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The Handmaid's Taleby Margaret Atwood
Atwood's classic dystopian novel of a terrifying (and terrifyingly plausible) future America has rewarded rereading like no other book; I've probably read it 30 times by now. The world of the narrator, Offred (from "Of Fred" — women no longer have their own names), is chilling, but she is a magnificent survivor and chronicler, and the details of everything from mundane daily life to ritualized sex and violence to her reminiscences of the time before (our contemporary reality, as seen in the '80s) are absolutely realistic. The novel is as relevant today as ever; feminist backlashes continue to wax and wane, but women's rights remain in the spotlight. And despite its scenarios of great despair, The Handmaid's Tale is ultimately a hopeful book — Offred, and others, simply cannot be human without the possibility of hope, and therein lies the strength of the resistance. All of Atwood is worth reading, but this book best exemplifies the cultural and psychological impact that a work of fiction can create.
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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." The 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
"[A] taut thriller, a psychological study, a play on words. It has a sense of humor about itself, as well as an ambivalence toward even its worst villains." Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times
"The most poetically satisfying and intense of all Atwood's novels." Maclean's
"The Handmaid's Tale is in the honorable tradition of Brave New World and other warnings of dystopia. It's imaginative, even audacious, and conveys a chilling sense of fear and menace." The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
"The Handmaid's Tale brings out the very best in Atwood — moral vision, biting humor, and a poet's imagination." Chatelaine
First published in 1985, The Handmaid's Tale is a novel of such power that the reader is unable to forget its images and its forecast. With more than two million copies in print, it is Margaret Atwood's most popular and compelling novel. Set in the near future, it describes life in what once was the United States, now called the Republic of Gilead. Reacting to social unrest, and a sharply declining birthrate, the new regime has reverted to — even gone beyond — the repressive tolerance of the original Puritans.
About the Author
Margaret Atwood, whose work has been published in thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid's Tale, her novels include Cat's Eye, short-listed for the 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; and The Year of the Flood. She is the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Innovator's Award, and lives in Toronto with the writer Graeme Gibson.
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