Customer Reviews for

The Handmaid's Tale

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

35 out of 44 people found this review helpful.

read it and take it as a warning

Everyone should read this book. Period. Take it as a warning, of what CAN happen in the U.S., if religious extremism is allowed to infiltrate our society, and if Church and State don't stay separate. And keep in mind that Atwood took the social/political circumstances i...
Everyone should read this book. Period. Take it as a warning, of what CAN happen in the U.S., if religious extremism is allowed to infiltrate our society, and if Church and State don't stay separate. And keep in mind that Atwood took the social/political circumstances in the book from real situations that have happened or are happening somewhere in the world. The writing pulls the reader in, and even though the subject is terribly depressing, you just can't quit reading it. Now that I've finished it, I can't quit thinking about it. I want to read about it, and talk about it, and read more by the author. But I won't read it again for a long time, because it's plausibility is just too disturbing. Any author who can instill such strong emotions in her/his readers is a very talented writer.

posted by constantreaderML on April 20, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

13 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

Don't get your hopes up...

This sounded like a really good book to me, with an author whose poetry I had read and liked, and a detailed distopian world, all the rave reviews and everything. It wasn't. A Handmaid's Tale tries for the realistic tone of Orwell and Huxley, but falls short so much tha...
This sounded like a really good book to me, with an author whose poetry I had read and liked, and a detailed distopian world, all the rave reviews and everything. It wasn't. A Handmaid's Tale tries for the realistic tone of Orwell and Huxley, but falls short so much that it made me feel embarrassed for her. It doesn't sound like a voice from a dark future so much as the ravings of someone who is blinded by their own over-the-top fantasies and fears. There were various places where I thought, yes, this is starting to feel right, maybe it will turn into an interesting story now- only to turn the page and watch it stumble back into the same rut. The mindset of women being victims is carried too far in this book, to the point where you constantly want to slap the narrator and tell her to stop whining and do something about it already. The concept of the enforced transition from a modern lifestyle to the one the book depicts in a single lifetime is not portrayed in a believable way, and though I imagine many people will get something from it, intelligent and open-minded women may want to skip this one, because it's not saying anything you don't already know.

posted by Anonymous on June 5, 2005

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  • Posted April 20, 2009

    read it and take it as a warning

    Everyone should read this book. Period. Take it as a warning, of what CAN happen in the U.S., if religious extremism is allowed to infiltrate our society, and if Church and State don't stay separate. And keep in mind that Atwood took the social/political circumstances in the book from real situations that have happened or are happening somewhere in the world. The writing pulls the reader in, and even though the subject is terribly depressing, you just can't quit reading it. Now that I've finished it, I can't quit thinking about it. I want to read about it, and talk about it, and read more by the author. But I won't read it again for a long time, because it's plausibility is just too disturbing. Any author who can instill such strong emotions in her/his readers is a very talented writer.

    35 out of 44 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 11, 2009

    All around tight novel

    To categorize The Handmaid's Tale as another feminist piece of literature would be inaccurate, as it is really more. Like other novels that present visions of the world in the future, The Handmaid's tale imagines a dystopia that is all at once surreal and convincing, just as Orwell's 1984 or Huxley's Brave New World are. Though Offred's condition may appear unrealistic or even absurd at a glance, as the novel unfolds, Atwood reveals social circumstances shockingly real and in fact similar to our own.

    19 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2005

    Don't get your hopes up...

    This sounded like a really good book to me, with an author whose poetry I had read and liked, and a detailed distopian world, all the rave reviews and everything. It wasn't. A Handmaid's Tale tries for the realistic tone of Orwell and Huxley, but falls short so much that it made me feel embarrassed for her. It doesn't sound like a voice from a dark future so much as the ravings of someone who is blinded by their own over-the-top fantasies and fears. There were various places where I thought, yes, this is starting to feel right, maybe it will turn into an interesting story now- only to turn the page and watch it stumble back into the same rut. The mindset of women being victims is carried too far in this book, to the point where you constantly want to slap the narrator and tell her to stop whining and do something about it already. The concept of the enforced transition from a modern lifestyle to the one the book depicts in a single lifetime is not portrayed in a believable way, and though I imagine many people will get something from it, intelligent and open-minded women may want to skip this one, because it's not saying anything you don't already know.

