Believe it or not, until now, I hadn’t read “The Handmaid’s Tale.” It was always on my lift, but I could never find a hard copy, and I couldn’t afford to buy a new copy, so, alas, it sat on my list. Then, one Saturday, I found a copy at my local library’s book sale. It was the only book I walked away with that time, but I was more than happy to have found it.
When HULU announced that they were making a show of the book, I marked my calendar, and got the book ready. I had started it prior, but stopped when I heard the announcement. For whatever reason that I can’t articulate, I decided I wanted to read and watch the show side-by-side. It was the first time I had ever done something like this, and I wasn’t sorry. In fact, I kinda wish I could go back and do the same for the Game of Thrones series.
Reading alongside the action on screen kept me guessing, in both situations. What little changes did they make to the show? Let alone, what was going to happen next?
The show is different. It always has to be because the mediums are so different. HOWEVER, the way this show as done, translating the beautiful, poetic prose into a compelling and equally poetic monologue, and dialogue, is stunning. A labour of love, and you can see it in every, stunning shot. Very few adaptations have even compared to how well this one is translated.
And this one isn’t easy.
Ms. Atwood’s prose is stunning. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful and symbolic and poetic. It is poetry into prose, and narrative form. I gobbled it up. But I’ve always been a poet at my core. Regardless, Offred is the core of the book; the narrator that we must believe, and love. And it isn’t easy. You want to will her into more action, hold her, cry for her, laugh, you want to actively do something for her. And the end will grab you by the heart and squeeze (however you interrupt that is up to her, I’d say the same for a happy or sad ending).
The show does the same. Everyone attached to this project is giving performances of a lifetime for this work. Every. Single. One. And yes, it is different, and expands the world beyond the pages of Atwood’s work. It has to, in some way, to build upon what might be several more seasons of television. That said, none of it feels like it was added. Every scene is carefully built with Atwood’s stunning prose in mind, the characters, and the world. The likes of which I have never seen, even in Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films (we all know that man took great pains to bring that faithfully alive).
I’ve been singing its praises from the beginning, and using to caution the world. How quickly our minds can be altered to believe the despicable. We get inside the head of someone who experienced this, and it should terrify you, and spur you into action. As a woman, it is a cautionary tale, but one with hope: we don’t have to go this way. We can stand up and say: no! to categorizing people in such a harmful way. We can fight back. If Offred’s voice, so tender, can be heard, so can our shouts.
Everyone needs to watch, and read this story. We need it more than ever.