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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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  •  
    Momster Cupcakes Ohio 06-07-13
    Momster Cupcakes Ohio 06-07-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Claire Danes + this novel = WOW"

    Clare Danes was BRILLIANT narrating this story and what a story it is. I cannot recommend this tale enough and I was left wanting to know what happens next at the end of the story. The majority of the characters are loathsome and the main character, Offred, is so frustratingly naive that it breaks your heart.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Megan 06-06-13
    Megan 06-06-13
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    "Appalling in the most amazing way!"
    If you could sum up The Handmaid's Tale in three words, what would they be?

    Feminist, Dystopia, Terrifying


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

    If you enjoy books such as Divergent, the Hunger Games, 1984, or any other dystopian future novels you will like this book. It is terrifyingly plausible and told as an intimate, personal fictional memoir.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    This book will stay with me forever. The feminist in me is outraged and wants to scream. The reader in me is thrilled with the way it kept me intrigued from start to finish. Claire Danes is an outstanding narrator.


    Any additional comments?

    More recordings from Claire!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alethea Portland, OR, United States 06-06-13
    Alethea Portland, OR, United States 06-06-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Fascinating, Intriguing & a bit Horrifying"
    What did you love best about The Handmaid's Tale?

    I could see how it all happened, how easy it would be to fall into that world.


    What did you like best about this story?

    As a woman, I felt that I could really connect with the narrator's fears, concerns, tiny joys, etc.


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

    Claire Danes did a wonderful job narrating this novel. I often forgot it was her!


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    The novel made me think, which is the most powerful thing a book can do, in my opinion.


    Any additional comments?

    I've found it difficult to give a synopsis to my friends, but I absolutely recommend the book. I'm looking forward to listening to it again in the future, a I'm sure there are many small details I missed the first time around.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Winston D. Jen 06-01-13 Member Since 2008
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    "Riveting. Terrifying. Plausibly Disconcerting."

    Set in the United States after a nuclear holoocaust leaving the vast majority dead or sterile, The Handmaid's Tale is a glimpse beyond the looking glass into a world almost too terrifying to comprehend. Narrated through the eyes of Offred, a brood mare for the Commander, Atwood paints a vivid tale about the horrors of misogyny under a theocratic dictatorship.

    The writing is gripping and sharp. Brutally descriptive (yet minimalistic) sentences underscore the profound inhumanity of societies that have abandoned compassion in favour of mere pragmatic, practical, ends-justify-the-means policies that have rendered half of the population to act as expendable labour for the other half. Sleep is not always readily available, and the hangman's noose is never more than a failed duty away.

    Women, save those fortunate enough to be pregnant or married to those in authority, are treated as abject slaves, valued only for their instrumental values. Thusly treated as means, they are preserved rather than respected. All means for suicide such as ceiling fans and hooks have been painstakingly removed. For that matter, so are their names, with the women being referred to only with respect to their owners. Offred. Ofglen. Even a woman's name, Martha, has been appropriated for use as maids. Their station signifies their lack of fertility, which has led to a loss in her value in this futuristic living nightmare. Individuality has been all but eradicated, and gossip is now a luxury. The parallels with the world today, especially the Middle East, are too obvious to overlook, and this is probably intentional. The audiobook is impeccable, with Claire Danes' deadpan reading adding near-copious quantities of tension and foreboding to the mix.

    Before being allowed to leave the "boarding house", Offred is required to don garments that shroud her from sight. Her rank is designated by her the colour of her dress, red. If her Commander was to tire of his wife and elect Offred for this honour, she would be garbed in blue. The Commander himself wears black. If that wasn't enough, she is perpetually shadowed by another human incubator, who functions as her spy. Offred, likewise, functions as her companion's spy. Things only get worse as the details of this alternate/possible future are revealed. Each new page is akin to a door inside an authentic haunted house. From the first chapter, a sense that there are no happy endings for these oppressed slaves is engraved into the reader's consciousness.

    This is a must-have book, and belongs beside 1984 and Brave New World. This apotheosis of literary talent should not be overlooked.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Altotenor 05-30-13
    Altotenor 05-30-13

    amateur ethnomusicologist

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    "Absolutely OUTSTANDING"

    First- full disclosure: I'm a fan of the book. I'd read it just a few years after it came out when I was probably a freshman in high school; it made an indelible impression on me and I think Margaret Atwood is a flippin' GENIUS. I think it should be required reading for every human being in North America.

    My daughter, in her mid-teens, loves audiobooks. She is a great reader as well; however, she will only very occasionally take a book recommendation from her mum. I got this audiobook in the hopes that she *might* listen to it if I put it on her iPod.

