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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 (5543 )
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  •  
    hornist Chatham, Ontario, Canada 03-08-13
    hornist Chatham, Ontario, Canada 03-08-13

    I enjoy historical fiction and classics, mainly, but am always up for a good mystery.

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    "Another view of Dystopia"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Handmaid's Tale to be better than the print version?

    On one hand, I would say the audio edition of The Handmaid's Tale is better, as you get to hear the lack of inflection in Offred's voice, who is obviously suppressed by Gileadian society, as she recounts her tale. On the other hand, this lack of inflection affects your interpretation of the text.


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

    The Commander's surprise outing for Offred was the most memorable moment for me. This outing lead Offred to see what changes had been imposed in another area of Gilead, as she had visited the locale in Pre-Gileadian times. It allowed her to reflect on all that had changed, and also helped her to learn more about some people from her past.


    What does Claire Danes bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Claire Dane's tone of voice drives home the fact that she has been suppressed and isn't allowed to feel or have opinions. She is meant only to be a reproductive unit, to do her job, and remain meek and subservient.


    If you could rename The Handmaid's Tale, what would you call it?

    Honestly, I think the name is perfect. Perhaps, it could be called: "A Handmaid of Gilead", or "The Baby Machines".


    Any additional comments?

    I found "The Handmaid's Tale" to be very thought-provoking. It made me thankful for the role of women in our society, the less-distinct lines between social classes in our society and the freedom we have to be with the person we love. It was also scary to realise that our society could easily slip into such a system.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Suzanne 02-21-13
    Suzanne 02-21-13 Member Since 2015

    * love to work (nursing informatics) * love dogs * love speed * listen to books constantly *

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    "Incredible narration - thought I was IN THE STORY!"

    Mesmerizing, kept me up late at night, sat in the driveway after work listening in the car.
    It was that good. Pulls you in so you are living it with the character. I had read this book long ago as a paperback, but the narrator really made the difference. She was brilliant, and really enhanced the story's texture and realism.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Clifton Richmond, VA, United States 02-13-13
    Clifton Richmond, VA, United States 02-13-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Not Flawless, But Will Stay With You"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Absolutely. The book is a very interesting thought experiment that explores the interplay between gender, power and fear. And the criticism of the book is almost as interesting to explore as the book itself.


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

    The "historical notes" at the end were an extremely interesting explanation for why the novel is structured as non-linearly as it is.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    sue REDMOND, WA, United States 02-04-13
    sue REDMOND, WA, United States 02-04-13
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    "depressing tale of a possible future world"
    What would have made The Handmaid's Tale better?

    I just found it pondering, depressing, however Claire Danes spoke it so wonderfully, so filled with the depressing reality of someone in that handmaid's position, it was very convincing - so much so I had to stop listening - too depressing!


    Would you ever listen to anything by Margaret Atwood again?

    no thanks


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

    No, but I would definitely try her again.


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

    extreme sadness in what the author thought a possible future could be - ugh!


    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amylu minneapolis, mn 01-13-13
    Amylu minneapolis, mn 01-13-13 Member Since 2012

    crazy violinist

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    "Still as moving and poignant as ever"

    I read this book many years ago, and I was interested to hear it performed by one of the A listers. There are a great many reviews of the book already - it is fantastic and important and chilling. It needs to be read.

    Claire Danes, however, did a great job with the narration. I won't say fabulous - I do think that she got a little too 'dramatic' with the pauses and timing now and then - but it was a thoroughly enjoyable (?) performance.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Victoria Provo, UT, United States 09-26-12
    Victoria Provo, UT, United States 09-26-12 Member Since 2008

    RangerGirl

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    "it might happen...."


    Sad, disturbing, borderline scary. What would I do?... But we human can adjust to just about anything... and there will always be love and the quest for belonging, for a touch and for an identity. Great, thought-provoking book. I wish the ending was more revealing...

    3 of 4 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.

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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 6 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.

    12 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W. Modesto, CA, United States 10-30-13
    W. Modesto, CA, United States 10-30-13 Member Since 2015
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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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Catherine NC 09-14-13
    Mary Catherine NC 09-14-13 Member Since 2015
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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.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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