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The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood

Average Review Rating Average Rating 7/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Vintage

Published : 1996

Copyright : Margaret Atwood 1986

ISBN-10 : PB 0-09-974091-5
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-09-974091-9

Publisher's Write-Up

Offered is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets where signs are now in pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant because, in an age of declining births, Offered and other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable. Offered can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now....

Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Nadine (310105) Rating (7/10)

Review by Nadine
Rating 7/10
These days it is rare for me to buy a book that I’ve never heard of. After numerous disappointing experiences that began with me thinking, “This looks good…I think I’ll buy it,” I promised myself that I would limit my book buying to personal recommendations. This was a rare exception, brought about by a handful of Waterstones’ vouchers burning a hole in my pocket.

It is the story of a woman living the nightmare of slavery in a post-apocalyptic, totalitarian America. The human race is in danger of extinction due to widespread pollution, which has caused birth rates to fall drastically. In a desperate effort to re-build the population, fertile women are enslaved as breeding machines for wealthy but childless political leaders. Marriages are strictly by arrangement, and opposition to the regime is punishable by death, or transportation to labour colonies.

It’s a harrowing tale and no mistake. The author presents a future that had me shuddering with dread. Of course, one likes to think that it could never happen, but the plaintive tone of the narrator makes it all seem distressingly possible.

At first I wasn’t sure I liked it. The author’s style is full of flowery expressions and artistic metaphors, which I usually find pretentious. Call me old-fashioned, but when I read a book I want to be entertained. I don’t want to unravel pages of clever but unnecessary experiments with the English language. However, I kept reading. My irritation with the florid style disappeared as I became more and more engrossed.

The Handmaid’s story is told in the present tense, but interspersed with tantalising flashbacks of the events leading to the formation of the brutal and obsessive society she finds herself a part of. The pace is slow, almost plodding, but this only emphasises the relentless tedium of her existence.

The ending is somewhat abrupt, and ambiguous. I would have found it unsatisfying, but a well-crafted epilogue serves to soften the blow and answer some lingering questions.

Overall I found this book incredibly inventive, moving and really quite frightening. Let us hope it is not too prophetic.
Nadine (31st January 2005)

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