    Claire Danes hasn't been a favorite of mine - it isn't that I *don't* like her.....I just missed "my So-Called Life" age wise & I can't recall seeing her in anything since "Romeo & Juliet" (I haven't watched much tv since 1997). I was skeptical if Ms. Danes could do this material (that's so important to me) justice, but I hoped my daughter would enjoy it.....

    One evening I couldn't sleep & I had no more credits so I decided to give it a try - AMAZING. I hadn't re-read "The Handmaid's Tale" in 20+ years and listening to it again now was not only chilling but I was dumbfounded at Atwood's prescience (just check out Ms. magazines' recent articles about the War against Women). And Claire Danes? She inhabits this narrative, gives such a strong, nuanced performance that I cannot BELIEVE she didn't win the Audie for this. Danes reading Atwood is a golden example of how audiobooks can be so much better than reading a book yourself; great writing paired with great reading is sublime.

    I still don't know if my daughter has listened to it - I pray that she does. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carlotta Bellinjgham, WA, United States 05-29-13
    Carlotta Bellinjgham, WA, United States 05-29-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Gives you pause to think"
    If you could sum up The Handmaid's Tale in three words, what would they be?

    Interesting possibility of things to come


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Handmaid's Tale?

    The thought of being punished for your freedom to think


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

    No


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    In the year 2075


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ashton Mishima-gun, Japan 05-29-13
    Ashton Mishima-gun, Japan 05-29-13 Member Since 2013
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    "A hard topic handled artfully."
    What made the experience of listening to The Handmaid's Tale the most enjoyable?

    This book is iconic and cuts to the core.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Handmaid's Tale?

    The moments of inhuman cruelty. Obvious poetic skill and ease of description of environments.


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

    No but I was impressed by her skill although to be fair most of the story is in the first person so relatively easy compared to other stories. Her voice is well suited to the main character.


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

    I don't think this story is about the characters really, it's more about the situation.


    Any additional comments?

    The story reminds me of a story called "Blindness" by José Saramago. Blindness is a more rounded story with points of joy and hope unlike this story which is mostly bleak and overly realistic.

    I skipped the last section as it was too academic to be interesting, more like an extended footnote.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Yoshi Yoshitani 05-21-13
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    "Quietly Disturbing, an Excellent Tale"

    As many others have written summaries, I will write about the quality of the novel.

    First off, I loved The Handmaid's Tale. I would describe it as having an etherial quality, as the story comes together slowly in a stream of conscious manner. You're constantly moving from memory to memory, which makes the whole read very engaging and very suspenseful. But as a good portion of the experiences are described as having already passed, it also feels very lethargic, as though the narrator really has nothing better to do. Which, as you listen to the book, you realize she doesn't. It's really wonderful.

    I will also note that this book makes social commentary on the role of women in society, and also how men perceive them. It also talks a bit about what we feel is normal, and how quickly that can change. But I will reiterate, this is commentary. Atwood has created a world that allows her to ask these questions, but she doesn't say explicitly what is right and what is wrong. Making this a very good thinking book, I would highly recommend this to individuals and book clubs alike!

    My only critique of this book would be that the ending feels to come about a little fast, and a little haphazard. It feels as though Atwood, having used all her characters for their intended purposes, no longer knows what to do with them, and tosses them about hither and yon. That being said, I will still listen to this book again and again, wonderful narration!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Angel Denton, TX 05-19-13
    Angel Denton, TX 05-19-13
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    "Great book, great narration"

    This is one of my favorite books, and I've read it a few times, but wanted an audio version, so I could listen in the car. Even after repeated readings, the story is as powerful as ever. Maybe even more so at this point in time. Claire Danes does a great job narrating this story. She really brought this to life as the voice of Offred. I'll be recommending this to friends, and suspect I will be listening to it over again at some point - because I liked it that much.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jami VICTOR, NY, United States 05-14-13
    Jami VICTOR, NY, United States 05-14-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Chilling Story Line"

    This was a very chilling book. When you read it, your initial reaction is that this could never happen. Until you realize that it has happened in other countries, where women's rights have been totally stripped away. I had to keep reminding myself that this was written in the mid 1980s, which make it even more chilling. The religious right taking over this country and wanting to limit women's reproductive freedom? Nah, could never happen? Could it?!?! Just look at what is occurring around us today.

    It was interesting to think about the context of this story. There was concern by the government of the dropping Caucasian birth rate, which is why they created the handmaid role in that society. Racism was at the core of this, although you don't really learn this until the end. And if you think about it, the fact that they use the Aunts, who are women, to control other women makes sense. How many times do the people who oppress others turn out to be the same group of the people that they oppress?

    There were parts of the story that I found slow moving, but overall, it was a solid read. I listened to this as part of Audible's A-list collection and Clair Danes did an excellent job narrating the story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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