The Handmaid’s Tale – the series


Only two episodes left for this series of The Handmaid’s Tale based on the book of the same name by Margaret Atwood. Are you watching? What do you think?

We’ve really been enjoying it. I’m loving it and even my husband likes it quite a lot. It might not normally be the type of series he would have thought to watch but he’s interested in it though finds it difficult to imagine how a society could turn into what Gilead has become. I don’t think it’s so out of the question, considering how many places in the world already treat women in a not-so-different manner. Human rights, especially for women, in some countries, are being nudged and subtly undermined as we speak.

I reread the book earlier in the year to refresh my memory but it isn’t necessary to read it first, I don’t think. There are differences between the book and the series but there isn’t anything in the book that would make you miss something in the series which is doing an excellent job of covering all the details in flashback of the progress to where the series/book started. They have kept to the main points of the story very well. They’ve filled in a lot of background detail which I really don’t want to spoil for anyone that hasn’t see it yet because I believe the series has just begun airing in the UK, you have it all to look forward to, lucky you!

The series has even been renewed for another season to air sometime next year. Mind you, if the series ends where the book did, it’s hard to imagine where it could go. Well, I kind of can imagine it but it would be all new material and would be about what happens to Offred afterwards. The ending of the book left you dangling a bit as to whether it was a good or a bad ending for Offred. Either way, I guess we will find out what happened to her next. Will she ever reunite with her husband and daughter? The very ending/appendix of the book takes place about a hundred years in the future from the main timeline where Gilead has fallen and future researchers have found the journals of the Handmaid which makes up the text of the book. Perhaps they can do the second series from there with flashbacks, filling in the blanks about Offred and the fate of Gilead. It would definitely have to be in keeping with Atwood’s vision.

I also think I heard that Margaret Atwood is considering writing a sequel so if she’s doing that or planning that, she may be involved with the series to keep it synced, much like George R. R. Martin is with Game of Thrones. I wouldn’t want the story to continue if it was just random stories from Gilead. People will want to know what happens next to Offred and that’s where the story should follow, in my opinion.

In the meantime, there are two more episodes to sink our teeth into and things are ramping up!

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Sequel for The Handmaid’s Tale?

There was a new audio version of The Handmaid’s Tale released this week, with an extended ending written by Atwood. It’s a special edition on the Audible site, a very good site for audio books. It’s giving rise to rumours that there might be a sequel in the offing. Wishful thinking? Or was that a hint?

There are spoilers in this post regarding the ending of the book and audio version.

I initially read about this in a post here. The author has conglomerated a few other sources including an article in the Guardian, and on from The Loop, a Canadian site. The short of it is that in the current ending, a university professor talks about the downfall of Gilead from a point at least 100 years in the future from the time frame of Theh Handmaid’s Tale (THT) and the discovery of the recorded journal from a woman named Offred which tells her story, the book as it were. The ultimate fate of Offred is not known. The book ends with the professor asking if there are any questions from the audience of the lecture.

The new audio version contains audience questions including one voiced by the author herself in a cameo. These questions/answers provide two clues to a potential sequel, referencing possible new material and documentation that needs further verification before there can be any further information released about Gilead and maybe about Offred as well. The professor tells the audience they hope to be able to present the new material at some point but couldn’t say for sure. Sounds promising, doesn’t it?

The Loop have asked Ms. Atwood about the possibility and she said “I am in consultation with the Professor, but he is being very cagey about this,”  “He evidently doesn’t want to make any promises before he has finished authenticating his new discoveries.”

Hmmm. We know that the book has been hitting the best seller lists again after 30 years due to the upcoming series (I reread it myself) and it’s probably a no-brainer that if the series does very well, they’ll want to do a sequel but fans of THT probably wouldn’t accept one written by just any screenwriter. It would have to come from Atwood herself. Maybe she is going to write a sequel, a book perhaps or maybe she’ll be involved in the sequel though we all know books are better! With the way the political climate seems to be running these days, Gilead wouldn’t be such a far off and unbelievable future and there could be plenty of inspiration for a new novel.

Would you like to see a new novel or do you think it would be selling out, cashing in and all that? Even coming from Ms. Atwood, I’d still worry that it might fall down flat. I think it would have to show us Offred’s fate and show Gilead imploding at some point, perhaps the work of the Mayday rebellion has the ultimate successful effect.

Exciting times.

Meanwhile, it’s just a couple of weeks before the series hits television, April 26 on Hulu in the USA and April 30 on Bravo in Canada.

Update on A Handmaid’s Tale

I mentioned in a past post that Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale is being made into a 10 episode series by Hulu, a cable network in the U.S. There was no word at the time that any station in Canada would be airing it.

