Latest Feature – The Handmaid’s Tale [The Folio Society]

Illustration by Anna & Elena Balbusso from The Folio Society edition of The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood © Anna & Elena Balbusso

Sunday night saw the multi-award-winning hit TV series ‘The Handmaid’s Tale‘ bring its thrilling second season to a nail-biting, if controversial, end on Channel 4. To mark the occasion, we decided to take a closer look at the recently re-issued Folio Society edition of Margaret Atwood‘s chilling dystopian novel on which the series is based, first published in 2012.



The Handmaid’s Tale

By Margaret Atwood

Introduced by Margaret Atwood | Illustrated by Anna & Elena Balbusso


Product Details• Bound in cloth, blocked with a design by Anna and Elena Balbusso • Set in Scala • Frontispiece and 6 colour illustrations • Book size: 9˝ x 6¼˝ • 336 pages


Since its initial publication 33-years ago, Margaret Atwood’s extraordinary dystopian novel has sold millions of copies across the globe, been published in over 40 languages, adapted into various different forms, and never been out of print, despite numerous bans and academic challenges from institutions voicing concerns over its explicit sexual content, mature themes and negative, defamatory view of religion.

Set in the near-future Republic of Gilead – a fundamentalist theonomy formed within the borders of an overthrown USA, and built on New England Puritan values – Atwood’s cautionary tale follows the journey of ‘handmaid’ Offred, one of the first generation of Gilead’s women, who has been assigned to the home of ‘The Commander’ and his wife Serena Joy to bear a child on behalf of the struggling couple.

Though told from the perspective of Offred, the novel employs a sort of double narrative to explore Offred’s restricted daily life, as well as those of Gilead’s other handmaids, with Offred frequently slipping into flashbacks to recall the past events that led up to her present situation, the free world she took for granted and outline their attempts to find individualism and independence.


Illustration by Anna & Elena Balbusso from The Folio Society edition of The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood © Anna & Elena Balbusso


Undoubtedly the most striking aspects of Folio’s beautiful edition are the bold frontispiece and illustrations from the internationally renowned Milanese twins, Anna and Elena Balbusso, taking inspiration from Futurism and German Expressionism.

Anyone familiar with their work will know that Atwood’s novel is ideally suited to their unique graphic style, and the finished issue proves a real work of art, filled with sharp designs and illustrations that complement the abstract, expressive nature of the tale and effectively highlight the oppressive atmosphere Atwood evokes with its predominantly red, black and white colour palette.


The Balbusso Twins comment:

“It was important to have a certain freedom of interpretation to better express what the writing suggests. It was very difficult to choose scenes and we gave up on many interesting options. Instead we tried to focus our attention on the woman’s body. Some situations in the story are very complex and we preferred to leave the interpretation of those to the readers of this exceptional text!”


Illustration by Anna & Elena Balbusso from The Folio Society edition of The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood © Anna & Elena Balbusso


Atwood has stated on a number of occasions that the book was not meant as a prediction of the future, though in discovering Offred’s emotional and physical journey it remains chillingly prophetic nonetheless.

The success of the series has of course encouraged vast numbers of viewers to pick up the novel for themselves and read the original source, however if you’re still looking to purchase your copy, this beautifully bound and brilliantly illustrated edition is the one to go for!

Go on – treat yourself to a real collector’s item!


Illustration by Anna & Elena Balbusso from The Folio Society edition of The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood © Anna & Elena Balbusso


The Folio Society edition of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, introduced by the author and illustrated by Anna & Elena Balbusso, is exclusively available from www.foliosociety.com.

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