Audie Award, Fiction, 2013
Margaret Atwood's popular dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale explores a broad range of issues relating to power, gender and religious politics. Multiple Golden Globe award winner Claire Danes (Romeo and Juliet, The Hours) gives a stirring performance of this classic in speculative fiction, one of the most powerful and widely read novels of our time.
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.
Cover art by Fred Marcellino. Used with permission of Pippin Properties, Inc.
Why we think it's Essential - Margaret Atwood's modern classic is one of the most stunning and powerful works of speculative fiction ever written, and it took a lot of careful consideration to determine who would best narrate this important book. Claire Danes elevates the frightening dystopic vision by lending a sheen of reality with her performance. She doesn't act, and she doesn't need to. She recounts. She breathes out the tale as if she is living it. Resigned, beaten down, traveling through hell by putting one step ahead of the other. I was utterly convinced by her performance. Emily
“Claire Danes sparkles in this performance...Danes's Offred is complex, and her flashes of intense strength highlight her vulnerability. This is a consuming listen, thanks to Danes's emotional subtleties.” (AudioFile)
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Claire did a fabulous job!
Claire Danes is a brilliant actor, and I've read this book years ago but with her as the story teller I was inclined to listen to it again. To be honest, I was a little disappointed by Claire Danes as the performer of the book. It took a good two or three chapters to wrap my head around her delivery of the text, but the text is so strong that whatever it was about Claire's performance was overshadowed by the story itself. I mean, she wasn't bad, but I guess I just expected so much more because when you see her on the screen as an actor she's really, really good. Really good. If it was anyone else putting in this performance it would be good, but because you expect so much more from Claire Danes the performance is just alright.
Strangely, I don't remember the book being written first person, present tense the first time I read it, but there it is, told in the first person/present tense, exactly how everyone tells you NOT to write. Again, it was distracting for a while, but once you got into the story you didn't notice so much.
I've read a few of Atwood's books, and they aren't necessarily my favourite, but post-apocalyptic stories are strangely fascinating to me and this story is well wrought and disturbing because it feels like it could happen, that we are laying the groundwork for it to happen if we aren't careful.
Anyway, A Handmaid's Tale is a great story and worth listening to, and Claire Danes is good but not brilliant by her standards, but good enough. Give it a go, you'll enjoy the story or come away scared by how possible it all is.