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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

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  •  
    Calliope Toronto, ON, Canada 11-23-13
    Calliope Toronto, ON, Canada 11-23-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "didn't like the narration, but love the book"

    I had read this book many years ago, and love it, so I was looking forward to reliving it through an audiobook. Unfortunately, I found Claire Danes' narration to be wooden and rather unemotional, and that really hindered the effect of the great story and writing. My sister also listened to this book and had a very different reaction to the narration - she though it was great and that there was a lot of emotion in her reading. Go figure. It turns out we also have very different reactions to Claire Danes' acting - I think she's rather wooden there too and think she's the weak link actor in movies and TV shows (why didn't I think of that sooner?)

    So, while The Handmaid's Tale is a great book, my guess as to whether you'll like this audiobook will depend on whether you like the (acting) work of Claire Danes. If you think she's a great (or even "really good" actress) then listen to this, because the story and writing by Margaret Atwood are terrific. If you don't like her other work, then buy the printed book instead.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 11-22-13
    Debbie Toney, Alabama 11-22-13 Member Since 2009

    Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.

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    "The Making of Gods"

    First of all, this book is out of my usual genre, but it is chillingly, amazingly one of the best audio books I have listened to. While I listened, I thought, wow, she has captured, without bias, the essence of life in the current times . . . single women sleeping with married men, without shame, lesbian relationships . . . JUST DESCRIBED them . . . no judgement, no hate, no opinion whatsoever. Night clubs, college days, magazines, all the things in the BEFORE time . . . and then everything changed. Then the US government was overthrown, and the state of Gilead began. What is so engaging and refreshing about this book is the author's ability to suss out tiny bits of truth, which you have to really listen to catch. Before the take over of the government, Bibles were freely available, in every hotel room night stand. Afterward, they are locked up, only for the Commanders to read, and then only on special occasions. Scripture is taken completely out of context. Hymns of mercy and grace are banned in Gilead. The handmaid wistfully remembers churches and the freedom to sing in the BEFORE time. She spends a lot of time examining her own life before and after. The relationships formed by the handmaids is touching and encouraging to me. That mercy and love survives in times of persecution, in fact thrives during it, is the evidence of a God who never forsakes those who are suffering. There are strong parallels between the Jews in World War II and this fictional Gilead, as well as between the extreme treatment of women in the Muslim faith. Evil is evil. Period. There is nothing Christian about Gilead, let's make that clear. People have been doing evil in the name of God for centuries. What they did and are still doing is making themselves into mini gods . . . and yes, this could happen, even here in the USA.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elle in the Great NorthWest Beaverton, OR, United States 10-30-13
    Elle in the Great NorthWest Beaverton, OR, United States 10-30-13 Member Since 2011

    I LOVE books. And dogs & quilting & beading & volunteering.

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    "Not Every Book Has A Hollywood Ending"

    Nor is every story meant to end with a Disneyland version of reality. All isn't well at the end of "The Handmaids Tale".
    Thats the point, people...and I'm astounded at the reviews that complained there was "No Action" No Ending." Hollywood and most chick stories have forced us to believe that all will be well in the end. Happily ever after rules.

    Well..no it doesn't. In "Handmaids Tale" the story simply ends and it's even more effective in that abrupt finish. Atwood knows her primary readership has the intelligence to realize that without it continuing to strive for equality all women will suffer in the end. For each Malala there are 100 more who don't live thru the fatwa. If you haven't read or listened to "I am Malala" and you need a encouraging story, I suggest you read/listen that that wonderful book. It's not "Handmaids Tale" however.
    Or read Sherri S. Tepper's "Gate to Womans Country", a different take on a dystopian future and just as dramatic. That has a sort of happy ending, however I don't believe it's on Audible as of 2013..sadly.

    Claire Danes is a wonderful, emotive narrator....she brought a much loved and reverred book to life for me. Thanks Ms. Danes for bringing OfFred to the world, for bringing Serena-Joy to the most sympathetic view possible and for bringing the Marthas into a reality I wouldn't want but would be compelled to live, were this to take place tomorrow...and it could. Thats the frightening thing. It could happen! And soon, if things change just a bit in our country. In the novel, OfFred remembers 'today' as we know it now but lives in a terrible 'tomorrow' with no change in sight.

    Be you a woman or man..this is a wonderful novel to consider if literature is a than sci-fi viable part of your reading...not a lot of action..it isn't Stephen King. The end is abrupt and doesn't wind up in a bow like a pretty package..it isn't Nora Roberts. It's more sci-Fantasy than sic-fi but isn't werewolves or dragons. I'd compare it to 1984 more than Wind-Up Girl.

    This is a horrible possibility for the work we live in should the word 'rights' come to mean something different than it does now.

