The Handmaid's Tale

Before The Testaments, there was The Handmaid’s Tale: an instant classic and eerily prescient cultural phenomenon, from “the patron saint of feminist dystopian fiction” (New York Times).

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.

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood Summary

The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, originally published in 1985. It is set in a near-future New England, in a totalitarian state resembling a theonomy that overthrows the United States government. The novel focuses on the journey of the handmaid Offred. Her name derives from the possessive form "of Fred"; handmaids are forbidden to use their birth names and must use names derivative of those of the male, or master, whom they serve. The Handmaid's Tale explores themes of women in subjugation in a patriarchal society and the various means by which these women attempt to gain individuality and independence. The novel's title echoes the component parts of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, which is a series of connected stories ("The Merchant's Tale", "The Parson's Tale", etc.).The Handmaid's Tale is structured into two parts, night and other various events. This novel can be interpreted as a double narrative, Offred's tale and the handmaids' tales. The night sections are solely about Offred, and the other sections (shopping, waiting room, household, etc.) are the stories that describe the possible life of every handmaid, though from the perspective of Offred. In many of these sections, Offred jumps between past and present as she retells the events leading up to the fall of women's rights and the current details of the life that she now lives. The Handmaid's Tale won the 1985 Governor General's Award and the first Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1987; it was also nominated for the 1986 Nebula Award, the 1986 Booker Prize, and the 1987 Prometheus Award. The book has been adapted into a 1990 film, a 2000 opera, a 2017 television series produced by Hulu, and other media. In 2019, a sequel novel, The Testaments, was published...

Do you love The Handmaid's Tale book? Please share!

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood Book Reviews (5,221)


Excellent But5 star

Would have liked more info on what happened in Gilead 55

Jackie Uchiha

LOVE IT5 star

I love this book along with Alias Grace! 55


A good read.4 star

I was very happy with this book. At first, it struggled to keep my interest, but as I kept reading I found myself obsessively turning the pages—which hasn’t happened in a long time. As a woman, this book was very powerful, and opened up a lot of different thoughts. I would recommend this book, and I am looking forward to watching the movie/series adaptation. 45

Mrs. Cassie

The Handmaid’s Tale- A good read4 star

This book was an easy read as it kept my interest throughout. As a fan of the Hulu series of the same name, I must say their is much that happens in the series that does not happen in the book. For instance, many characters, such as Nick, Luke, Moira and Janine, are overly-glamorized and play larger roles in the series. We often see episodes focusing on these characters points of view whereas the book revolves around the one central character, Offred, and the story is told from strictly her perspective. Many quotes from Offred in the series come from within the book’s pages. The story does leave some loose ends untied and leaves the reader with the option to interpret the ending in different ways. All in all a great read! 45


Review of the Handmaids Tale5 star

This is an amazing dystopian book, that truly showcases in gruesome detail what happens when the majority are the oppressed. It shows that no matter the conditions people still try their best to hold on to hope and to persevere. 55

vbbbbv bbv v

Nnnninnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnunnnnnnnunnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnunnnnnunnnnnnnnnnunnnnnnnnnnn3 star

Mmooooooh vvvbv. B.B.vbvbv B.B. a bbvbv vvvbvvvvvbv viernes B.B.vvvvvvv 35


yes5 star

. 55


the ending5 star

has mE SHOOK 55


The Handmaids Tale Again4 star

I read Atwood’s book when it was originally published. Hearing that a sequel was now being written had caused me to re-read this suspenseful novel. I like the authors reimagining what life could be like so far in the future. It was believable and related well to current events. I am so looking forward to the sequel as it is long overdue. More “historical” background would have been helpful in understanding the regime. There weren’t quite enough political and cultural details to rate this novel a five and yet; a compelling story! 45


I really wanted to like this book2 star

I love the message, I don’t think it’s some sort of “feminist propaganda” (eyeroll) but I couldn’t get over the writing. The metaphors and similes seemed overdone, to the point where she’d be describing a staircase and by the end of the sentence I had to reread it to remember what she was talking about in the first place. I can get over a few examples of that, but it seemed like the entire book was one long sentence with too many commas and muddy comparisons. It reminded me of trying to fill a word count for a school assignment. 25

Abacus Rocks

Goes Nowhere1 star

It was as if the author got tired of writing and just ended it. No resolution. Very disappointing. Story was fine but the way it ended was lazy and without imagination. 15


Alarming, imaginative and timely.5 star

The Handmaiden’s Tale is as engrossing as it is frightening. I can’t, however, say it did any good for my overall mental health. But it is a worthwhile read if you can manage your anxiety in the last gasp of the Christian Right known as the Trump era. 55


The Handmaid’s Tale5 star

Chilling look at the future through the future-past-now. Help us all. Is this even possible? Stark. Hope this Wall never gets built. Prescient fake news! 55


Crap1 star

Do not read. Disgusting and vile! 15


Recommend, recommend, recommend!!!5 star

This novel has it all: Love, hate, lust, greed, and chaos. Margaret gives us a vision of a world that could very much be our future. It’s all too realistic concepts touch base close to home. You won’t be disappointed in this read. It’s absolutely one of my favorites!!!! 55

Bargie De

The Handmaid’s Tale4 star

Horrible waste of time! 45

Ashley Hollywood

EhAshleyimbert5 star

Extremely captivating 55

Christal Doll

Brilliantly Written5 star

I really enjoyed this book and the series. 55


Needed more...4 star

This was the scariest book I ever read because it fits the rise of the "evangelical" base in our last two and a half decades of politics. The constant attics on women's rights and the belief that subservience is biblically ratified. The end was wrapped up too quickly. Needed more. 45


Life changing5 star

I just love this book. 55

The Handmaid's Tale Book Discussions

Other Margaret Atwood Books

The Handmaid's Tale


The Handmaid's Tale

4.5     5221
The Testaments


The Testaments

4.5     1634
Oryx and Crake


Oryx and Crake

4.5     412
The Year of the Flood


The Year of the Flood

4.5     268

The Handmaid's Tale Similar Books

The Handmaid's Tale image

The Handmaid's Tale

3.5     5
The Testaments image

The Testaments

4.5     1635