The Handmaid’s Tale – Graphic Novel, by Margaret Atwood and Renee Nault. Book report #8 (2019)

The Handmaid’s Tale – Graphic Novel, by Margaret Atwood and Renee Nault. Pub 2019

This dystopic story has been on my reading list for the last few years, in a world that sometimes increasing resembles these fictional horror worlds, familiar and other-worldly at the same time. Also, there are the recent mini-serieses dramatizing the world of Gilead in excruciating gory detail. I’ve been avoiding these, as they are purported to be both true to and deviating from the original text, and with the extension beyond the end of the novel seemed more inspired by than truly dramatizing the original. That, and I hate having to wait for the next episode, so would rather wait for the entire series to be done and then binge-watch the whole thing.

Earlier this year came the news that Atwood would be releasing the sequel to the original, due out in September. The time felt right to re-read the novel, but still I wasn’t keen yet. Then more news – a graphic novel version of the novel, endorsed by Atwood herself. It seemed a good way to tackle both the novel as well as the somewhat-dreaded element of this year’s book list – a genre you don’t normally read.

Graphic novels have never appealed to me. They are almost always dark – literally, relying on black, white, and every shade of grey, with the very occasional splash of red. “Comic book” was always what I thought. But, it is Atwood…

The book took just a few hours to get through. True to my expectations, black, white and red (and also blue and brown), with various shades of those. The book gets through the entire story, and the words are straight from the original novel, with the images taking the place of much of the text. The artwork is good, and gives shape and texture to the world and characters that fill in around the selected text.

But, I just did not enjoy it. Without the text of the novel, the reader must see the characters and the world the way the artist sees them, with no opportunity to imagine the style of dress or shape of the room or look on someone’s face. Unlike with film – where the entire character is portrayed, including voice, mannerisms, movement – these images are static and so don’t bring the work to life, they just take the place of sections of the novel. I missed reading the words and imagining the tone of voice, feeling the building of tension, having to imagine the horror for myself. Having it drawn out for me felt anticlimactic, and the tension of the story was relieved by having the artist do the imagining for me.

So, graphic novels will not be on my list again, at least not as books that count as anything other than comics or distractions.

7 – a book with a female author (two in fact)
8 – a book that is being or has been made into a film
18 – a book you can read in one day
27 – a genre you don’t normally read

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