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The Handmaid's Tale: The Graphic Novel

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Everything Handmaids wear is red: the colour of blood, which defines us. 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 Everything Handmaids wear is red: the colour of blood, which defines us. 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. Provocative, startling, prophetic, The Handmaid's Tale has long been a global phenomenon. With this stunning graphic novel adaptation of Margaret Atwood's modern classic, beautifully realized by artist Renee Nault, the terrifying reality of Gilead has been brought to vivid life like never before.


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Everything Handmaids wear is red: the colour of blood, which defines us. 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 Everything Handmaids wear is red: the colour of blood, which defines us. 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. Provocative, startling, prophetic, The Handmaid's Tale has long been a global phenomenon. With this stunning graphic novel adaptation of Margaret Atwood's modern classic, beautifully realized by artist Renee Nault, the terrifying reality of Gilead has been brought to vivid life like never before.

30 review for The Handmaid's Tale: The Graphic Novel

  1. 4 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    I just reviewed Margaret Atwood's original story, so I won't re-discuss plot and themes. I have seen some of the fine Hulu series, so was interested to see that Renée Nault had adapted and illustrated Atwood's story as a graphic novel. The artwork here is gorgeous, creating a somewhat different effect than the film adaptation, emphasizing on almost every page the rich, deep red of the handmaidens, etching that color forever in your mind, and meaning of the red changes over the course of the book I just reviewed Margaret Atwood's original story, so I won't re-discuss plot and themes. I have seen some of the fine Hulu series, so was interested to see that Renée Nault had adapted and illustrated Atwood's story as a graphic novel. The artwork here is gorgeous, creating a somewhat different effect than the film adaptation, emphasizing on almost every page the rich, deep red of the handmaidens, etching that color forever in your mind, and meaning of the red changes over the course of the book. It's a faithful adaptation, true to the horror and the steadily growing sense of resistance, and a looming rebellion, of May Day. I strongly recommend you check it out. A fine and worthy companion to the original. It captures the sense of the narrative in case you just want to know the story and don't really intend to read Atwood's original, but I suggest you read both, of course.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dean J. Hill

    Renee Nault’s graphic adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s bestselling novel is just beautiful, one that effortlessly captures the book’s literary heart and soul. But it’s more than the assemblage of illustrations, more than a conflation of watercolour and ink on paper . . . It’s The Handmaid’s Tale meaningfully represented as visual storytelling, preserving the original novel with artist Renee Nault’s graphic adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s bestselling novel is just beautiful, one that effortlessly captures the book’s literary heart and soul. But it’s more than the assemblage of illustrations, more than a conflation of watercolour and ink on paper . . . It’s The Handmaid’s Tale meaningfully represented as visual storytelling, preserving the original novel with artistic eloquence. Renee Nault goes beyond merely presenting readers with a penumbra of Gilead in this sempiternal adaptation as good as its film counterpart . . . A magnificent tribute to Atwood’s fiction that complements yet does not replace the written word, a dexterous artist who brings characters and plot to life with their stroke of genius. Rated 4.5 / 5.0, praise be. You can read my review of The Handmaid's Tale HERE and The Testaments HERE.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Julie Ehlers

