Audiobook Spotlight #8

Happy Monday you lovely lot and thanks for checking out this edition of Audiobook Spotlight! I love blogging about audiobooks as they make up a large portion of my reads. I used to think audiobooks were really expensive, but I now use BorrowBox from my local library so I can listen to them for free to my heart’s content! If you are in the UK (or anywhere else in the world for that matter), it’s definitely worth checking out what your local library service has to offer.

Today’s review is for an absolute classic of dystopian and feminist literature!

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Book First Publication Date: August 1985

Publisher: Anchor Books

Audiobook Release Date: 10 September 2019

Audiobook Publisher: Bolinda Audio

Narrator: Elizabeth Moss, Ann Dowd, Bradley Whitford, Amy Landecker

Genre: Classic fiction/dystopia/ science fiction

Format: audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Goodreads Synopsis

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now . . .

Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid’s Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.

My Thoughts

I was first made aware of The Handmaid’s Tale when I did a taster session for A Level literature – we read an extract of it to analyse and I found myself so intrigued that I read it myself! It’s been about 10 years since then and I’ve now watched the TV series which I think is fantastic. I, therefore, felt myself drawn to a re-read – or re-listen in this case I suppose!

For me, The Handmaid’s Tale is a giant of modern literature. I was a little worried going back into it, after it has come squarely back into the public eye with the TV series and the release of The Testaments that it wasn’t going to be as good as I remembered – I’m happy to say that my worries were alleviated because I absolutely adored it yet again.

First things first, this is an audiobook and I often find that the narration can make or break it. The cast of the TV series were behind the narration so I felt that it brought another element to it and tied the two mediums together really well. Elizabeth Moss narrates the majority of the novel in the character Offred/June who she portrays in the TV series as well. The epilogue featured actors who play Aunt Lydia and Commander Waterford. Elizabeth Moss’ narration was exceptional. I feel she has such an understated voice but it conveys such power – perfect for a figure who is supposed to stay silent, yet is so stoic and, for want of a better word, absolutely badass.

The Handmaid’s Tale is scary through it’s portrayal of how quickly the world can go from normal to being flipped on it’s head. It’s also scary that amongst some of the general population there is so little open resistance to this change – the fear of speaking out making so many silent. This is beautifully illustrated when women are no longer able to have access to bank accounts and when June loses her job. Her boss is sympathetic, he knows that it is wrong, yet he is paralysed with fear and cannot go against the new diktat.

The character of Offred/June is so strong, not only in her actions but the writing used to portray her thoughts, feelings and experiences. The character really jumps off the page. She is warm, sarcastic, and, I believe, empowered by her knowledge and tenacity despite being bound by her situation as a handmaid.

This book deserves all the praise it gets. People rightly draw parallels between this book and recent and current events. Although, in many places, things haven’t gone full Gilead, we need to keep the powers that be in check to ensure that everyone’s voices are heard and no part of society is marginalised. It’s a big task, but a very important one.

Have you read anything that you feel has such parallels with the current state of the world? I find this an endlessly fascinating trope so give me your recommendations down in the comments!


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