‘Science fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen.’ Margaret Atwood’s chilling cautionary tale is illustrated by the Balbusso sisters and published by The Folio Society.

 

Illustrations © Anna and Elena Balbusso 2012 from The Folio Society edition of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

The Handmaid’s Tale portrays a chilling dystopia, with its military hierarchy of Angels, Guardians and Eyes, and its Birthmobiles, Econowives, Prayvaganzas and Salvagings (executions). Offred makes frequent references to the world she once knew and the freedom she took for granted – having her own bank account, wearing her hair uncovered, even something as simple as using nail varnish. Atwood skilfully dramatises the contrast between the grotesque strangeness of Gilead and ‘ordinary’ life going on elsewhere, as when Offred and a companion encounter a group of tourists from Japan. Forbidden to take pictures, the tourists ask, through an interpreter, if the women are happy. Both fascinated and repelled by the Japanese women’s ‘Westernized’ clothing, Offred replies that they are very happy. ‘I have to say something. What else can I say?’

Illustrations © Anna and Elena Balbusso 2012 from The Folio Society edition of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Asked whether her book could be classed as science fiction, Atwood replied: ‘Science fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen.’ First published in 1986, The Handmaid’s Tale was inspired by contemporary Western fears about falling birth-rates, as well as by religious fundamentalism both in the West and East. It was a critical and popular success, launching its Canadian author on the international stage. It won the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, one of Canada’s most prestigious literary prizes, and the inaugural Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction, as well as being shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Anna and Elena Balbusso’s stunning illustrations skilfully highlight the regimented and hierarchical nature of society in Gilead.

Illustrations © Anna and Elena Balbusso 2012 from The Folio Society edition of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

Anna and Elena Balbusso are an internationally recognised team of Italian artists. Together they have received more than 70 international awards, including the New York Society of Illustrators’ Steven Dohanos Award and the Los Angeles Society of Illustrators’ Joseph Morgan Henninger Award. For three consecutive years (2011–13) they were awarded the Gold Medal in the book category of the Society of Illustrators Awards: in 2012 for their work on the Folio Society edition of The Handmaid’s Tale.

The presentation of the book, from the artwork on the case, to the printing on the spine, is lovely – just like the other books from The Folio Society.

The book is beautifully illustrated and any fan of book will be very pleased with how the Folio Society’s edition of The Handmaid’s Tale has turned out.

Once again the Folio Society delivers on an amazing book, with superb illustrations that really brings the story to life. The Folio Society never disappoints, and I look forward to seeing what they do next.

The Folio Society edition of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, introduced by Margaret Atwood and illustrated by Anna and Elena Balbusso, is available exclusively from www.FolioSociety.com priced at £39.95.