Author: Margaret Atwood
Book Rating: 7.9/10
TV Show Rating: 3.5/10
Synopsis (no spoilers):
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now… (Goodreads)
There’s a lot of hype about this book right now, probably because of the recent release of TV show adaption (available on Hulu). I often choose books on the basis that they’re being adapted into a show or a movie because, if people are spending money to retell the story, it’s gotta be somewhat good. Also, it gives me a chance to compare and contrast the two; the books are almost always better (duh), but it’s still interesting to see how the movie director created what I had envisioned while reading.
The main premise in the TV show is the same as the novel; the government officials have been uprooted and replaced by radical Puritans. The United States of America is now referred to as Gilead and runs as a totalitarian society where women were stripped of their rights and used for breeding and chores and people were hung in the streets daily. All of those details are presented in both versions.
However, there were quite a few differences between the book and the show; I found that the TV show included additional flashbacks. There are flashbacks in the book, but only Offred’s to her life before the revolution; the TV show included her husband’s flashbacks as well. As a viewer, you see a lot of the inside scoop about what’s going on with Offred’s husband before and during the revolution (the book doesn’t include the husband perspective whatsoever).
Conclusively, I can typically handle a few details altered or added when it comes to book adaptations and, in this particular adaptation, the details didn’t bother me. What bothered me was that the TV show didn’t do a great job of explaining WHY women were stripped of their rights, WHY families were being uprooted, WHY women were now used for breeding and household duties. I wasn’t as captivated by the TV show as I was with the book. I watched it though with my boyfriend and we had to pause the show SEVERAL times so I could explain to him what was going on… there’s a lot of confusion as to why people are living the way they are.
Also, a captivating aspect of the book is Offred’s fear; the TV show didn’t portray her fear quite as strongly. Furthermore, I felt like she had a great deal more freedom in the TV version than she was allowed in the book.
I liked how in the book you understood that you were reading about future America, but the TV show makes the setting seem like a fictional, radically pious community.
Overall, I recommend reading the book and skipping the TV show.
About the Author:
Margaret Atwood published The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985, though it’s been growing in popularity recently. She’s 78 years old and currently resides in Toronto; she’s also lived in Boston, MA, Alabama, Germany, England, France and Italy. She has several degrees, including honorary degrees from Dartmouth, Harvard, Mount Holyoke and many others. She has also taught writing class as several universities.
She has published over forty fiction, poetry, and essay books and is still writing today!