    13 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A Keeper!

    I picked up this book over a decade ago on a break in between classes while I was at school and bored. I remember vividly reading the entire book in a day and re-reading the book so often that when I purchased my nook last December, "The Handmaid's Tale" was the first book I bought. Atwood's glance at a sexist and distopian society is terrifying and the book makes a strong statement about what happens when the state has too much control.
    The Red Dresses and Blue Dresses haunt me til this day, and yet I read the book over and over again when I cannot find anything else to tempt me.

    11 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2009

    Review by a high school student

    The Handmaid's tale started out okay. It was vague,mysterious, and intriguing. However, after reading about 100 pages, I could not make myself read anymore. I am all for maturity, but it got extremely vulgar. In fact, I have never read such a crude, disgusting book in my life. This was a school assignment, but I cannot continue reading this trash. The book makes a good point about when Scripture is taken out of context, but the means that the author uses to accomplish this goal is distasteful and way out of line.

    9 out of 43 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2008

    Interesting, scary, sad, thought provoking

    I had never heard of the book, and chose it simply because it had good reviews. I was lost in the beginning - it took me a while to realize it takes place in the future but when I did I found it startling. The author has a unique style that keeps the reader enthralled. It was a refreshing change from much of the fiction I have been reading.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2001

    The Handmaid's Tale Is Not Much Of a Tale At All

    Have you ever read a book and never quite got the whole gist of it? Well if you haven¿t experienced this, you probably will after finishing The Handmaid¿s Tale. The Handmaid¿s Tale is a story with so much potential. That¿s the main thought that comes to my mind when I think of the book. Atwood set up a very interesting and unbelievable world in which women play the roles of handmaids. Handmaids¿ job is to have sex with a married man to provide his children. The government controls everything in this very disturbing, yet intriguing environment that interested me from the start, but it¿s just about the only interesting part in the whole book. The book lacks a real storyline and needs more plot and not so much filler. Over half the book consists of Offred, the main character, dreaming and thinking while she sits in her room. I can say the book was exciting when an actual event occurred, but there were only about three or four events when something worth reading happened. I guess I just don¿t enjoy reading about a lady who has a crazy past and present and confuses me with every detail. As I said earlier, the setting and idea for this book is definitely the best part, but even with a better plot and storyline that actually satisfies the reader, I still don¿t think I would want to read this book. Atwood¿s writing does not hold my interest and I found it hard to turn each page, dreading what would be thrown at me next. Symbolism played a large part in this book, but the problem was I never really figured what was symbolic for what. Obviously, the world Atwood set up with women and men playing specific roles held meaning and symbolism. I waited for the ending of the book to put everything together, and receive some closure, but my closure never arrived and I never put it together. The overall reason I wouldn¿t recommend this book to anyone is that I never arrived at a final thought for the book and nothing ever became clear, so I found no purpose in any of it. In my opinion, reading The Handmaid¿s Tale provides nothing but disappointment for the reader. What a waste of time.

    9 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Distressing.

    This story is extraordinary.chilling, but extraordinary. As with all of her books, Atwood as a canny ability to insert the very basics of human nature into the most outrageous and horrifying of environments, which is essentially what makes this book believable. I challenge any reader to keep the chills at bay when they come to the part of the story where it is explained how the United States is overtaken by a group of religious fanatics and the world as we know it is mutated to a dystopian hell.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 25, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    compelling and thought provoking...

