The Handmaid's Tale4 books in series
Margaret Atwood’s award-winning vision of a dystopian society is a chilling and cautionary tale of radical conservatism and reproductive oppression.
In a post-revolution future, part of the United States has been converted to a military dictatorship where men control women’s lives and bodies. The Republic of Gilead forces women into subservient and powerless roles, including that of handmaid, a woman able to bear children. The Handmaid’s Tale draws listeners into the life and mind of a typical handmaid, Offred. Her name, “of Fred,” reinforces her status as the property of her Commander, Fred, whose wife is barren. Offred’s Commander gives her illegal favors, while she secretly starts a relationship with his personal servant, Nick. As the novel progresses, Offred struggles with covert alliances, forbidden relations, and love while trying to escape the tyrannical regime. This gripping novel and its sequel, The Testaments, explore themes of politics, bodily autonomy, religion, caste and class, and sex and gender discrimination.
Listen to the award-winning narrative performance of Claire Danes as she takes you on a journey through the bleak and tragic world of the Republic of Gilead. Her nuanced delivery captures Offred’s alternating strength and vulnerability in every chapter. Danes is joined by an expanded cast in the special edition of The Handmaid’s Tale, including an afterword by the author. The Testaments is brought to life through a talented cast of narrators, including Derek Jacobi and Ann Dowd, who plays the role of Aunt Lydia, a central character in both novels, in the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, released in 2017.
First published in 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale is a work of political and social criticism, with notes of dark satire. Writing in response to political and sociological movements in America at the time, author Margaret Atwood speculated on the fate of women in a world controlled by an authoritarian religious regime. In her novel, she took these attitudes to their extremes to demonstrate what such repression and misogyny could lead to, claiming that she “didn’t put in anything we haven’t done”. Set 15 years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments digs deeper into the origin story of the Republic of Gilead and traces its downfall.
The Handmaid’s Tale has been nominated for several awards, including the Booker Prize, Nebula Award, and Prometheus Award, as well as winning the first-ever Arthur C. Clarke Award. The audiobook received the 2013 Audie Award for Fiction. The Testaments was short-listed for the Booker Prize.