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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 (4228 )
5 star
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4.4 (3809 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Diane 03-23-13
    Diane 03-23-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Outstanding narration/disappointing story"
    What disappointed you about The Handmaid's Tale?

    I've listened to more than 150 books, but I have never listened to one where I appreciated the talent of the narrator tremendously but disliked the story more. Because of the other reviews, I kept waiting for the story to get better. It didn't. The ending was the worst. Claire Dane's narration was the only good thing about it.


    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lori United States 03-07-13
    Lori United States 03-07-13 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "In a word...Disturbing"

    I cant say I hated this book, but I finished it and felt sad. I did however finish it in two days, so it was interesting. It was not wrapped up as well as you wish it would be in the end, sort of a gone with the wind finish...you find yourself making up what might of happened after the end.
    It did have some negative religious undertones, and I am a Christian but it was not too offensive. It was difficult to listen to as a mother of a five year old girl, there were parts where I wept thinking about being forcibly separated from my daughter.
    I gave this book a 4 since I was interested in it till the end, even though the subject matter was difficult. I would recommend this book if you interested in thinking about the "what if's" of a dystopian society. Truthfully, if we look at some of the things we as a society of people have done to each other in the past this scenario is not so far fetched.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cynbee San Jose, CA, United States 02-01-13
    Cynbee San Jose, CA, United States 02-01-13 Member Since 2012

    former nuclear scientist

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A maudlin take on an alternate history"

    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.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patti Bolton, MA, United States 09-12-12
    Patti Bolton, MA, United States 09-12-12 Member Since 2014

    i buy at least one hundred books a year. of all types. just want a good story with a good reader. not so complicated.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I have waited for a long time for this book"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    This may be one of my favorite books of all time. Been asking Audible for it for years. I would highly recommend The Handmaid's Tale to everyone who loves books. So well written.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The writing. The writing. The narration. The narration.


    Have you listened to any of Claire Danes’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I can't find anything else she has read. Would listen to anything that she has though. Just told a friend that she is one of best narrators I have heard.


    If you could take any character from The Handmaid's Tale out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    Probably Of Fred. And I don't really know why. I found her so multidimensional that it would be interesting to ask her questions.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L.W. Idabel, OK, United States 01-20-13
    L.W. Idabel, OK, United States 01-20-13 Member Since 2012

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Reviewers said "Must Read" so I read...."

    Caire Danes was wonderful.
    Prepare to be depressed...upset....appalled.
    I believe I have suffered enough in this life to not have my only form of entertainment take me to this place. I understand that we should not wear blinders because something like this could actually happen. Is it so self absorbing to desire to not involve my brain and heart in this imagined ugliness. It takes me down too far.
    I know we as people perpetrate atrocities on one another. Maybe the purpose of this book is to open our eyes, make us responsible to do something.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 06-20-13
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 06-20-13 Member Since 2008

    My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Riveting, even without a plot"

    There is no story to this book. Yet I would not call it episodic or slice of life. It is a tour de force stream of consciousness telling of what the world might be like under certain circumstances. It is securely anchored in the concerns of the 1980s, when it was written, but it is just as valid here in 2013, when some of the issues have shifted but the polarization is if anything worse than it was. It's not giving anything away to say that the book describes a reactionary dystopia where women's rights have been revoked. One of the interesting things Atwood does is invert what you would expect as a consequence of that. The female characters, bad and good, are still depicted as actual human beings. The male characters, for the most part, are mere automatons blindly serving the reactionary regime. I think this is Atwood's subtle way of pointing out that men as well as women are the victims of the repressive system that has taken power. There are a couple things I wish I could say about the ending but I will restrain myself. One thing I have to say is that it ends with one of the most beautiful paragraphs in all of literature.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kim Spokane, WA, United States 05-04-13
    Kim Spokane, WA, United States 05-04-13 Member Since 2009

    Addicted to audiobooks & podcasts. 5 Stars=I Loved It, 4 Stars=Enjoyed it Thoroughly, 3=Kinda Good, 2=Bad/Boring, 1=Complete Waste of Credit

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    "Just OK"

    With so many positive reviews and my newfound appreciation for the author's works, I expected the handmaid's tale to be an easy 'A'. I give it a C- overall. I thought Claire Danes did a decent job of narrating the story - her portrayal of the main character is what kept me from giving up 3/4 of the way through. The story hovered on the surface of the world changed by war and disease - society has rebuilt itself but there is no explanation of what really happened. The vague descriptions resulted in never having enough to really take hold of the reader - I felt like I was only being given half the story and the ending left many questions unanswered.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    JASON R. Hollywood, FL United States 03-18-13
    JASON R. Hollywood, FL United States 03-18-13
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Society ends and nothing much happens..."
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    If there was any sense of the story going anywhere except around in cirlces.


    What was most disappointing about Margaret Atwood’s story?

    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.


    Which character – as performed by Claire Danes – was your favorite?

    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.


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

    Although most of this book was easily forgettable the scenes in which the narrator recalled her mother were particularly hard to sit through.


    Any additional comments?

    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.

    11 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew FAIR OAKS, CA, United States 10-08-14
    Andrew FAIR OAKS, CA, United States 10-08-14 Member Since 2009

    I'm a web developer based out of Sacramento, I listen to books while I work, and love audible.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    62
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    "Dystopian Done Right"
    Any additional comments?

    This was a great story of a Dystopian future where women are basically slaves. It all starts when the military kills congress and the president, then blames it on muslim extremists and institutes measure to keep every one "safe". Such as outlawing protesting and most basic rights we have.

    This was written in the 80s, but the pretext of muslim extremists used to take away civil liberties, somehow makes me wonder of the author could see the future.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Reader 05-01-14
    Reader 05-01-14 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "First A-List read and loved it!"
    Have you listened to any of Claire Danes’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Claire Dannes did a wonderful job! I have avoided the A-List because I enjoy the "professionals" that do so well reading Dickens, Tolstoy, Martin, etc. I wasn't sure if the crossover from screen acting would translate into interesting narration. It clearly does.


    Any additional comments?

    I loved the story, and the performance made it even more disturbing (in a good way). I highly recommend The Handmaid's Tale.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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