    Because this is a graphic-novel adaptation of a very well-known and widely read book, I feel like this review shouldn't focus on the plot or characters or the world that's been built; it should instead focus on whether Renee Nault has done an effective job of adapting it all into comic form. In my estimation, she has: the art is wonderful, very appropriate and affecting, and while it couldn't have been easy to cut this story down in a way that makes sense, she's done it. It's been a long time si Because this is a graphic-novel adaptation of a very well-known and widely read book, I feel like this review shouldn't focus on the plot or characters or the world that's been built; it should instead focus on whether Renee Nault has done an effective job of adapting it all into comic form. In my estimation, she has: the art is wonderful, very appropriate and affecting, and while it couldn't have been easy to cut this story down in a way that makes sense, she's done it. It's been a long time since I read The Handmaid's Tale, and I couldn't tell you what Nault has cut, but I can say that what she's left in works very well. Also: It's still a great story. When I read Atwood's novel I was nineteen and was just beginning to educate myself on politics and social issues, so I don't think I grasped it all as well as I did this time around. The parallels to our current culture are evident and the portrayals of how humans react to governmental overrreach feel familiar. Like I said, great story. Great, terrifying story.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    While in Barnes Noble recently picking up a couple classic graphic novels on my to own list, the bookseller says, up front we also have THE HANDMAIDS TALE graphic novel. I said thanks, but the novel wasn't a favorite of mine. She said hers either, she doesn't like dystopian stories, and, of course, I said I loved them, but not that particular one. She said, the book is beautifully done though....and that it is. I walked out with it! So here I am done reading the story for a second time and loving it and the beautifully illustrit! While in Barnes Noble recently picking up a couple classic graphic novels on my to own list, the bookseller says, up front we also have THE HANDMAIDS TALE graphic novel. I said thanks, but the novel wasn't a favorite of mine. She said hers either, she doesn't like dystopian stories, and, of course, I said I loved them, but not that particular one. She said, the book is beautifully done though....and that it is. I walked out with it! So here I am done reading the story for a second time and loving it and the beautifully illustrated graphics of this horrific dystopian world for women. The fertile women are objects used primarily as a container for procreation, a natural resource of the time in the terrifying Republic of Gilead, and THE HANDMAIDS TALE is primarily Offred's oppressive story of loss, loneliness, grief and the forbidden touch of love. NO talking...NO employment...NO reading...NO friendships. The handmaid's cannot even look at each other, and sneaking around is dangerous and detrimental to your health. The aunts are always watching as are the wives and punishments are brutal....to those unessential parts of the body that don't affect their purpose in life. And even worse....there's the ominous hanging wall visible to all who pass. Note: Illustrations in this graphic novel are colorful and vividly expressive of bringing to life this unsettling dystopian world. Have not yet watched the Netflix movie, but can't wait to see if it ends like the book for Offred (view spoiler)[hopeful, with a possible way out and a chance to find her daughter. (hide spoiler)]

  5. 4 out of 5

    Madison (life uh finds a way)

    Praise be.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alice Lippart

    Loved it!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Stunning imagery. It's amazing how her vision matches how I pictured the setting to be in my own mind, almost exactly.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Praise be. The classic Margaret Atwood cautionary tale has finally been adapted as a graphic novel, and it is perfection. The spare art style emphasizes color (especially red and blue) and the facial expressions convey much even when words aren't possible. I really can't say enough about the illustrations: they evoke even more haunting, chilling doom than words alone can achieve. I received an advance copy from the publisher via Netgalley for review consideration.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    I haven’t watched the television series and I’m not going to read the sequel. But with handmaids’ talk in the air, and my not feeling inclined to reread the original novel, when I heard of the graphic novel’s existence, I immediately got it from the library. I read the original novel when it came out in paperback (1986? 87?), and I didn’t have high expectations because of finding it in an airport bookstore and my not having read anything by Atwood before then. I remember being absorbed by it and I haven’t watched the television series and I’m not going to read the sequel. But with handmaids’ talk in the air, and my not feeling inclined to reread the original novel, when I heard of the graphic novel’s existence, I immediately got it from the library. I read the original novel when it came out in paperback (1986? 87?), and I didn’t have high expectations because of finding it in an airport bookstore and my not having read anything by Atwood before then. I remember being absorbed by it and finishing it in record time, though not before my flight landed. I doubt I found it as scarily prescient, or as freshly relevant, then as I do now. I don’t remember enough of the original novel to say if anything has been changed in this adaptation, but I’m guessing not much, except for necessary condensation, as with the main character’s relationship with her owners’ chauffeur; the “historical note” at the end; and there not being full explanations of several concepts. The art of the adaptation is chilling in that much of it matches my memory of what I visualized as I read the novel so many years ago. Before finishing this, I made myself put down the book for the night, but then felt it calling me back. So I finished it later that night, maybe in record time, almost feeling rushed by its ending. It cannot replace the novel, in fact it makes me want to reread it, but it was a haunting refresher.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David