    Well worth your credit or purchase..on sale now!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W. Modesto, CA, United States 10-30-13
    W. Modesto, CA, United States 10-30-13 Member Since 2009
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    "The Handmaid's Tale"

    This book is sadistic at best. A society has been created that has evolved into religious extremism. A gross interpretation of the biblical passage concerning Hagar's role to provide an heir for Abraham (along with a perverse literal description of the act itself) was what caused me to stop listening. It's no wonder that the heroin of the story wanted to escape. I hope she succeeded but frankly I did not want to take the journey to find out.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Catherine NC 09-14-13
    Mary Catherine NC 09-14-13 Member Since 2007
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    "Slow, dreary and boring"

    The main character was still young, but spoke of the past the way a grandchild might speak of the grandparent's time - not the way a person would speak of their own not so distant past. She mentioned a time before when women made rugs in their 'spare time'. As though the hard work that women performed was related to leisure activities - I doubt anyone was familiar with the term 'spare time' when that level of effort was required to maintain a home. It was like the writer wasn't from planet earth, and had just read about it and interpreted the story incorrectly. There was a long introduction of nothing much happening that I thought might lead up to something interesting, but it never did. It reminded of the ramblings of a schizophrenic full of distorted thoughts and hallucinations. A dialog with snippets of songs, books, and TV shows all mixed in with odd references to history, paintings, and school - the pieces not fitting together. A bland recipe with garbage thrown in to spice it up. Altogether a bad experience - I listened for hours, but I just couldn't finish. I didn't care how the character got where she was or what happened after and I certainly didn't want to waste any more time on the story. I wish I could wash the whole thing out of my mind.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Markham, ON, Canada 08-28-13
    Laura Markham, ON, Canada 08-28-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Disappointing"

    This book has been on my wish list for some time. I was just waiting for the right opportunity. So well reviewed! Arthur C. Clarke award. It all sounded amazing, including the synopsis.

    I am 3/4 of the way through and I am ready to give up. I remember now why Margaret Atwood was on my blacklist from about 12 years ago. It's all coming back to me.

    There is hardly any plot progression. The narration is first person and meanders through an ENDLESS internal dialogue with incessant flashbacks, meanwhile, in the present tense - nothing is happening. Everything is unnecessarily over-described. Every thought, every emotion, every item in the room. The clock, the mantle, the wallpaper in the bathroom (Small flowers, forget-me-nots, purple). I don't need car chases, hijacks and bombs, but this is just exasperating.

    I get the symbolism, the eggs, the eyes, the flowers. I get the themes, but it all seems like tokenism. They all seem 'glued onto the outside'.

    When I come back to the book, I am rewinding and forwarding through the book, all to try to find the place where I was the last time I listened, to remember what was happening, who did what, who said what, even though it was 4 hours ago when I last listened. There are no plot points to attach a memory to.

    I would press on, but I read the ending was a disappointment too...so I am in a dilemma.

    I think I just don't like her writing style. 90% of the plot happened in the past and is meted out in tiny portions and almost nothing happens in the present, which is slow and overly descriptive. Not my thing.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ann Brewster, WA, United States 08-02-13
    Ann Brewster, WA, United States 08-02-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Overdescriptive dirge"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Someone with more patience, and who doesn't expect the story to go anywhere.


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

    Less description, more action. A better conclusion. A more realistic dialogue - OfFred would not have remembered all of those details about feeling and thinking post-escape. We know that OfFred makes it out somehow to record her tapes, so a hint at what happens to her would give the reader some satisfaction.


    What about Claire Danes’s performance did you like?

    She did an excellent job. Great intonation and style.


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment, anger


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Angela United States 07-20-13
    Angela United States 07-20-13

    Angel

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    "Claire Danes brought this book to life!"

    Such an entertaining listen. Margaret Atwood's excellent prose is given so much life by Danes! It was like she was acting out the novel just for me. I suppose she was in a way. Again, Atwood's prose is excellent. Her words flow like water at times. I don't know if that had more to do with Danes' fantastic narration, but I suspect if I had read the book myself, I would come to the same conclusion.

    I am not ashamed to admit that I did peek at the Spark Notes online a few times just to get some clarification and further explanation, and it really helped to open my eyes as far as Biblical references and things of that nature. I'm not the most studied person when it comes to the Bible or religious studies. I did also have a bit of a head-scratching moment at the end of the novel, too, in the Historical Notes section, because hearing the names of the professors and locations mentioned didn't make sense to me until I saw them written out on virtual paper. So reading the character list and details off the Spark Notes was of great service to me as well, and that gave me a better sense of the ending.

    The Handmaid's Tale is interesting, scary and strange to think about. Definitely makes me appreciate my life and all things in it. If you have the opportunity to give this book a listen, I highly recommend it. Even if you don't understand all of it at first, Claire Danes will definitely hold your attention with her skillful narration, and you can dig deeper later.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephanie Borger, TX, United States 07-17-13
    Stephanie Borger, TX, United States 07-17-13 Member Since 2009
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    "One of my Favourite books ever"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    It's an amazing novel and Claire Danes' performance is fabulous. She absolutely does the work justice.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth Bellevue, WA, United States 07-14-13
    Elizabeth Bellevue, WA, United States 07-14-13 Member Since 2007

    A school administrator and avid reader and listener of books. At least an hour of every day is spent in the car, and that's where the bulk of my listening is done. I tend to listen to books on "faster" mode so I can get through more books!

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    "Interesting exploration of Dystopian world"

    Very interesting. Not sure if it falls under sci-fi or just futuristic writing. While the story was interesting, what intrigued me more was to consider when it was written--1985. The Handmaid's Tale is about society after an extremist Islamic attack kills the US President and most of Congress. Christian fundamentalists take over and create a new country, Gideon, out of the old US. To consider that Atwood was writing about this in 1985 when you then consider what happened in the ensuing decades is interesting. I think this book is also a warning of good intentions gone severely awry. I enjoyed it, and would recommend to most.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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