On Inspiration and Margaret Atwood

By Kristi S.

Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors. I have a vivid memory of finishing the last page of The Handmaid’s Tale and taking that deep breath that comes when you set down a book and you know it will stay with you forever. The next morning, I showed up at the library searching for more. She is one of the few authors whom I have read completely. Some books I loved, some books I hated, but all of them left a strong impression. In anticipation of the third season of The Handmaid’s Tale hitting Hulu on June 5, I’m rereading my favorites and branching out with novels from authors she’s inspired.

Alias Grace

After The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace is my favorite Atwood novel. It follows Grace Marks, a woman accused of a double murder at the age of 16. She initially confesses to the crimes, but later claims to have no memory of the events. Atwood builds suspense and tension through interviews between Grace and an earnest psychologist trying to puzzle out the truth. Though she adapts her writing to the time period with a leisurely pace and intricate detail, the novel is entrenched in a sense of unease that keeps you turning pages and thinking far beyond the final page. Grace is an enigmatic, unreliable narrator and this is an interesting departure from Atwood’s usual style. Last year, Netflix quietly adapted Alias Grace into a short series and it was stunning.

Moral Disorder

Moral Disorder is another favorite of mine. It is a moving and lyrical collection of interconnected short stories, including her signature strong female lead and biting social commentary. Atwood has an incredible ability to expose deep emotional truths in everyday experiences. I am always impressed by her willingness to experiment in writing form and language, and have yet to be disappointed in her characters.

The Broken Earth Series

N.K. Jemisin cites Margaret Atwood as a strong influence in her writing. In her Broken Earth series, humans struggle to survive in a sparse and bitter world constantly on the brink of catastrophe. Told with deep emotion and alternating perspectives of three powerful and complex women, fans of Atwood will certainly find something to love in this fantasy trilogy beginning with The Fifth Season.

Only Ever Yours

The influence of The Handmaid’s Tale is clear in the bleak and compelling world of Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill. In this dystopian society, girls spend their first 16 years at the School, being groomed to serve and please men. Competition is fierce as they fight for the most prestigious roles in a system built against them. The characters in this novel are complex and flawed, and the world O’Neill builds is truly terrifying.

A Lasting Impression

Margaret Atwood and her stories have inspired multiple generations of authors, feminists, and thought leaders. Check out my list for more reading inspiration, as well as this article of authors discussing Atwood’s influence on their careers.

What are your favorite Atwood novels? Are there any books you’ve read where you can feel her influence? Share your favorites in the comments!

On Inspiration and Margaret Atwood

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8 responses to “On Inspiration and Margaret Atwood”

  1. Alyssa says:

    My favorite is Cat’s Eye. I first read it when I was maybe 14, and have re-read it at least twice since.

  2. Melleny Thomasson says:

    One of the highlights of my life has been hearing Margaret Atwood speak and then having her sign my copy of The Handmaid’s Tale. That book changed my life. Thank you for sharing more authors to check out!

    • Kristi S. says:

      That is amazing, Melleny! What a treasure to have experienced. I would absolutely love to hear her speak. I hope you find more to enjoy!

  3. Peter says:

    I’m embarrassed to confess that I’ve never read anything by Margaret Atwood but now my curiosity is piqued. I shall give The Edible Woman a try. Thank you!

  4. Anna says:

    The Handmaid’s Tale is getting a sequel this year!

    • Kristi S. says:

      You’re right, Anna! The sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments, is coming in September of this year! It’s already in the catalog, ready for holds. How do you feel about it? I am a mixture of excited and nervous, and I can’t decide which feeling is winning out right now.

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