they behave.

    Leaving the examples and subtext behind, back to the story at hand. The Handmaid's Tale is true literature, thus by practical definition, this makes the story a little slow and boring at points. When I was in college, I had to take plenty of slow and boring classes that I thought were of minimal value. However, I quickly learned that it is possible to garner lessons from and learn something from every class and that is what I set out to do. I took it upon myself to walk away with something for my time and money. This book requires that same model of thought. Even after 28 years, there is a wealth of intriguing thought experiments that went into the writing of this story and a similar trove for those willing to consider the next step of reasoning, but you have to be willing to dig for that gold.

    And there you have it. The subtext of The Handmaid's tale is a marvellously thought provoking book about the subtleties that go into how societies change, but if you're not interested in thinking, move on to something formulated for entertainment purposes this is not the novel for you.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lynn BREA, CA, United States 06-01-13
    Lynn BREA, CA, United States 06-01-13 Member Since 2012
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    "I would listen to this again!"

    I read this book in college over 20 years ago and it was better than I remembered. Claire Danes' performance was amazing and I would love to listen to any other book she narrates! The story is just as relevant today as it was 20 years ago. A must read!

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer Wilton NH 04-23-13
    Amazon Customer Wilton NH 04-23-13 Member Since 2008

    Bohemian Yankee

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    "Paranoid Feminist, Anti-Christian Polemic Crap"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    If it was a physical copy, not a recording, I would run it through the shredder. What a waste of time listening to this tripe.


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

    No. There are a great many good dystopian tales out there that don't repeat, repeat and repeat again the same unfounded, never explained, paranoid, fear mongering attacks this one does.


    What about Claire Danes’s performance did you like?

    The narrator was the only good part, even though she had little to work with.


    Do you think The Handmaid's Tale needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    NO!


    Any additional comments?

    If you are a close-minded feminist, man hating, anti-Christian bigot, you'll love this book. I found it to be an over-rated piece of tripe.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leigh Atlanta, GA, United States 03-11-13
    Leigh Atlanta, GA, United States 03-11-13 Member Since 2007
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    "(AKA "The Republican Handbook on Women")"

    Amazing book --made even MORE amazing by the incredible Claire Danes narration.

    This book is nearly prophetic as our country tiptoes closer and closer to a theocracy. No one would have believed you in 1985 that in the 21st century OUR country would be redefining rape, would legislate unnecessary invasive medical procedures against women who want to control their own reproductive rights, or would argue about protecting women from violence because such legislation protects the "wrong" type of women (?)... Surely by the 21st century, such things would be seem outlandish and Orwellian!

    Little did we know, that in 2013 we are not that far from a Gileadian future.

    Listening to Ms. Danes bring this book to life made it nearly impossible for me to pause the narration... I didn't want the book to end..

    This is a must-read for every woman --and man.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Huntsville, AL, United States 01-21-13
    David Huntsville, AL, United States 01-21-13 Member Since 2008
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    "The ending has a nice twist"
    What did you like best about The Handmaid's Tale? What did you like least?

    The ending was unexpected but the story and performance was dull / uninspired.


    How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

    Include more of how the world changed and how it changed back.


    How could the performance have been better?

    The performance was very monotone and boaring.


    Do you think The Handmaid's Tale needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    none

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vered Tel-Aviv, Israel 01-20-13
    Vered Tel-Aviv, Israel 01-20-13 Member Since 2008
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Feminist Dystopian novel, or is it?"
    Any additional comments?

    I have already read this book 10 years ago, and the listen now after all this time, made it seem completely different.
    The novel was first released in the 80's, so the futuristic view did not consider mobile phones or Internet. which made me smile during the listen. It was a bit like reading classic Sci fi.
    When i first read the novel, the views seemed extremely feminist, but now they seemd more profound - Women being the cause of reactionary social revolutions.
    i have got really caught this time, in the causes of the Gileadian revolution, the views in this novel are much ahead of their time in this aspect.
    However, i felt this time that something is missing in this dystopian story, The Handmaid's Tale presented in very good prose some brilliant social views (as always with Margaret Atwood's biological perspective), but on second read the novel seems incomplete in a way, and I do hope Margaret Atwood will complete it, at some point.

    Impacable narration btw.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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