    While still not a huge fan of the graphic novel form, I'm warming to it. And this is the best one I have read so far. The artwork is of such high quality. It supports the novel well without visually swamping Atwood's very controlled dystopian world. I found myself turning the pages rather obssessively because I was compelled to see what Nault had created next. It was not possible to determine just when this version of The Handmaid's Tale is set. Offred remembers strolling along with Luke, While still not a huge fan of the graphic novel form, I'm warming to it. And this is the best one I have read so far. The artwork is of such high quality. It supports the novel well without visually swamping Atwood's very controlled dystopian world. I found myself turning the pages rather obssessively because I was compelled to see what Nault had created next. It was not possible to determine just when this version of The Handmaid's Tale is set. Offred remembers strolling along with Luke, carrying Starbucks coffee with java jackets, which makes it post-1995. Yet the "electric cattle prods" the Aunts carry look like basic riding crops. In the end it just didn't matter. As futuristic as the novel itself felt when first published in 1986, this horrific and cautionary tale feels even more plausible today. A shocking, sickening state of affairs.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Krista

    Everything Handmaids wear is red: the colour of blood, which defines us. With Margaret Atwood's The Testaments being released and making a splash this year, I decided to refresh myself on the story of The Handmaid's Tale without actually rereading The Handmaid's Tale - hence, the graphic novel adaptation. I won't comment on the content of this story, just the adaptation, and while admitting that I'm no expert on graphic novels, I will say that Renée Nault tells a satisfying story, complete with lushly beautiful and Everything Handmaids wear is red: the colour of blood, which defines us. With Margaret Atwood's The Testaments being released and making a splash this year, I decided to refresh myself on the story of The Handmaid's Tale without actually rereading The Handmaid's Tale - hence, the graphic novel adaptation. I won't comment on the content of this story, just the adaptation, and while admitting that I'm no expert on graphic novels, I will say that Renée Nault tells a satisfying story, complete with lushly beautiful and engaging watercolour pictures. And while I did enjoy the artwork (and in particular the variety of viewpoints and the ways in which the Handmaids' wardrobe would bust through the frames in waves of bloody red), the AV Club in their review complained, "Everything is too pretty and delicate and aesthetically pleasing to instill the sense of fear this story deserves". Reading that after the fact I can see the reviewer's point, but I will stick with four stars and consider myself refreshed enough to tackle Atwood's follow up. None of that looks "too pretty" to me.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Trudie

    A beautifully illustrated graphic novel version of The Handmaids Tale provided me with a useful refresher on this story prior to picking up The Testaments . I thought this tale worked very well in this format but it will never be a replacement for reading Atwood’s classic novel.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    I haven't watched the Netflix series, but I did listen to the audiobook last year. I decided to read the graphic novel before reading the new book The Testaments. The graphic novel is a very condensed version with key plot elements included. At the same time, short shrift is given to descriptions of life before the new era. In many respects, graphic representation of this story has more impact than text. I did read this with an eye to its potential for use with secondary students. This might not be possibl I haven't watched the Netflix series, but I did listen to the audiobook last year. I decided to read the graphic novel before reading the new book The Testaments. The graphic novel is a very condensed version with key plot elements included. At the same time, short shrift is given to descriptions of life before the new era. In many respects, graphic representation of this story has more impact than text. I did read this with an eye to its potential for use with secondary students. This might not be possible because of the inclusion of some nudity. I do feel reading the graphic novel was good preparation for reading the Testaments.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shreya

