Saturday, 6 May 2017

#Review - The Handmaid's Tale (Audible original, special edition) - audiobook narrated Claire Danes

The Handmaid's Tale

Author: Margaret Atwood
Edition: Audible Original, special edition
Narrator: Claire Danes
Publisher: Audible Studios
Published: April 4, 2017 (book originally published 1985)
Runtime: 12 hours and 12 minutes
Genres: science fiction, speculative fiction, dystopian fiction, feminist fiction
Awards: Man Booker Prize Nominee (1986), Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (1986), Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel (1987), Audie Award for Fiction (2013), Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction (1986), Prometheus Award Nominee for Best Novel (1987), Governor General's Literary Awards / Prix littéraires du Gouverneur général for Fiction (1985), Commonwealth Writers' Prize Nominee for Best Book in Caribbean and Canada (1987), CBC Canada Reads Nominee (2002)
Date read: Friday, May 4, 2017
Number of times read: 1


"Are there any questions?" The final line in Margaret Atwood's modern classic, The Handmaid's Tale, has teased and perplexed fans since the book's original release more than 30 years ago. Now, in this Audible Original production, listeners get some of the answers they've waited so long to hear.

Featuring an all-new interview with Professor Piexoto, written by Atwood and performed by a full cast, The Handmaid's Tale: Special Edition is a must-listen for both fans and newcomers alike. Emmy Award winner Claire Danes (Homeland, Temple Grandin) gives a stirring performance of this classic in speculative fiction, where the message (and the warning) is now more timely than ever. In addition to rich sound design that honors the audio origins of Atwood's classic, the special edition also includes a brand-new afterword from the author and an introduction written by author Valerie Martin (Mary Reilly, Property).

After a violent coup in the United States overthrows the Constitution and ushers in a new government regime, the Republic of Gilead imposes subservient roles on all women. Offred, now a Handmaid tasked with the singular role of procreation in the childless 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 everything, even her own name. Despite the danger, Offred learns to navigate the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life for mere glimpses of her former freedom, and records her story for future listeners.

Whether you're a fan of the original novel or someone who has recently discovered it, The Handmaid's Tale: Special Edition will shock, impress, and satisfy all those who listen. -- via Goodreads


I have been wanting to read this book for about 2 decades. Seriously, since I was about 15/16 when people I knew were assigned it in high school English classes. See, being Canadian, getting assigned a Margaret Atwood novel in high school English, at least when I was growing up, was somewhat mandatory, but our teachers had a choice of which one they assigned us. Most people I knew were assigned either Alias Grace, The Handmaid's Tale or Cat's Eye. All of which I had heard of before, my class, however, got assigned one I had never heard of: The Robber Bride. It was interesting and engaging, especially being set in Toronto, which is where I went to high school. But we were teenagers and the main character were all middle-aged women, so it wasn't a book I could relate to at the time. Plus it wasn't my usual genre, it was contemporary fiction, which isn't something I often select by choice. So those two things combined to put me mentally off Margaret Atwood for a few decades. Even though I liked it I wasn't sure I wanted to read more of her.

But my mind had always kept coming back to her stuff, specifically The Handmaid's Tale. So last year I saw that the library I work at had one copy that was in, so I snagged it and brought it home where it has been sitting on a shelf for about the last six month. I flipped through the first few pages, wasn't sure about the style of the writing, and set it aside again. But after reading, and loving, The Penelopiad and Angel Catbird v.1 I started thinking about it again. Then the hype for the new Hulu tv adaptation really started in earnest and I couldn't stop thinking about it. And then I heard about the Claire Danes narrated audiobook and decided that since I like Claire Danes - I may as well try listening to the book instead of reading the physical copy. So I used my April audible credit to get it.

I am SO glad that I made the decision to read this book in the audiobook format - especially this particular edition of it. Once I started listening, I kind of had a hard time stopping, which is why I listening to the entire thing in one day. Caveat, when I listen to audiobooks I listen to them at 2x-2.5x speed (in this case 2x) because I find the narration way too slow at anything less. In the case of this book, I actually think listening to it at double speed really added another layer of complexity to the story. It's revealed in the historical notes section at the end of the novel that the story came to light in the form of tape recordings found in a chest after the fall of Gilead. To me then, listening to the story, and listing to it at the furtive almost frantic double speed, makes it feel authentic in that context.

This book is terrifying - especially now, in 2017 after the election of Trump. It's terrifying because it's so eerily possible like things that happen in this book are actually happening in the States right now and that's heartbreaking. That's one of the aspects of dystopian fiction that has always fascinated me, seeing what parts of the dystopia I can see in the world around me. But The Handmaid's Tale is almost too on the nose which is what makes it scary. But also what makes it an amazingly good novel. The new Afterword by Margaret Atwood that is included with this edition does a much better job of talking about that than I could. She discusses the context in which she wrote the book compared to now, and why the book is so timeless, but so incredibly relevant and important right now.

If you've never read The Handmaid's Tale before now really is the time. If you have, you should consider doing it again. I wholeheartedly recommend this edition to first-time readers and re-readers.

Overall Rating

5 bolts

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