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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.

Cover Art by Fred Marcellino. Used with permission of Pippin Properties, Inc.

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.

Critic Reviews

“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)

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Dystopic fundamentalist religious lifestyle

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopic vision of a future where religious fundamentalism takes over a portion of a disintegrating US. Told in the style of a diary, a woman, Offred relates her ordeal of being relegated to "handmaid" status in a theocratic totalitarian regime. A handmaid is essentially a child bearing role which is one of the few allowed for women and necessitated by a declining birthrate due to unspecified environmental contamination.

While not strictly science fiction, the tale is futuristic with a dystopic and depressing presentation as hardline religious fundamentalism reigns. Interspersed are flashbacks of her life before the regime change that cover both the societal upheavals as well as her personal life with friends and family. Offred dwells much on the status of her husband and young child. In addition to the extensive cruelty, there is much corruption and fanaticism on display. The tale concludes with an academic discussion (well after the actual tale) of the sociology and psychology of the times.

The narration is exceptionally well done with a good range of voices. Pacing, tone, and mood combine to convey the sense of both desperation and hopelessness throughout.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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what America will be if we elect Ted Cruz

seriously, with current public views, this book is terrifying. definitely worth a listen. crazy its from the 80s.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Only lmade it 90 minutes into this dirge

What would have made The Handmaid's Tale better?

It's amazing how different we all are. A number of reviewers have said this is their favourite book. For me I could only endure 90 minutes. It is boring, slow, describes an unlikely dystopia, and the characters are utterly uninteresting.

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

Developed characters. Created a mystery or storyline that was even remotely interesting.

What three words best describe Claire Danes’s performance?

It seems OK

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

None that I could find in 90 minutes

Any additional comments?

Glad I got it on special!

7 of 10 people found this review helpful

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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.

9 of 13 people found this review helpful

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A Too Believable Look Into One Possible Future

Any additional comments?

It's a man's world and women are just it's useful by-products. Let them read? Certainly not. It might give them ideas. Allow them to converse? Even worse. Reproductive vehicles are their only value in this sterile future. Margaret Atwood creates a chilling world brought to life through the eyes of one handmaid, a quaint euphemism for "baby factory". Her terror, her frustration, her despair are vividly portrayed through the facile voice of the very talented Claire Danes. I feared the familiarity of her voice would be a distraction but she totally inhabits this fully realized character as well as the various voices of the other men and women in this frightening "tale". It could never really happen, right?

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Good fiction that makes you think

Where does The Handmaid's Tale rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is definitely in the top 20% of the books I've listened to with Audible. The story is engaging and really makes you think about the consequences of some things going on in the world today. This certainly isn't a feel good book - but it's worth the time to push yourself to think through some challenging topics.

What did you like best about this story?

I liked that the background of the story really wasn't explained until the end - exactly the opposite of most stories but I thought it worked well. This format really kept you guessing as to what happened in the world to lead to this terrifying society.<br/><br/>Also - Claire Danes was fantastic as the narrarator. I'm not as picky as some about narration but she's one of the best that I've heard.

Any additional comments?

Definitley worth a credit

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Gripping story with a pitch-perfect narrator

What an amazing experience to listen to the performance of this book. The story was sad, hopeless, and agonizing, but also gripping and well told. Claire Danes does an excellent job of portraying Offred (we never learn her real name). Highly recommend!

9 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Great story by an even greater reader!

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

Yes...Claire Danes certainly out reads me!!

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

Of course, ""Hunger Games" comes first to mind...but so does "The Chose One" and I put it on par with Kate Winslet's reading of "Terez Raquin" in narrative quality and twisted romance!

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

Her perfect pitch of dead emotion with pleading description. You can see her in the part and it feels like a block buster film.

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

Both the main character (Offred) and her true love. I'm sure they'd have stories to tell!

Any additional comments?

Not to be missed! Should be on A-list, if it isn't already!!

8 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Dystopia on our minds in these reminiscent times.

Petrifying how this novel's central thesis of history repeating itself is, well, presently repeating itself with such unabashed - and conspicuously masculine - candor. So many little tumblers are falling into place with the Trump administration's headlong race toward dictatorship. In the novel, Atwood fleetingly recalls the President's Day Massacre when all members of congress were machine gunned down. This Reichstag Fire in America was blamed on none other than "extremist Muslim terrorists". How soon till we see a marshall law inducing event like this in the real America, the one outside her Republic of Gilead, outside her reconstructed garden of evil with its blooms and decay of hope and conscience, outside the boundaries of the red cloaks and white wings, outside the wall where the flightless angels dance stiffly in the wind, outside the Handmaid's Tale, here in the darkening America we still live in. The premise of the book is this: faced with a nationwide dilemma of infertility brought on by the despoiling of the environment, a Christian Fundamentalist dictatorship seizes autocratic power of America to re-define the purpose of our nation, enslaving most in the name of faith based values and the continued hegemony of the ruling - male - elite. Today, Trump has vowed to demolish the EPA and give over all its funds to an expanded military budget. The echoes of totalitarian history and dystopian fiction are syncopating. Loudly.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Kim
  • Spokane, WA, United States
  • 05-04-13

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.

9 of 14 people found this review helpful