    Terrific in so many ways - but only if one already knows the story inside out.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    The artwork and colouring in this volume perfectly reflect the misery and horror of this story. I am unable to read The Handmaid's Tale as a book, listen to the audiobook, or watch the TV show without crying. This graphic novel provoked the same reaction of anger and sadness. I think that as a woman I empathize so strongly with the characters and I believe it is truly the scariest story ever written. This graphic novel is the perfect complement to the other formats and would be a great introduct The artwork and colouring in this volume perfectly reflect the misery and horror of this story. I am unable to read The Handmaid's Tale as a book, listen to the audiobook, or watch the TV show without crying. This graphic novel provoked the same reaction of anger and sadness. I think that as a woman I empathize so strongly with the characters and I believe it is truly the scariest story ever written. This graphic novel is the perfect complement to the other formats and would be a great introduction into Gilead for newbies.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    The content of the novel obviously stood up, and the drawing is appropriately haunting. That said the kinds of advances the TV show brought in terms of reflecting the diversity of women regresses here. Everyone is white and I find that unfortunate, since that was a weakness in the 1987 novel Atwood herself had acknowledged.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    3.5 stars I know this is a classic but since I haven’t read the original novel, I feel like I didn’t appreciate this as much as I could have. The artwork was bright and bold and brutal in places but overall the frustration and anger I felt toward such a system was just too much and I couldn’t rate it any higher. Plus, I felt pretty depressed throughout the entirety of reading it :/

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    The art here is fabulous and the style certainly fits the tone of the book, but I think anyone without familiarity of the novel would be lost on how the story plays out and even more frustrating is the lack of representation. Atwood and the folks behind the television series have rightly been criticized for how white the book is and even with that knowledge prior to the creation of the graphic novel....there are hardly any faces of color throughout.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    Renee Nault has done a fantastic job of bringing the stark brutal reality of Gilead to life while keeping the essence of the story unchanged. I do wonder if not having prior knowledge of the story will affect readers views and understanding though, personally I enjoyed this more than the novel.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nadine

    The Handmaid’s Tale is one of my favorite classics of all time. I wrote a quick review for it the last time I read it in 2016 in preparation for the television show, so check that out for a more in-depth review. This review will focus on the adaptation of the story for a graphic novel and its illustrations. My biggest complaint with the adaptation is that it didn’t include my favorite quotes of the novel. “You can wet the rim of a glass and run your finger around the rim and it will make a sound./>“You The Handmaid’s Tale is one of my favorite classics of all time. I wrote a quick review for it the last time I read it in 2016 in preparation for the television show, so check that out for a more in-depth review. This review will focus on the adaptation of the story for a graphic novel and its illustrations. My biggest complaint with the adaptation is that it didn’t include my favorite quotes of the novel. “You can wet the rim of a glass and run your finger around the rim and it will make a sound. This is what I feel like: This sound of glass. I feel like the word shatter." There’s something about this quote that gets me every time. It’s visceral in its description and hard hitting in the emotion being conveyed. When I heard about the adaptation, I started imagining how this quote could be interpreted through images. Unfortunately, it wasn’t included. Though, the quote before it about being buttered is included so that kind of makes up for it. Everything else about the adaptation is executed flawlessly. The illustrations are gorgeous! I’m usually a fan of more clean cut illustrations, but these have a slight sketch component to them. They fit the story well while also communicating the more subtle moments of the novel. Overall, everything about this adaptation is incredible. I’d definitely recommend it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rod Brown

    I first read the original novel 29 years ago, so I wasn't surprised that I had forgotten big chunks of the story. Mostly I remembered being bored by the novel and having the feeling that it was just too far-fetched. But this graphic novel adaptation makes a good case for the story being more likely and more urgent than ever to tell. I really should try the TV adaptation now.

