It's a bleak world that Margaret Atwood opens up for us in her new novel, The Handmaid's Tale—how bleak and even terrifying we will not fully realize until the story's final pages. But the sensibility through which we view this world is infinitely rich and abundant. And that's why Miss Atwood has succeeded with her anti-Utopian novel where most practitioners of this Orwellian genre have tended to fail. What usually works against this genre of fiction... is that what makes the imagined society narrow and oppressive also serves to limit the work in which it is described. This can also be said of The Handmaid's Tale; among other things, it is a political tract deploring nuclear energy, environmental waste, and antifeminist attitudes. But it so much more than that—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, who aren't revealed as such until the very end. Best of all, it holds out the possibility of redemption.
Christopher Lehmann-Haupt - New York Times
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!
Washington Post Book World
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!
In a startling departure from her previous novels (Lady Oracle, Surfacing), respected Canadian poet and novelist Atwood presents here a fable of the near future. In the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, far-right Schlafly/Falwell-type ideals have been carried to extremes in the monotheocratic government. The resulting society is a feminist's nightmare: women are strictly controlled, unable to have jobs or money and assigned to various classes: the chaste, childless Wives; the housekeeping Marthas; and the reproductive Handmaids, who turn their offspring over to the "morally fit" Wives. The tale is told by Offred (read: "of Fred"), a Handmaid who recalls the past and tells how the chilling society came to be. This powerful, memorable novel is highly recommended for most libraries. —Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., VA
(Film version.) In this Orwellian dramatization, religion becomes a tool of repression and social control to force women into the roles of stay-at-home wives, domestic staff, prostitutes, or surrogate mothers. They have no rights to their bodies or property and are completely dependent upon men. Those women who have had at least one child find themselves forced into the role of breeding machine, producing children for childless couples. References to 20th-century issues abound, including Agent Orange, abortion, women's rights, and escape attempts to Canada. At least 14 different readers make it easy for the listener to distinguish among the various characters. Despite sound effects and some indistinguishable white noise, there are a few spots with dead air. This program will be of interest to Atwood fans and those interested in futuristic tales. Recommended for public and academic libraries. —Laurie Selwyn, Grayson Cty. Law Lib., Sherman, TX
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