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.
“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)
One of the top three
I can't think of a comparable book at the moment.
Great performance! If this is ever made into a movie would I really would like to see her play Offered.
Yes. It left me feeling desperate to know her name and what happened to her.
Added Audible to my 2 hour commute, consuming books at rapid pace, and rating books based on keeping me engaged and making time fly!
Initial draw to this Claire Danes narrated novel was undercut by Audible's insistence to keep putting this title on sale! In my mind it said something about the listening value. Obviously that's not how Audible prices (all) of its titles. When it finally landed in my library in a BOGO sale, it was a favorite listen. As Margaret Atwood herself protested, this is less science fiction than it is social science fiction or speculative fiction.
The subject matter and 1980s women's perspective is just as relevant and poignant today and Claire Danes does excellent work with the compelling material. My 4 star rating on the story is only because I like a neat and tidy ending, but, without spoiling anything, I can accept that such a resolution would mess with the could-be-ness of the plot.
Bottom line, don't let the fire sale pricing discourage you - just thank Audible for the great pricing on a great listen!
This book was just not for me. It was very disconnected and I was disappointed that nothing ever really came of the story and it went unfinished, but that is how the story was meant to be. It jumped around so much from past/present/etc. that it was hard to follow. There were interesting parts but they always left me wanting to know more and wanting to find out what all happened but you never ever get to find out very much, which was very annoying! It was a teaser book with fragmented bits of a story- and that is exactly what the author intended it to be.
Claire Danes simply read the book, rather than acting out the characters, which for me was boring, lifeless and dull, but for the book, I suppose it was fitting, given the circumstances of the life of the main character.
So, for what the book was intended to be, I think they did it right. But I personally didn't like it and it left me unsatisfied and wondering what all really happened.
Hello! I'm a full-time nurse, part-time reader, chef, gardener and stylist! Love all my hobbies. Oh, and mother to Marley (shih-tzu) and Sam
The Handmaid's Tale is a frightening portrayal of another reality. A reality I pray will never exist.. In this novel, the world as we know it no longer exists. It has been wracked by chemical and nuclear "accidents" as well as opportunistic wars.
Those who have risen to power, have created a scary existance for the rest of the population. Religious zealots now rule with an iron fist. They mandate all facets of life for everyone. The only way to survive is to accept their brutal form of religion where only the select few are considered worthy.
Women of child-bearing age, who are found to remain fertile despite the chemicals that have ravaged the earth, are relagated to repopulate the earth. It is their duty. Their life is no longer their own. In fact no one's life is their own anymore.
The novel is very thoughtfully written. The language flows beautifully and the narration is flawless. Claire Danes does the best narration I've listened to. She really captures the essance of the characters without embelishing them in anyway. She simply lets the characters be themselves and allows the author to create their voices.
This book was written several years ago, but given the divide in our present time it seems more relevant now than it was when originally written.
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.
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.
This great story is made fresh and wonderful again by the narration of Claire Danes. Don't miss it. It is the best.
I generally liked this book and would be interested in reading similar books. I am glad I bought and read this one!
Feminist, Dystopia, Terrifying
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.
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.
More recordings from Claire!
I could see how it all happened, how easy it would be to fall into that world.
As a woman, I felt that I could really connect with the narrator's fears, concerns, tiny joys, etc.
Claire Danes did a wonderful job narrating this novel. I often forgot it was her!
The novel made me think, which is the most powerful thing a book can do, in my opinion.
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.
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.
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