    The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood is a novel of dystopia set in the near future. In the tale, women are now commodities. They are not allowed to read or gain knowledge in any way. They are not allowed to make conversation with each other. Sex is for reproduction only, not pleasure. They have a job to do and if you happen to be a Handmaid, like the protagonist in this novel, then your job is to get pregnant by the Commander under whose roof you live. Our protagonist lives under a man named Fred so her name is Offred (Of Fred). Throughout this tale she remembers a time when she had her own name, her own husband to make love to, her own daughter to nurture, her own job and money....but those days are gone. She describes in pieces how the government in America changed to the totalitarian Republic of Gilead and how many people, her husband and daughter included, tried to escape it. This novel is chilling and gloomy. Offred describes her life as a handmaid in a dispirited and dejected way. The book is compelling though and thought provoking.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Frightening Warning

    Presenting a truly frightening view of the future, Margaret Atwood's novel describes a totalitarian regime oddly reminiscent of Hitler's reign. She creates a world in which no one dared speak against the unreasonable demands of an evil government. Subjugating women to secondary roles in society, Atwood presents herself as an unorthodox feminist writer, whose intent is unclear. While the novel warns against a possible fate for humanity, Atwood leaves the conclusion ambiguous, and readers may interpret it as one of two extremes: salvation or destruction.
    Paralleling people to lifeless objects, Atwood uses frightening images to define the characters by the roles they play in society. Through the dehumanization of faceless victims, she portrays a society in which any dissent is a sure-fire ticket to a humiliating death. Equating Salvaging victims to scarecrows, she implies that those killed for misdeeds were punished publically as deterrence for potential rebels. Emphasizing the anonymity of victims, this comparison diminishes the executed criminals to mere tools used at the discretion of the government. Thus, Atwood crafts a world modeled after her fears and warns the world of potential dangers.
    While I personally was extremely disturbed by the content of this book, I respect it as an honest work and a call for reform. Despite its unwelcomed implications, The Handmaid's Tale brought to light issues facing today's society that are commonly overlooked. The idea that time does not equate to progress is manifested in this novel, as Atwood suggests a future similar to the most horrific pasts. As Gilead oppresses its citizens to fear defiance, truth gradually fades to oblivion, as no one dares speak against the government. Those awaiting death sit "like graduating students who are about to be given prizes" and do not protest at all. Such an illustration arouses concern for the future of our society, as we wonder if humanity is headed for the described fate.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Intense and disturbing but very well written

    THE HANDMAID'S TALE is not a new book, having been published in 1985. I finally read this very intense and disturbing book by Margaret Atwood and I'm glad I waited. Ms. Atwood's tale is almost a blueprint of how severe changes to our very existence could actually occur. It's a good lesson for us to all protect the freedoms we do have and reminds us to not be so quick to jump on the bandwagon of anything that lessens any one else's personal freedom. Just as women all lost their jobs and access to any of their finances and basically became chattel of the men in society in THE HANDMAID'S TALE whether they were wives, handmaids or Marthas you could just imagine how quickly it could happen.

    THE HANDMAID'S TALE is a powerful and frightening book and if you haven't read it, you should. Lynn Kimmerle

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great Book

    Can any religion, when taken to its logical conclusion, be anything other than a fundamentalist trap of self delusion? Does censorship help anyone? Freedom to or freedom from ... This is a great book. Buy it and read on ... you won't regret the decision.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2009

    Garbage

    Tripe

    5 out of 35 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2000

    A Failed Dystopia

    The logical leaps Atwood makes are mystifying. In the late twentieth century, the President and Congress are shot, so automatically, women become sex slaves whose sole purpose is procreation. A good dystopian novel will display current attitudes and beliefs, and builds on them to create a dystopian society. To accept Atwood's Gilead is to assume that feminine rights are not valued in current American society and that women continue to lose rights. In order to see The Handmaid's Tale as a sign of things to come, one would have to forget all of the advances the feminist movement has made over the past century. If I read this book as a serf in the Middle Ages, I may be scared, but as an American citizen in the year 2000, I laugh. A tragic failure in the realm of dystopian literature.

    5 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 14, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Entertaining and thought provoking

    I love science fiction and future fiction, and this is one of my favorite books of all time. The story about the handmaiden who has been separated from her family for the sin of not being married, who is used for her known ability to procreate, who is a prisoner in her own country, is both entertaining and thought provoking. Margaret Atwood is a master when it comes to weaving an interesting story, and excels at telling it. Now that I think about it, I think I'll read this book again! :)

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2011

    Excellent!

