‘The Handmaid’s Tale:’ Advance Graphic Novel Review

I still remember reading The Handmaid's Tale novel by Ms. Atwood when I was a teenager.  It was a horrifying look at a future that, at that time, I felt was little more than a fantasy.  Too young to understand the implications of a government based on theonomy (a hypothetical Christian form of government in which society is ruled by divine law), it resonates even more so today as we now face religious extremism in our daily lives. (I made my mother read it back then, and I’m not sure she appreciated it.)

For those of you who have managed not to see any trailers of the show on Hulu or read the book, the story is about a young woman named Offred who is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead.  Prohibited from reading, holding a job, or having any freedom whatsoever, her only value is that she is fertile.  She is assigned to the household of the Commander, where she is subjected to ritualized rape in order to become pregnant in service to Gilead; however, Offred finds hope in the most unlikely places.

When I first started reading the graphic novel, I wasn’t terribly enamored with the art style, but as I continued, I realized that this was what the story demanded. The soft water colors serve to underscore the horror that these women have endured.  Ms. Nault employs the use of double-panel pages most effectively, allowing us to see the enormous, yet claustrophobic, world they live in. The letterer, Ms. Lum, has done a marvelous job. Her use of negative and positive space complements the art perfectly. Often, I see reviews that don’t talk about the letterer, mine included, but she has done such a great job that I wanted to be sure to mention it.

As far as the writing goes, the adaption is spot on. It’s tough to adapt any form of media from one to another, but Ms. Atwood and Ms. Nault have pulled together a fluid and comprehensive story. In short, you don’t have to read the novel or watch the show on Hulu to understand what is going on in the graphic novel.

It’s a powerful work that should grace everyone’s bookshelf.

Creative Team: Based on the novel by Margaret Atwood, Adapted by Renée Nault and Margaret Atwood, Art by Renée Nault, Lettering by Jennifer Lum
Publisher:  McClelland & Stewart, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited
Click here to purchase.



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