The Handmaid’s Tale: Book vs. TV Series!

Anyone who has spent much time on this blog will know that I have a slight obsession with Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale. I have read it twice for pleasure and also enjoyed every minute of studying it for my English Literature A-Level this year. It is an incredibly powerful, disturbing and thought-provoking dystopian. You can read my full review of the book here:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Fully aware of this enthusiasm, my parents bought me the Season 1 box set of the T.V. series (MGM Television and Hulu) as a present for finishing my exams. To be honest, I was a bit dubious – were my lofty expectations from the book going to be disappointed? I think my parents were dubious too – they repeatedly disdain any series, film or book that is “too weird”.

Fast forward a couple of episodes in, and the entire family is addicted, binge watching it every evening together! We swiftly moved on to Season 2, but unfortunately, Season 3 is not on the cards until May 2019.

I was addicted – it was so gripping. I couldn’t wait for the next episode. ~ My Mum

So, putting any literary superiority complexes aside, here is a comparison to help you decide between the book and T.V. series:

The Handmaids Tale Book vs TV Pinterest Graphic

  BOOK TV
Action Reflecting Offred’s claustrophobia, we spend a great deal of time inside her thoughts, trying to piece together her story from haphazard flashbacks and associations. This uncertainty is a major source of intrigue in the novel. Let’s face it, watching Offred sit in her room thinking wouldn’t make great television. As a result, there is extra action in the series that doesn’t happen in the book. However, Atwood was very involved with the series as a consulting producer, which may be what helps the additions feel as if they are staying true to the book’s principles. It also means that, even if you’ve read the book, you’ll have no idea what’s happening next!
Characters Readers share in Offred’s bewilderment as she tries to separate friend from foe, unearthing buried histories and motivations. This is made far more difficult in a world where communication is regulated and there are Eyes everywhere. The number of episodes allows greater exploration of more minor characters, such as Janine. I also loved the extra time devoted to Serena Joy, as I found her such a fascinating and ambiguous character in the books.
Perspectives Written almost entirely from Offred’s perspective. Gives access to the perspectives of different characters, including Luke and Moira.
Ending The ending of the book featured in my Top 3 Endings in Literature – it is one of the most unique, inventive final chapters I have ever read. The only aspect of the T.V. series I was slightly disappointed with is that they changed the ending I loved so much in the book. However, I do understand why, as it would have been difficult to leave things open for another season. Instead, they leave it on a cliff-hanger EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Conclusion: Read the book and watch the series! This is one of those situations where the age-old book vs film/T.V. debate doesn’t apply – in my opinion, both are brilliant and utterly addictive. I would suggest that reading the book first is probably the best order, but this is just a suggestion. Happy reading/watching – and prepare to binge!

The Handmaids Tale Book vs TV Infographic

Cover image courtesy of Goodreads.


Have you read or watched The Handmaid’s Tale? What did you think? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear from you!

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