cover image The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood and Renée Nault. McClelland and Stewart, $22.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-3855-3924-1

Equal parts gorgeous and horrifying, Nault’s adaptation faithfully follows both the plot and style of Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel. Narrator Offred lives in Gilead, a United States that is both unrecognizable and too familiar: the government strips women of their freedom in the name of protecting them, discards the old and infirm, and loves fetuses more than the living. Offred says, “Everything Handmaids [women conscripted into rape-based surrogacy] wear is red: the color of blood, which defines us.” Nault’s reds are rich and layered watercolors, rust to flame. In one frame, she draws hanged Handmaid bodies as drooping crimson flowers. Nault’s semiabstracted interpretations of traumatic scenes are stronger than the story’s more pedestrian moments, when it’s hard not to feel the flatness of the pale characters’ expressions. Painting life in Gilead’s toxic, war-torn Colonies, Nault takes great advantage of the graphic form. In Atwood’s text, exile is frightening because it is a void. Here the cancer-eaten jaw of an “unwoman” worker is on full display. Atwood fans may shrug at another incarnation of this classic, but it’s skillfully done and likely to appeal to younger readers; the tale’s relevance and Nault’s talent are undeniable. (Mar.)