The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

79%

21 Critic Reviews

Atwood has created a spirited and engaging narrator and surrounded her with an array of active and passive supporting characters, each of whom represents a type familiar in America today. She has rounded off her icy cautionary tale with a desperately needed and hilarious spoof of an academic convention...
-LA Times

Synopsis

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The Handmaid’s Tale is a novel of such power that the reader will be unable to forget its images and its forecast. Set in the near future, it describes life in what was once the United States and is now called the Republic of Gilead, a monotheocracy that has reacted to social unrest and a sharply declining birthrate by reverting to, and going beyond, the repressive intolerance of the original Puritans. The regime takes the Book of Genesis absolutely at its word, with bizarre consequences for the women and men in its population.

The story is told through the eyes of Offred, one of the unfortunate Handmaids under the new social order. In condensed but eloquent prose, by turns cool-eyed, tender, despairing, passionate, and wry, she reveals to us the dark corners behind the establishment’s calm facade, as certain tendencies now in existence are carried to their logical conclusions. The Handmaid’s Tale is funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing. It is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and a tour de force. It is Margaret Atwood at her best.
 

About Margaret Atwood

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Born November 18, 1939, in Ottawa, Canada, Margaret Atwood spent her early years in the northern Quebec wilderness. Settling in Toronto in 1946, she continued to spend summers in the northern woods. This experience provided much of the thematic material for her verse. She began her writing career as a poet, short story writer, cartoonist, and reviewer for her high school paper. She received a B.A. from Victoria College, University of Toronto in 1961 and an M.A. from Radcliff College in 1962. Atwood's first book of verse, Double Persephone, was published in 1961 and was awarded the E. J. Pratt Medal. She has published numerous books of poetry, novels, story collections, critical work, juvenile work, and radio and teleplays. Her works include The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970), Power Politics (1971), Cat's Eye (1986), The Robber Bride (1993), Morning in the Buried House (1995), and Alias Grace (1996). Many of her works focus on women's issues. She has won numerous awards for her poetry and fiction including the Prince of Asturias award for Literature, the Booker Prize, the Governor General's Award in 1966 for The Circle Game and in 1986 for The Handmaid's Tale, which also won the very first Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1987.
 
Published February 17, 1986 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 324 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Education & Reference, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Humor & Entertainment, Children's Books, Romance, Political & Social Sciences. Fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Feb 26 2017
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for The Handmaid's Tale
All: 21 | Positive: 18 | Negative: 3

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Vulpes on Jan 20 2012

I would highly recommend this book to older readers who are looking for something more mature than the YA dystopian novels out there today or anyone who liked 1984 by George Orwell.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Charlotte Newman on Sep 25 2010

...this novel seems ever more vital in the present day, where women in many parts of the world live similar lives, dictated by biological determinism and misogyny.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Vulpes on Jan 20 2012

I would highly recommend this book to older readers who are looking for something more mature than the YA dystopian novels out there today or anyone who liked 1984 by George Orwell.

Read Full Review of The Handmaid's Tale | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Charlotte Newman on Sep 25 2010

...shadowy memories made all the more indistinct by Atwood's lyrical prose, in which facts appear to merge into one another, and history appears immaterial...

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LA Times

Good
Reviewed by ELAINE KENDALL on Feb 09 1986

Atwood has created a spirited and engaging narrator and surrounded her with an array of active and passive supporting characters, each of whom represents a type familiar in America today. She has rounded off her icy cautionary tale with a desperately needed and hilarious spoof of an academic convention...

Read Full Review of The Handmaid's Tale | See more reviews from LA Times

Christian Science Monitor

Good
Reviewed by Marilyn Gardner on Feb 24 1986

“The Handmaid's Tale'' has dominated literary news since its publication. With an indignation that sometimes suggests a cautious reformer, sometimes a resigned pessimist, Atwood is showing her readers her Brave New World – and challenging them to reject it.

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Booklist Online

Below average
Reviewed by Brad Hooper on Dec 01 1985

...the didacticism of the novel wears thin; the book is simply too obvious to support its fictional context. Still, Atwood is quite an esteemed fiction writer...Demand for her latest effort, therefore, is bound to be high; unfortunately, the number of disappointed readers may be equally high.