This week there is good news on that front. Bravo in Canada will air A Handmaid’s Tale starting April 30, four days after the debut on Hulu! I can watch it legally! Once the series is finished, it will also be uploaded to Crave TV. We have that, but I’m not waiting 10 weeks when I can see it on Bravo. I’m quite excited about this. I have started rereading the book in anticipation. (edited: Finished! Review here)

Elizabeth Moss from Mad Men is cast in the main part of Offred.

The story takes place in the future in a totalitarian society in the Republic of Gilead where a Christian Fundamentalist group has overtaken the U.S. and quickly moved to create a society where human rights are a thing of the past and women are subjugated even moreso. Because of the pollution and increased levels of STDs, fertility is adversely affected and to keep the population from dying out, women called handmaids are used to be the bearers of children. The story is told from Offred’s point of view where we get flashbacks of her life before her current situation including when she and her husband and daughter tried to escape to Canada.  Handmaids are subjected to the sexual act in the presence of the wife of the couple in a ritualistic manner, hoping they will get pregnant.

Offred is attached to a high ranking official who defies the law and becomes obsessed with her, allowing her privileges in secret. The official’s wife is also trying to manipulate Offred who hasn’t become pregnant yet. She’s setting up an alternative situation with the chauffeur to help get Offred pregnant and Offred’s subsequent relationship with the chauffeur could end up making or breaking her. Offred also discovers an underground resistance movement but by the end of the book, her future is uncertain.

Another Margaret Atwood book, Amazing Grace, is also being made for tv. CBC and Netflix are cooperating on this 6 hour mini series about a mid 19th century maid accused of murdering her employer. The book starts off after Grace has been in prison for 10 years though she continues to say she has no memory of committing the crime. The story is told by Grace to a doctor. Margaret Atwood is going to appear in the series in a cameo role. Canadian actor and director Sarah Polley wrote the script with Atwood also having a writing credit. CBC will air the series in Canada and Netflix will carry it globally. There doesn’t seem to be an air date yet though one place I read speculated end of 2017 or early 2018.

The Book Was Better

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The Outlander series of books by Diana Gabaldon, now a tv series called Outlander on Starz

Lots of movies and some television series are based on books. “Based on”, that’s the key word. Many times the movie takes an idea from a book and builds a whole new thing. Books generally contain so much detail that a movie can never fit everything in so naturally, it feels like a book is far superior to a movie.

When the author sells the rights to their work, what happens to make the end result  is pretty much out of their hands but sometimes an author is lucky to be allowed to write the screenplay. I’ve even been aware of a book that was written *knowing* it would be then made as a tv mini series and the series written by the book’s author.  It baffles me, then, when events in a book are completely changed for the movie. If the author knew they’d be writing the screen version, why didn’t they write the story to match in the first place? The specific book I’m thinking about is a sequel to Gone With The Wind, called Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley. The mini series had major changes which didn’t enhance the story at all. Boggles the mind.

I’m sure most writers try to be as faithful to a screen adaptation as they can. Changes always have to be made and things have to be left out because they don’t always work in the visual version or the budget might require it. Most of the time, you never know what goes into adapting a book for the screen and why.

Two years ago, my absolute all time favourite series of books was turned into a tv series. Or, at least, the first two books have been turned into series, so far, with the third book/series in production now, I think. The author is Diana Gabaldon and the series is the “Outlander” series. It’s difficult to nail down the genre really. It is superb historical fiction with a time travel element and romance and adventure. The first book, Outlander, was published in 1991 and there are currently 8 books in the series, two companion books and a few “spin off” books about a secondary character. The historical period is the late 18th century, starting in 1743, just before the Jacobite Rising in 1746 and following through to the events before, during and after the American War of Independence.

Ms. Gabaldon has had much interest over the years but wanted to make sure it was in good hands and the producers at the Starz tv channel in the US have taken it on board and ran with it. She has been closely consulted along the way though she has no actual final say in things. She did get the opportunity to write an episode and she had a cameo appearance in another one. She’s been great at keeping the fans informed and often explains *why* things are different book-to-movie which is really great. You get a bit of insight into the production of it. I still hear people complaining that the books are better and yes, yes they are, but I also really love the series and since I understand why things have been changed, I can take the series for its own merits. The changes haven’t been too jarring so far and the interpretations have worked very well, I think.

It still doesn’t mean that I always accept a movie or filmed adaptation’s changes. Sometimes they just don’t make sense to me and sometimes a really interesting or seemingly important part of a book is dropped or changed and it is upsetting when you do love the book. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie that was better than the book aside from possibly added special effects that were jaw dropping.

I could go on and on about various movies and books specifically but I think I’ll leave those for future posts. There will likely be another blog post about Outlander at some point, as well!

How do you feel about book-to-screen adaptations? Do you dread them? Are you often pleasantly surprised? Can you accept changes to the story? Which ones have been done well or not?