Time for a confession of bookish sins! I did a very “bad bookperson” thing and watched the show before I read the book. And then I had the audacity to like the show more.
So I shall talk about them today! Now, I am going to try very hard to be non-spoilery. However, if you are like me, and like to go into things blind, then… you should probably not read this. Just in case, you know?
I was interested in this book for basically forever because you know I’m a sucker for a good dystopian. But you know what I am historically not a fan of? Classics. So I avoided it, though kept saying I wanted to read it. As you do. Anyway, the show became a thing, and I swore to myself I’d read the book so I could watch the show. But after I got Hulu… I couldn’t control myself anymore, apparently.
I watched the first episode in goddamn horror. Beware: This shit is dark. And maybe it wouldn’t have hit so close to home a few years ago, but now? You can seriously understand somehow how this world came to be. And it’s terrifying. So it took me literal weeks to work up the guts to watch the next episode, and that is how I started. As much as I could handle, basically. The thing is, it was quite powerful and very good, so I wanted to keep watching! It was just… difficult. After about four episodes though, I was in, and I was able to binge them and still sleep at night.
Eventually, a month or so after I watched it, Val @ The Innocent Smiley was reading it and peer pressured me into reading it too. I’d had no plans, really, since I had watched it. But alas. I read the thing. And now we shall talk about them as separate entities, and also compare!
Just some random observations:
- The show follows the book very closely in terms of plot points. They don’t always happen in exactly the same order, but it’s quite faithful.
- Most of the characters are the same, though the show has added some, and definitely fleshed out others. And made some younger and more attractive for the sake of television, I guess?
- The book does feature a pretty unique epilogue that made it worth reading for me, so that’s fun.
- Both feature flawed characters. No one is perfect in either medium. No one is all evil, either. There’s such a sense of believability to the whole thing, and I think the flawed, “human” characters are a big reason why.
- This is mostly a question for others who have read the book: There is a passage about some of the handmaids experiencing… spontaneous lactation? Or maybe a more accurate description is sympathy lactation? Can someone help me, is this a thing?! I have so many questions, help a girl out.
So, why did I like the show better? Let’s discuss!
- The flashback scenes were so much more emotional, so powerful. While the book did have our main Handmaid (she is unnamed in the book, one key difference in the show) think about her life “before”, she thought about it in a very clinical manner. I get why, seemed like self-preservation, but for June in the show, it’s quite motivating, and maintains her sense of self.
- Frankly, I didn’t get a sense of who Book Handmaid was. Again, this is probably purposeful in the sense that she could literally be everywoman. But for my personal tastes, I prefer that strong connection to a character, and I had that with June. The other characters, too, were much more fleshed out in the show.
- The show was kind of gutsier. I feel like I keep repeating myself, but this too makes sense. Obviously, our cultural and societal norms have changed, and I think that the show’s ability to “go there” in some cases is really proof of that. So too is the stronger group of female characters. Not a criticism against the book, just something that I am glad we can see onscreen in 2018 as opposed to 1985.
- The show has a Season 2! The book ends on one hell of a cliffhanger. Which, rude. And so does the show, in ways. Only… we get another season of the show. And I for one am pretty damn happy.
- There are tiny (microscopic at times) glimmers of hope in the show. In the book, there were really none throughout, only later in the story.
So even though I loved the show, I still liked the book. Solid four stars or something. But the show blew me away. I’ve wondered if I’d have liked the book better if I’d read it first, and I suspect I would have. But alas.