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The Handmaid's Tale The Graphic Novel - Book Review

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by Marisa Quinn-Haisu (subscribe)
My name is Marisa. I am a fiction writer, a blogger, and a freelance journalist.
Published May 16th 2019
Experience the world of Gilead in vivid red colour
The Handmaid's Tale Graphic Novel Renee Nault Maragaret Atwood
Atwood & Nault. Doubleday.


The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopian fiction novel about a future where the United States government has been overthrown and replaced with a totalitarian state known as Gilead. Gilead is ruled by a theonomy government that passes laws based on the teachings in the Bible. Women in Gilead have very few rights. The book revolves around a woman known only as Offred, who is made to work as a handmaid, which is a class of fertile women who are forced to wear white bonnets and red robes and have sex with powerful men, known as Commanders, and birth their children due to a fertility crisis.

The Handmaid's Tale is written from the point of view of Offred, who jumps from the past to the present, as she narrates what her life was like before Gilead came to power and she was made into a handmaid, and what life is like for her living in Gilead as a woman who has been stripped of all her rights.

The Handmaid's Tale was written by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. Atwood is a highly respected writer who has been published in over thirty five countries and has penned over forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. Her book The Handmaid's Tale has won numerous awards and critical praise. It is highly regarded in academia as a work of dystopian fiction and is regularly put in the same category as 1984 and Brave New World. Many consider the book to be a piece of important feminist literature. The Handmaid's Tale and its themes have sparked numerous political debates both in and out of America. It's become common for women to dress up as handmaids as a form of protest when politicians try to pass laws that will restrict women's reproductive freedoms. The image of the handmaid has become associated with women who have been robbed of their rights and freedoms.

The Handmaid's Tale has been adapted into a film, an opera, and a popular television series starring Elizabeth Moss as Offred that is about to enter its third season. My first introduction to The Handmaid's Tale was through watching the new television series back in 2017. I loved the show so I decided to read the book that it was based on. It was a haunting, terrific read. In April of this year, it was announced that The Handmaid's Tale was going to be getting a graphic novel adaption with the art and adaption done by Renee Nault. Like many other fans of Margaret Atwood, I wondered how the book would translate into a graphic novel.

Blessed be the spoilers.

The Handmaid's Tale makes a fantastic graphic novel. Renee Nault has done a fantastic job of bringing the world of the Handmaid's tale to life. I loved her use of colour in this book. The handmaids are depicted in shades of blood red and Gilead is shown in shades of grey and light blue. The handmaids are these vibrant and fertile splashes of red moving amongst a landscape that can only be described as sterile.

This is not a book for young readers. There are graphic scenes of rape and violence. The story hasn't been altered or censored. This is Offred's tale. The illustrations can be quite shocking on some pages. I really loved how the colour red was used in this book. There is one scene where the background is black and white and the red falls on the page like drops of blood. Another favourite scene of mine is when Offred is in the garden and thinking about how she doesn't want to die and end up on the wall. The background is dark red behind her and the tulips in the garden are shaped like handmaids that have been executed by hanging.

I can't recommend this book enough. The Handmaid's Tale is such a horrifying tale. I think what makes me so emotionally invested in it is how close it feels to reality. It feels like a warning. Atwood has stated that everything that happens to Offred has happened and continues to happen to women today. Women's rights and the reproductive rights of both men and women are so important. Offred had another name but it is forbidden now. We can't let Gilead happen in real life. Praise be.
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Why? Margaret Atwood’s critically acclaimed dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, has been adapted into a graphic novel with stunning, terrifying illustrations.
Where: Available from your local bookstore or online retailer
Cost: $35 - $50
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