Title: The Handmaid’s Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Narrator: Claire Danes
Audiobook Length: 11 hours
Genre: Science Fiction
Release Date: 1 January 1985
Bottom Line: Truly frightening and one of the most uncomfortable stories to hear read aloud
“After a staged terrorist attack kills the President and most of Congress, the government is deposed and taken over by the oppressive and all controlling Republic of Gilead. Offred, now a Handmaid serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife, can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Despite the danger, Offred learns to navigate the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules in hopes of ending this oppression.”
Thoughts: Claire Danes is a wonderful narrator for this particular story. Her performance is matter-of-fact with just a hint of the emotional trauma of Offred’s experiences. She is a woman trying desperately to narrate a nightmare by keeping all emotion at bay. That she fails at times only adds to the story and to Ms. Danes’ performance because those cracks in the façade are more brutally honest than anything she states. It is a powerful story made even more heart-wrenching by Ms. Danes’ taut performance.
The Handmaid’s Tale is truly an appalling story. Indeed, Ms. Danes’ performance makes it more horrifying than a normal horror story. The evolution of the Republic of Gilead and the formation of the Handmaids are too realistic and possible for comfort, and the fates of Offred’s daughter/husband/friends/fellow women confirm that uncomfortable truth. The story loses none of its horror upon repeat readings either, indicating just how powerful and frightening a story it really is. The Handmaid’s Tale is truly a force of nature and a must-read for all women if not for everyone, as it is an vital warning against religious extremism and the radical actions such views can take.