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Tor

Good
Reviewed by Karin Kross on Sep 23 2013

And The Handmaid’s Tale still has the power to chill and to shock; Atwood’s frank depictions of female sexuality—the suppression and abuse of it, as well as the desire and memory of desire that the narrator still cannot help but feel—still undoubtedly set off alarm bells amongst the self-appointed guardians of young minds.

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Curious Book Fans

Excellent
Reviewed by burtybookworm on Jan 24 2010

It’s a powerful and frightening story and a novel that I think everyone should read. Margaret Atwood writes some beautiful books which are full of wonderfully written phrases and imagery, but this is the best of her plots, thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommendable.

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The Ranting Dragon

Good
Reviewed by Dan Ruffolo on May 14 2013

As a character study alone, this work stands a cut above. As a dystopian world, it fills one with the kind of unease that challenges you to resolve to never allow such a thing to happen. It deserves every accolade it has received and then some.

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Socialist Review

Good
on Mar 16 2017

...The Handmaid's Tale is a story arising from the women's liberation movement that has stood the test of time because it is such an enriching read.

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CM

Good
Reviewed by Ruth Cosstick on Jan 01 1986

This is an important book containing direct warning against the misuse of the environmental and human resources at the disposal of today's culture. The clinically sexual descriptions make the book unsuitable for younger readers, but for a society that has superseded Orwe 1984, the Handmaid's urgent message should have an impact.

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CM

Good
Reviewed by Ruth Cosstick on Jan 01 1986

This is an important book containing direct warning against the misuse of the environmental and human resources at the disposal of today's culture. The clinically sexual descriptions make the book unsuitable for younger readers, but for a society that has superseded Orwe 1984, the Handmaid's urgent message should have an impact.

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Brothers Judd

Above average
on Mar 17 2017

...The Handmaid's Tale is most interesting as an artifact expressing the hysterical concerns of the Left in the Reagan Era. It has simply not withstood the test of even a brief time very well.

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http://www.bookdrum.com

Good
Reviewed by Christopher Brocklebank on Jan 27 2014

Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and nominated for the Booker Prize, this dystopian work of “speculative fiction” from 1985 is still a powerful warning of what could be.

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The Blue Bookcase

Good
Reviewed by Connie on Feb 16 2012

I have found that while Atwood's dystopia doesn't thunder and shake like Orwell's, it quietly plants a seed of thought. As I have revisited the book to write this review, reading over passages I had highlighted, I have found myself thinking about it more and more.

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Diary of an Eccentric

Good
Reviewed by Anna on Feb 25 2010

Some of my questions were answered by the end, but readers shouldn’t expect everything to be wrapped up in a nice, neat package by the last page. Nevertheless, Atwood does a wonderful job balancing the horrific images and unimaginable scenarios with a bit of hope.

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Confessions of a Bibliophile

Good
Reviewed by Jaime on Nov 07 2008

I am glad this is something I waited to read, because I think if I had read it when I was younger, I wouldn’t have understood it fully.

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http://socialistreview.org.uk

Good
Reviewed by Christine Curran on Mar 01 2017

Along with Angela Carter's reimaginings of fairy tales in The Bloody Chamber and Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, The Handmaid's Tale is a story arising from the women's liberation movement that has stood the test of time because it is such an enriching read.

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http://pankmagazine.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Corey Pentoney on Sep 02 2014

At the very heart of it, The Handmaid’s Tale hits much closer to home than its dystopian compatriots, such as Brave New World or 1984, and feels like a possibility that could be just around the corner. That said, it’s a fantastic read, and a book I can’t put down, year after year.

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Uniflame Creates

Above average
on Oct 26 2011

In the first 200 pages much less is happening and I found it even a bit boring at times. I even put the book down for a bit to read some other books first. But I am glad that I did pick it up again or else I would have missed the best part of the book.

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Reader Rating for The Handmaid's Tale
79%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 2950 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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