At this week’s FREADOM, a few of us discussed how disappointed we were with Naomi Alderman’s book, The Power. Members of the group described it as being cheesy – and a few of us were even unable to finish it. Although it was the winner of the 2017 Bailey’s Women’s Prize, we thought that the gender dynamics within the book were hypocritical and at times disturbing .
I was one of those too, that was disappointed by the book. So, I put it back on my shelf (thinking briefly about who I might be able to pass it on to) and instead picked up The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
I’d been meaning to read The Handmaid’s Tale for years. When I was 18, our dog-eared teacher’s copy was passed round the class eagerly over the course of a term. I don’t know why, but at that time, I was never overly interested in reading it. Perhaps I was put off by the genre being marked as ‘sci-fi’, but now of course, that classification seems almost irrelevant.
Thirty years after its original publication, The Handmaid’s Tale is perhaps less like science fiction than it ever has been. When women’s access to birth control and abortions in the USA are being imposed upon and in some cases, being taken away, the world that Offred and her fellow handmaids inhabit is less dystopian and more scarily realistic than perhaps we ever thought it would be.
Now brought to life in the Channel 4/Hulu TV series, The Handmaid’s Tale is once again in the forefront of our minds. And with its journey over to a new medium, the story is suddenly more accessible to those who have perhaps struggled with reading. For what is undeniably a feminist book, this is incredibly important. By bringing a ‘dystopian’ novel into the mainstream, the producers of the show have brought women’s rights over their bodies into the minds of the masses. When considering it in this light – is it important if the TV series isn’t totally loyal to the narrative of the book if the message and intent is the same?