  22. 5 out of 5

    HoneyAhmad

    Damn best! Love the artwork too

  23. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    This story is so terrifying. My second time reading it did nothing to dull the knot in my stomach while I read. The Handmaid’s Tale should be required reading. Margret Atwood is a master, you open this book and you can not put it down until you finish. I seriously can not give enough praise to this masterpiece. The illustrations were beautiful and I really think it added a whole other level to the novel.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    Several decades ago I had started the novel from which this graphic adaptation is derived. I had trouble getting into the writing style. But it was always in the back of my mind that I would get back to it one of these days. Then recently I saw that there was a graphic novel adaptation newly available. Clearly, this was my access point. It was wonderful. Everything that I was hoping for when I first tried to read it... it's in there. I do love dystopian stories and this certainly a classic - and Several decades ago I had started the novel from which this graphic adaptation is derived. I had trouble getting into the writing style. But it was always in the back of my mind that I would get back to it one of these days. Then recently I saw that there was a graphic novel adaptation newly available. Clearly, this was my access point. It was wonderful. Everything that I was hoping for when I first tried to read it... it's in there. I do love dystopian stories and this certainly a classic - and still very, very topical.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    2.5, rounded down. Oddly enough, I 'read' this the same day that Atwood co-won the Booker for the sequel, but had ordered it from the library a few weeks earlier. It goes quickly and is perhaps valuable as a 'refresher' on the book, but just having re-read the original, I couldn't help feeling that this is - more or less - a Cliffs notes version of the book. You do get the barebones of the plot - but all the nuance and subtlety of Atwood's original and her precise prose is absent, and 2.5, rounded down. Oddly enough, I 'read' this the same day that Atwood co-won the Booker for the sequel, but had ordered it from the library a few weeks earlier. It goes quickly and is perhaps valuable as a 'refresher' on the book, but just having re-read the original, I couldn't help feeling that this is - more or less - a Cliffs notes version of the book. You do get the barebones of the plot - but all the nuance and subtlety of Atwood's original and her precise prose is absent, and although the illustrations are lovely and evocative, I don't think they compensate for what is lost.

  26. 4 out of 5

    BunTheDestroyer

    I knew i wasn’t going to read the original novel OR watch the show, so when I saw this I thought it might be easier for me and I actually enjoyed it! It reminded me of some abridged Poe stories i used to read. Even though I really like Poe, sometimes I get lost in his words and descriptions. The abridged version made it easier for me to enjoy the plot and the story for itself and not for the language. In a similar vein, it was easier for me to understand the plot in the storyline with I knew i wasn’t going to read the original novel OR watch the show, so when I saw this I thought it might be easier for me and I actually enjoyed it! It reminded me of some abridged Poe stories i used to read. Even though I really like Poe, sometimes I get lost in his words and descriptions. The abridged version made it easier for me to enjoy the plot and the story for itself and not for the language. In a similar vein, it was easier for me to understand the plot in the storyline with this graphic novel format. I hope they make every classic novel I don’t like into a graphic novel! Forgot to mention this book ALSO broke my cardinal grammar rule and used “should of” instead of SHOULD’VE

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ylenia

    Beautifully executed adaptation.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Julie Suzanne

    Excellent.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Neil (or bleed)

    Need to read the novel now.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Audra (ouija.doodle.reads)

    A stunning adaptation that will need to be in the home of any Atwood fan. I read this graphic novel as a refresher on Offred’s original story about Gilead before diving in to The Testaments, and it really is such a special book. The illustrations are lovely: sometimes simple, sometimes complex and always moving. I saw this story in a whole new way. This story is so impacting, and I have loved all iterations of it: original novel, audiobook, TV show, and now graphic novel. Artist Renee Nault brin A stunning adaptation that will need to be in the home of any Atwood fan. I read this graphic novel as a refresher on Offred’s original story about Gilead before diving in to The Testaments, and it really is such a special book. The illustrations are lovely: sometimes simple, sometimes complex and always moving. I saw this story in a whole new way. This story is so impacting, and I have loved all iterations of it: original novel, audiobook, TV show, and now graphic novel. Artist Renee Nault brings a new type of visual meaning to the story with the constant iteration of the bright, rich red of the handmaid’s garb. It is almost like slashes of blood across each page, violent and beautiful in turn. There is also a timeless quality to the illustrations. The snatches you get of Offred’s previous life feel modern and yet untethered to any specific timeframe. It could be our own past, present, or future. The one thing I wish I had seen in this graphic adaptation would have been some more diversity. It is wonderful that Moira represents the LBGTQ community and is an unyielding feminist, but how come there are no black, Asian, Hispanic, or other women anywhere on the pages? I wonder how their experience would differ. Perhaps this is something addressed in the new book—I’m excited to find out! This graphic novel adaptation an addition to my collection that I will treasure. It is not just a moving and important piece of literature, but an object of art as well. My thanks to Nan A. Talese/Doubleday for my copy of this one to review.

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