The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale : A Novel

4.12 (1,749,527 ratings by Goodreads)
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#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - An instant classic and eerily prescient cultural phenomenon, from "the patron saint of feminist dystopian fiction" (The New York Times). Now an award-winning Hulu series starring Elizabeth Moss.

Look for The Testaments, the bestselling, award-winning the sequel to The Handmaid's Tale

In Margaret Atwood's dystopian future, environmental disasters and declining birthrates have led to a Second American Civil War. The result is the rise of the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian regime that enforces rigid social roles and enslaves the few remaining fertile women. Offred is one of these, a Handmaid bound to produce children for one of Gilead's commanders. Deprived of her husband, her child, her freedom, and even her own name, Offred clings to her memories and her will to survive. At once a scathing satire, an ominous warning, and a tour de force of narrative suspense, The Handmaid's Tale is a modern classic.

Includes an introduction by Margaret Atwood
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Product details

  • Paperback | 336 pages
  • 127 x 181 x 15mm | 181g
  • Anchor Books
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 038549081X
  • 9780385490818
  • 63,393

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In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies?
Offred 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 whose signs are now 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, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable.
Offred can remember the days 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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Review Text

First published in 1985, this is a novel of such power that the reader is unable to forget its images and its forecast. It is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force. "A novel that brilliantly illuminates some of the darker interconnections between politics and sex".--"The Washington Post Book World".
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Review quote

A novel that brilliantly illuminates some of the darker interconnections between politics and sex . . . Just as the world of Orwell's 1984 gripped our imaginations, so will the world of Atwood's handmaid! --The Washington Post Book World

The Handmaid's Tale deserves the highest praise. --San Francisco Chronicle

Atwood takes many trends which exist today and stretches them to their logical and chilling conclusions . . . An excellent novel about the directions our lives are taking . . . Read it while it's still allowed. --Houston Chronicle

Splendid. --Newsweek
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About Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood, whose work has been published in more than forty-five countries, is the author of more than fifty books of fiction, poetry, critical essays, and graphic novels. In addition to The Handmaid's Tale, now an award-winning TV series, her novels include Cat's Eye, short-listed for the 1989 Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; Oryx and Crake, short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize; The Year of the Flood, MaddAddam; and Hag-Seed. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the Franz Kafka Prize, the PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Los Angeles Times Innovator's Award. In 2019, she was made a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour for services to literature.
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Rating details

1,749,527 ratings
4.12 out of 5 stars
5 43% (749,896)
4 35% (617,207)
3 15% (269,901)
2 4% (75,219)
1 2% (37,304)

Our customer reviews

Set in a futuristic dystopian society, The Handmaid's Tale follows the life of Offred, a handmaid within the Republic of Gilead. Under the rule of a theocratic military dictatorship, Offred and other fertile females, serve as baby makers, reproducing with the country's commanders and officers. Within this new society, men and women are treated differently, creating a hierarchy of the sexes, with the males of top. All women, with the exception of "The Aunts" (who serve as educators of a sort), are prohibited from reading and writing, and all forms of the written word has been replaced with drawings and images. Women such as Offred must also cover themselves by wearing modest clothing: too long and loose-fitting dresses that reach their ankles, gloves to cover their hands and head wings to prevent other from fully seeing their faces. Males and females are also prohibited from talking to one another, and handmaids are only allowed out in pairs. Offred doesn't care for the rules, and constantly dreams of the time from before, back when she was happily married and still had a daughter. The Handmaid's Tale is a perfect dystopian novel. I loved how the whole idea of declining birth rates leading to a Christian-based dictatorship is actually a plausible event. What made the book so good (and scary!) was the fact that something like this is totally capable of happening (more or less). I did however, find out I had a lot of answered questions when I was finished with the book (e.g. who killed the president, what happened to Offred, was she pregnant). Read the rest of the review at: more
by Kathleen Ramirez
The place is Gilead. Religious fundamentalists are now in charge, but no fundamentalists like I've grown up knowing. Gone are the freedoms that women take for granted; their way of dress, owning a checking account and property, having a say over how their body is treated. Instead they are now placed into roles, the wives, the Marthas, the Handmaids. This story revolves around Rachel, Jacob and Bilhah from Genesis. The use of Bilhah by Rachel and Jacob to give them children. But instead of being in ancient times it is now the future. So many reviewers have pointed out that this is very similar to the treatment of women in other countries. It's a true observation and this book does a chilling job of putting the reader in one of those womens shoes. As I read I could hear the voice of Offred in my mind. I could hear resignation, sorrow and a lack of hope. I could hear disbelief as she spoke of memories that were so distant from what she is living now that they seem unreal. I could hear frustration as she struggled to understand why rules and traditions were being changed. I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this book. I thought it might be too graphic, that I wouldn't be able to handle it. Atwood deals with the subject, as I'm learning she always does, with a respectful hand, laying the facts out without making them personal. It's that sense of detachment that struck home for me the most. I felt angry and scared while reading, my emotions making up for the seeming lack of emotion shown by Offred. This is my second Margaret Atwood book. I'm hooked. Both this and The Robber's Bride have shown incredible character development and eye-opening scenarios to me. What a disturbing, fascinating book this more
by Lydia Presley
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