The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel by Renée Nault – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Interesting, but mostly made me feel like I need to read the full novel to get now if the details that feel like they’d make the story have more impact. The creep factor of the control of the world was toned down by the shortened adaptation, but enhanced by the visuals that really hit you in the face with how WEIRD the situations were.
Recommended: For people who have already read the original
For a shorter adaptation with effective art that will enhance an already developed story for those who know it
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, where women are prohibited from holding jobs, reading, and forming friendships. She serves in the household of the Commander and his wife, and under the new social order she has only one purpose: once a month, she must lie on her back and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if they are fertile. But Offred remembers the years before Gilead, when she was an independent woman who had a job, a family, and a name of her own. Now, her memories and her will to survive are acts of rebellion.
My overall impression is that I wasn’t able to get the details I would need about the world and the characters to truly appreciate this. In part due to the nature of a graphic novel, where text is limited, I felt like some of the reasoning of why these things had happened, how our MC got to be where she was, and so on, felt undeveloped. I know that’s partly intentional in the story itself, but it felt a little hollow from here.
The art does help build the story, though. The emotions are carried very well by it. There’s a lot of focus on color, with the red of the Handmaids, the blue of the Wives, the green of the Marthas, and the gray of everyone else creating a world with very clear divides. Seeing the positioning of the husband, the Wife, and the Handmaid for their monthly ceremony was unbelievably weird. That in an image was very powerful in expressing the bizarre situation that Gilead created, and it was practically impossible to wrap my head around how anyone would think that was a good idea (or necessary in any way – who is even happy there?? Probably no one participating!!).
On the note of happiness, the fact that they address whether the people are “happy” in their world of Gilead when tourists visit from the outside placed the whole world in an off-kilter context. To think that everywhere else was still familiar as I know it, and that Gilead allowed others in. They acknowledge as well that they remember life before, and I can’t help but wonder how they were assigned their new roles (who becomes a Handmaid instead of a Martha?). It felt a bit like North Korea, or countries with limited rights compared to what I know in the United States, and our propensity to ask “How can you be okay with your restricted situation?” Once again, I come back to Hermione and the house elves, or Reagan and Jane in The Farm.
I appreciated the openness of the ending, though it felt rather abrupt. Pacing felt rather fast across the whole tale. Overall, I’ve come away from this feeling like I should just read the full original novel that’s been on my shelf for years and years. This graphic novel is more of an enhancement of the story for those who are already familiar with it.
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