The Handmaid’s Tale Revisited—Audiobook Edition Updated

Listen for new insights into the beloved—and prescient—dystopian classic.

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Margaret Atwood‘s 1985 classic dystopian novel THE HANDMAID’S TALE debuts April 2017 as a streaming series on Hulu.com. The book has been a bestseller for decades, but has had a resurgence in the months since the 2016 election. The New Yorker calls her “the Prophet of Dystopia,” and the title is fitting. Her story of Offred, a Handmaid who is enslaved to bear children for a government leader and his wife, studies the role of women in a society that has slowly and quietly stripped them of their rights. The tale remains chilling today.

Atwood and the team at Audible have created a special new audiobook edition, adding new content from Atwood to the sparkling performance by Claire Danes released in 2012. Back then, AudioFile reviewer Leslie Fine gave the performance an Earphones Award—you can read her review of the “timeless and timely” audiobook here.

We reached out to Leslie to see what she had to say about the new content:

The Special Edition audiobook of Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE offers some thought-provoking new material, outlined below.

Questions and Answers
The original novel ends with a keynote lecture from the “12th Symposium on Gileadean Studies,” framing Offred’s disturbing story as a curiosity from the past and ending with the eerie “Are there any questions?” Atwood uses this Special Edition as an opportunity to ask and answer those questions, with an eye for current events in the United States. A full cast performs this section, and for the most part, the performances here are fine, with the keynote speaker assuming a lofty, supremely erudite tone that suits the content. The questions culminate in the ultimate one: “What sort of political climate do you think could potentially break apart our current stasis and deliver us back in time, so to speak?” Listeners may indeed be interested in that response.

Afterword
The Special Edition audiobook gives listeners insights into the author’s purpose, thanks to the new afterword by Atwood herself. The author’s measured reading of her essay calmly offers a brief history of the novel’s origins and reflects on its historical and social context. Her pacing is such that the listener has time to absorb her words without feeling pressed. Perhaps best of all, Atwood mentions questions readers have posed over the years and offers her thoughts on the answers. Listeners can almost feel like confidantes of an active, imaginative, perpetually-prescient mind.

Essay
Following Atwood’s excellent afterword is an additional critical essay by Valerie Martin, the content of which is quite thoughtful and enlightening as it explores the role of THE HANDMAID’S TALE in our culture since its publication. The listener is offered only “Essay” as a preface, and the pacing here is much more hasty, which does detract somewhat from the experience. However, the ideas themselves are worth hearing. On another production note, this section would benefit from a more distinct separation from the Atwood piece, one that would include the author’s name at the outset, rather than leaving Martin’s name until the end.

If you haven’t yet read THE HANDMAID’S TALE, this audiobook is an excellent way to challenge your mind and perceptions. If you are already a fan of this novel, this Special Edition will offer you even more to think about.—Leslie Fine

What are your favorite book-to-screen adaptations? Share yours in the comments!

Davina Porter: The voice behind the Outlander series

Eight volumes of OUTLANDER, 320 hours of listening—now that is binge-worthy!

AudioFile Magazine spoke with Davina Porter, narrator of the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon, published by Recorded Books.

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photo by Jo Anna Perrin

Golden Voice narrator Davina Porter has performed not only the entire Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, but also other fantasy classics including many of Marion Zimmer Bradley Avalon audiobooks, and Erika Johansen’s widely praised THE INVASION OF THE TEARLING.  Davina’s audiobook work includes titles ranging from classics to mystery to philosophy, with an enduring thread of splendid fantasy audiobooks.

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Diana Gabaldon, read by Davina Porter
Recorded Books

AudioFile’s exclusive interview with narrator Davina Porter:

Hullo, I’m Davina Porter, and have had the fun and privilege of narrating the entire Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, from the initial book up to the latest one, WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD.

– What background do you bring to the Outlander series?
I was born and raised in England, my father was English, a true “Londoner” (read Cockney!), and my mother was born in St. Andrews, Scotland. Two accents under my belt! I am married to a Glasgow-born Scot, more diversity. Being a product of my background, I am very familiar with the English and Scottish way of life, and all its foibles!

– How do you keep the characters and their accents straight?
I keep the characters and accents straight by making rather scruffy lists in various notebooks, but as they are so well written, they come alive and stay in my memory.

– Have you ever visited the Scottish Highlands?
I have visited the Highlands. Quite beautiful, unspoiled, and very mysterious. However, they can turn on the visitor in the summer because of the midges. Mosquitoes have nothing on these little pests!

– Is there one favorite character you love to perform? 
My favorite character is Claire. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, I AM Claire!!!!

– What was the biggest challenge in narrating the time-travel sequences?
There really isn’t  a challenge narrating the time travel sequences; I love history, and having visited Scotland, lived in London and four years in Paris, it is easy to put oneself in those cities and countries, and when voicing the characters, to keep them true to the morals and mores of their times.

Tuesday Tease: The Chemist

Breathless romantic suspense from Stephenie Meyer

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2016 Best Audiobooks
Award Winner

Okay, Twilight fans. She’s back. And there aren’t any vampires, but it doesn’t matter —narrator Ellen Archer will have your hair standing on end anyway. Archer introduces Stephenie Meyer’s unlikely couple: a woman who can get a man to do anything — using her lethal stash of chemicals — and the man who has the information she’d die to know. Further essential information: There’s a genius dog in the story. Need I say more?

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Stephenie Meyer, read by Ellen Archer
Hachette Audio
Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

If you have ever avoided pressing the play button for fear a favorite character won’t survive the chapter, The Chemist is not going to be a comfortable listening experience. Narrator Ellen Archer soon signals that Meyer’s characters are on borrowed time. Pack your go bag and enter Meyer’s breathless romantic suspense. Listen to a sound clip and read our full review here!

AudioFile goes Behind the Mic to hear from narrator Ellen Archer about THE CHEMIST.

Stay up-to-date with AudioFile’s newest romance reviews

Till next Tuesday!
-Caitlin Augusta