    More adult than young adult. Definitely for the conspiracy theorist anti big brother crowd. Cautionary tale, anyone?

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 13, 2010

    Loved the Story, Hated the Ending

    Great story that kept me wanting to read more and more. Loved it. Then it just ended. No ending really at all. No idea what happend. HATE THAT. What a cheap way to end a great story. Would never have read it if I had known.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 28, 2009

    A Feminist Dystopia

    I liked that this was written as a sort of memoir/diary, but wasn't divided into daily entries that make reading more staccato. Like so many of my favorite oral history/memoir style fictional future dystopia novels [which is an awesomely specific yet diverse genre:], Atwood doesn't take much time here to explain how things have come to be the way they are, giving just enough in the way of allusion and event timeline to keep the reader from feeling frustratedly out of the loop. We are given to understand that there has been a catastrophic and widespread change in the fertility of women and viability of fetuses, and that as a result women of confirmed or potential fertility are being conscripted and shuttled from home to home as 'handmaids' - one of the three functions now for wives. Handmaids are intended an entirely for non-romantic procreation role, and bizarre loveless sex rituals have been enacted as part of a regular 'ceremony'.
    The nameless narrator is independent and self-reflective enough to engage the reader and bridge the gap between the common experience of contemporary romance and the dystopian future world, but not the sort of spunky derring-do heroine that becomes grating in novels of this ilk for their casual dismissal of a totalitarian regime previously established as very dangerous by the author.
    I loved the conclusion to this book. At first I thought it was horrifically unsatisfying, but after reading the epilogue I was more willing to embrace the point at which Atwood chose to leave off the narration. Every unexpected plot twist in this book drew me deeper in, and while it wasn't a can't-put-it-down book, it was a more engaging read than the other two I was reading at the time

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 23, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I don't know if I've ever been more powerfully affected by a nov

    I don't know if I've ever been more powerfully affected by a novel than I was by this one. Offred (meeting Ofglen, and it finally dawning on me how the Handmaids are named, was a stunning moment) is so beautifully and painfully rendered; she is a fully human character. Atwood gets inside her head, and Offred becomes real, in a way few characters ever do. From the beginning we are dropped into a horrifying near-future in which all women are subjugated to one degree or another, and Handmaids are on the bottom rung. As the story unfolds and the past is slowly revealed we become more and more horrified, because Atwood shows us how this all came about, and it doesn't seem all that far-fetched. One of the more profound aspects of this book (for me at least) is that Atwood doesn't only focus on the plight of the Handmaids, who have it the worst, but also shows how others have been affected by these societal changes. The Wives, who occupy the highest social rung amongst women, at first seem to be part of the problem; they have freedoms other women can only dream of, and exercise power over women of lesser social standing. But life's not good for them either; they're still not allowed to read, work, own property, or make decisions about the direction of their lives. They are the property of their husbands. And even most men don't have it all that great; lackeys to the great and powerful, forced to follow a strict social doctrine, not allowed to make many of their own life choices, and if they step out of line, just once, just a little bit, they're publicly executed as traitors. That Offred, despite her own suffering, is still able to sympathize with others, who all have it better than her, is deeply moving, and ultimately a sign of hope. Some people seem to have a problem with the prose in this novel. To those people I say, don't ever read Garcia Marquez, Pynchon, or Joyce. To everyone else I say, forget what your 9th grade English teacher taught you, this prose is stunning. If this novel was written as a straightforward narrative it wouldn't be anywhere near as powerful; the stream-of-consciousness prose is what makes this novel so affecting.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2012

    Interesting read

    I, as a christian, thought i might find the religious themes offensive but realized mid way through that the book wasnt offensive. It was the idea of what could happen if christian beliefs were corrupted. The story moves along quickly for the most part and has an interesting finish. It was not action packed and some parts may be slightly offensive to Christians, but overall it was a well written book. Loved the strong realistic female protaganist

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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