Deborah Friedell, 7 November 2019
After she wrote The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood created sci-fi dystopias – she prefers the term ‘speculative fiction’ – chock-full of viral pandemics, antibiotic resistance, mass flooding and forest fires, crop failure, mass extinction. No current anxiety is left behind. Governments become subservient to wicked multinationals; every other child has autism; coastal cities disappear one by one. In these novels, the status of women is no longer in dispute, just in time for the world to end, in a surfeit of ways, including starvation as a result of overpopulation. Atwood herself seemed to have moved on from the concerns of Gilead, even if her fans hadn’t, but then, she says, Trump’s election ‘put wind in my sails’. She wanted to answer the question: how does Gilead end?