The Handmaid's Tale

By Margaret Atwood,

Book cover of The Handmaid's Tale

Book description


Go back to where it all began with the dystopian novel behind the award-winning TV series.

'As relevant today as it was when Atwood wrote it' Guardian

I believe in the resistance as I believe…

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Why read it?

28 authors picked The Handmaid's Tale as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Margaret Atwood’s seminal The Handmaid’s Tale has been on my “to read” list since it was published in 1985. Almost forty years later, I finally cracked the cover.

Of course, I knew the premise. I’d also seen parts of the Hulu show based on the text, but digging into the source material was far more rewarding. Atwood’s descriptive and plotting skills are a crash course in novel writing; reading The Handmaid’s Tale has—at least temporarily—cured the case of writer’s block I’ve struggled with since 2020. 

The story is also a relevant and thoroughly worthwhile read, especially with the current state…

The Handmaid's Tale is a futuristic dystopian novel set in a near-future New England in a totalitarian patriarchal state known as the Republic of Gilead.

The leaders of Gilead have overthrown the United States government and placed all women of childbearing age in the role of handmaids, conceiving and giving birth for mothers of the ruling class. After the overturning of Roe v. Wade, this novel is an ominous reminder of the delicacy of a woman’s body sovereignty.

I adore dystopian fantasy novels with superpowers like Shatter Me or Red Queen – but The Handmaid's Tale is more powerful because it’s so realistic; it seems like something that could actually happen in the very near future.

The themes are adult and violent, and the intrigue and suspense is high even though it’s mostly just about being a slave in a house with limited exposure to the outside world.

I recommend it because it’s important to consider how we might feel if our bodily autonomy were threatened and helps us to sympathize with others in a similar plight –…

Despite the proliferation of YA fiction since The Handmaid’s Tale was first published in 1985, I would suggest that this novel (and its recent sequel The Testaments) is essential reading for anyone keen to understand the way dystopian fiction can elucidate the struggle women have faced for bodily autonomy.

Older generations of readers are probably already familiar with it, but now, particularly as the TV series comes to an end, younger generations may miss this important work. This is the story of Offred, handmaid and slave to her Commander and his wife, in the new world of Gilead, set…

Let me be clear: I’m talking about the book—not the TV series!

This is a dystopian classic that everyone should read. In fact, all of Atwood’s books should be read. As for The Handmaid’s Tale, I read it in a literature class in university, and it has stuck with me ever since (much like other classics—hello The Great Gatsby).

The Republic of Giliead, where the story takes place, was created when the US government was overthrown, and strips women of their rights. It’s a premise that has roots in real events—the 1979 Iranian Revolution, most notably, and so…

The religious motivation for political oppression, so prominent in this book, is what I also sought to portray in my novel, The Bridles of Armageddon.

In The Handmaid’s Tale a very conservative religious perspective has taken over the country via insurrection (my own novel concerns an attempt to do the same thing). Atwood’s novel focuses on how fundamentalist Christians seek to deny both birth control and abortion access, and at the same time force women into strictly baby-making roles. Christian faith has been an important part of who I am throughout my life.

I personally cringe at how a faith…

This novel broadened my perception of what a dystopian novel could be. It made me realize the genre is flexible enough to take on any current issue. The key is to extend one side of that debate to its most frightening extreme. Margaret Atwood accomplishes that with aplomb in her 1985 novel and its 2019 sequel, The Testaments. In case you haven’t already watched the popular Hulu TV series, The Handmaid’s Tale imagines a near-future return to a patriarchal and puritanical society in which women have lost most of their rights. With every passing year, these issues have only…

Although Margaret Atwood’s story has been adapted for TV, this book is still an important and gripping read about the extremes of a patriarchal society in which women are treated as second-class citizens and worse. There are few fertile women left, and an oppressive regime forces fertile women to bear children for the elite men. The main character, Offred, is one such woman. An underground resistance network aims to overthrow the government, but punishments for transgressions are severe. This is a story of survival, hope, and helplessness.

This book is a great commentary on what happens when you try and put women in a box. In a world so corrupted with syphilis, pollution, and other diseases it is nearly impossible to get pregnant anymore, besides the rare women who are captured and who become Handmaids. Their duty is to bear the children for the Wives of the Commanders who cannot get pregnant. Besides these three classes, though, the book offers many more such as: Marthas, Econowives, Aunts, Guardians, Angels, Jezebels, and Unwomen. Give this book a read and see what all the hype is about with its…

Margaret Atwood is terrifying even in subtle scenes, and I love how unsettled she makes you in this story. I never felt comfortable while reading The Handmaid’s Tale. I couldn’t put it down, and it stayed in my head afterward. The cult in my novel has a similar utilitarian attitude toward females as the leaders do in Gilead, and I give full credit to Atwood for influencing me as I revised my novel and wrote the religious sermons given by my cult leader. Bonus: Her sequel The Testaments taught me a lot as well.

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