#MARM: Intro to The Handmaid’s Tale Read-Along – Spoiler Free!

“Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”

“When we think of the past it’s the beautiful things we pick out. We want to believe it was all like that.”

“Sanity is a valuable possession; I hoard it the way people once hoarded money. I save it, so I will have enough, when the time comes.”

“Knowing was a temptation. What you don’t know won’t tempt you.”

Margaret Atwood has said time and again that she doesn’t put anything into her books that has not actually happened at some time or some place in the real world. So when Atwood sat down to write The Handmaid’s Tale, what were some of the things she was thinking about?

Margaret had been reading a lot of dystopian novels, such as 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451, and wanted to try writing one herself – to see if she could do it. But unlike most of the others she’d read, Margaret chose to write a dystopian centered on a woman. According to SparkNotes, she wrote it “during a period of conservative revival in the West partly fueled by a strong, well-organized movement of religious conservatives who criticized what they perceived as the excesses of the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s and 1970s. The growing power of this “religious right” heightened feminist fears that the gains women had made in previous decades would be reversed.

For more information on specific events in history that inspired many of the situations and details in The Handmaid’s Tale, read this article at History Collection. The article covers “17 Moments in History that Inspired The Handmaid’s Tale”, including ideas of forced surrogacy, mandatory dress code, and where Margaret Atwood got the term “handmaiden”.

“It isn’t running away they’re afraid of. We wouldn’t get far. It’s those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself, given a cutting edge.”

“We thought we had such problems. How were we to know we were happy?”

“We yearned for the future. How did we learn it, that talent for insatiability?”

“You don’t tell a story only to yourself. There’s always someone else. Even when there is no one.”

Over the next two weeks, Marcie and I will be reading The Handmaid’s Tale. The second two weeks of November we’ll be reading The Testaments. We hope you will join us or follow along! You can blog about it, comment on our posts, or tweet about it using #MARM.

Here’s our introductory post.

Here’s our schedule:

Week One: November 1, 2019 – The Handmaid’s Tale (no spoilers)

Week Two: November 8, 2019 – The Handmaid’s Tale (spoilery)

Week Three: November 15, 2019 – The Testaments (no spoilers)

Week Four: November 22, 2019 – The Testaments (spoilery)

Week Five: November 29, 2019 – Handmaid’s and Testaments Together (spoilery)


Have you read The Handmaid’s Tale? Do you have a favourite book jacket? Favourite quote? 

15 thoughts on “#MARM: Intro to The Handmaid’s Tale Read-Along – Spoiler Free!

  1. Geoff W says:

    I’ve read The Handmaid’s Tale numerous times and even wrote a few papers on it in grad school. I just finished reading The Testaments earlier this week. I’m still not sure it was “worth the wait” or whether it really deserved the Booker Prize, but it was a good read.

    • Naomi says:

      This is my third time reading The Handmaid’s Tale – and I’ve loved it each time.
      The more I hear reactions to The Testament, the more curious I am to find out what my own will be!

  2. buriedinprint says:

    Yay: it’s here! Handmaid’s, here we come!

    I’m starting my reread this evening. And I think I might start to rewatch the first season of the show when I’ve finished rereading. I’ve been wanting to do that. Anyone else interested in watching?

    And of course, for anyone who wants to join in with #MARM, feel free to read whatever work of hers you choose. I know some have been “saving” other particular Atwoods to enjoy this month!

  3. Lisa Hill says:

    HI, I won’t be joining in the re-read because I’ve already read it a number of times, but your introductory info here is stuff I didn’t know, so I’ll be keeping an eye on the discussion. Cheers, Lisa

  4. madamebibilophile says:

    Great post Naomi. I do want to re-read THT but this month is hectic so I will just enjoy the posts on it! I enjoyed looking at the variety of covers – some of them are so powerful. My copy is a Virago with the same picture as the second cover which I’m quite attached to, but seeing the eighth cover took me back – that’s the copy we read in school!

    • Naomi says:

      My copy has the second picture on it, as well – and I am also attached! I had never seen the 8th cover before putting this post together. I have to confess that I enjoy comparing book covers, especially when there are so many!

  5. Laila@BigReadingLife says:

    I read this a very long time ago and keep meaning to reread it but then it feels daunting to do so. Meanwhile, I’m currently rereading The Testaments for MARM. I read the sparknotes on the plot of Handmaid’s Tale to refresh my memory! 🙂

  6. annelogan17 says:

    I’m so excited to follow along on this! And i love all those handmaid covers, they’re gorgeous and so different. And the idea that Atwood uses real-life examples to form handmaid’s tale and testaments is terrifying, but not surprising at all. Time and time again, I will say we are so lucky to be living in Canada!

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