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No.
7


 
Interesting,
Dark,
Dramatic

1 review

The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood

Published: 2017-04-25
Hardcover : 0 pages
3 members reading this now
5 clubs reading this now
0 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 1 of 1 members
Now a Hulu Original Series, premiering in April

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 ...
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Introduction

Now a Hulu Original Series, premiering in April

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.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.

Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

1. The novel begins with three epigraphs. What are their functions?

2. In Gilead, women are categorized as wives, handmaids, Marthas, or Aunts, but Moira refuses to fit into a niche. Offred says she was like an elevator with open sides who made them dizzy, she was their fantasy. Trace Moira's role throughout the tale to determine what she symbolizes.

3. Aunt Lydia, Janine, and Offred's mother also represent more than themselves. What do each of their characters connote? What do the style and color of their clothes symbolize?

4. At one level, The Handmaid's Tale is about the writing process. Atwood cleverly weaves this sub-plot into a major focus with remarks by Offred such as "Context is all," and "I've filled it out for her...," "I made that up," and "I wish this story were different." Does Offred's habit of talking about the process of storytelling make it easier or more difficult for you to suspend disbelief?

5. A palimpsest is a medieval parchment that scribes attempted to scrape clean and use again, though they were unable to obliterate all traces of the original. How does the new republic of Gilead's social order often resemble a palimpsest?

6. The commander in the novel says you can't cheat nature. How do characters find ways to follow their natural instinct?

7. Why is the Bible under lock and key in Gilead?

8. Babies are referred to as "a keeper," "unbabies," "shredders." What other real or fictional worlds do these terms suggest?

9. Atwood's title brings to mind titles from Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. Why might Atwood have wanted you to make that connection?

10. What do you feel the historical notes at the book's end add to the reading of this novel? What does the book's last line mean to you?

Suggested by Members

How is this book relevant today with our current administration?
by Jewel148 (see profile) 02/07/17

The possessive forms of the names
Of-Fred vs Off-red
by FTessa (see profile) 02/05/13

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

AUTHOR Q & A

Q: Was there any special research involved in writing The Handmaid's Tale?

A: I clipped articles out of newspapers. I now have a large clippings file of stories supporting the contentions in the book. In other words, there isn't anything in the book not based on something that has already happened in history or in another country, or for which actual supporting documentation is not already available.

Q: It's hard to pin down a genre for this novel. Is it science fiction?

A: No, it certainly isn't science fiction. Science fiction is filled with Martians and space travel to other planets, and things like that. That isn't this book at all. The Handmaid's Tale is speculative fiction in the genre of Brave New World and 1984. 1984 was written not as science fiction but as an extrapolation of life in 1948. So, too, The Handmaid's Tale is a slight twist on the society we have now.

Q: You seem to see a role for the novel beyond entertainment.

A: I was once a graduate student in Victorian literature and I believe as the Victorian novelists did, that a novel isn't simply a vehicle for private expression, but that it also exists for social examination. I firmly believe this.

Q: The way the reader comes into The Handmaid's Tale is through a diary or a journal, memories rescued and viewed from a time in the future. The curtain is drawn back slowly. Why did you choose to write it that way?

A: What I've written is only the view of one woman who lives in that society. I reveal Gilead through the eyes of that one woman. It would be cheating to show the reader more than the character has access to. Her information is limited. In fact, her lack of information is part of the nightmare.

Book Club Recommendations

1980's theme
by Jewel148 (see profile) 02/07/17
We are working our way through best books of the decades. This was our 1980s selection. We served Cosmopolitans and potato skins for our refreshments.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by hernanka (see profile) 05/16/17

 
  "a well-timed relevance "by jlb392@yahoo.com (see profile) 02/15/17

I remember reading this book when I was younger and thinking, "this could never happen." Now, with the current state of the world, I found myself thinking the book seemed so much more relev... (read more)

 
  "The Handmaid's Tale"by Jewel148 (see profile) 02/07/17

We were divided on rating this book. Some found it dark and depressing, others found it interesting and dramatic. We definitely had a lot to talk about during the discussion.

 
by Ljwagoner (see profile) 01/11/17

Margaret Atwood is an amazing author. This was published in 1986 but it alludes to the disturbing tragedy of losing individual rights. Scary and worrisome how women lost their rights and the... (read more)

 
  "Handmaids Tale"by ljspitz (see profile) 06/15/16

Generates great discussion for a book club. Very thought provoking, especially in light of present issues of exclusion and intolerance.

 
by Lucindazehr (see profile) 05/12/15

 
  "No..."by LexXx (see profile) 03/09/14

Not what I had hoped for.

 
  "The Handmaid's Tale"by kimthompson (see profile) 01/15/14

The author presented an interesting story which I found intriguing. However I found the book frustrating in that it never answered the many questions the narrator and reader had. I believe this was the... (read more)

 
  "Slippery Slope"by FTessa (see profile) 02/05/13

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
5*****

First published in 1986, Atwood’s novel describes an America much different but easily imaginable from today’s democracy. Offred tell


... (read more)

 
  "Most didn't really like the book but good conversation"by NRPublicLibrary (see profile) 08/15/12

This is a book that may end up being a love it or hate it book most in our club didn't like it but it made for very interesting conversation so that is why I suggest it for bookclubs.

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