I finished the book this morning and am ultimately very disappointed. First off it's an entertaining easy read. I mostly wasn't bored throughout and wanted to keep reading. I say mostly because in the final chapters, the escape from Gilead, there was absolutely no tension because how these characters and their world would end up was made explicit from their first chapters. We mostly derided Bruce Miller stating that June can survive everything the plot throws at her because the story is told by her at some point in the future. But that was definitely the case here. There was never any tension for the two younger characters because their ending was known right from the start. So the chapters that might otherwise have felt tense didn't. Then one character goes to sleep and when she wakes up a multitude of major events have passed which she hears about over the course of about 5 sentences and then we're essentially done. The end was all tell (swiftly) with no show and I ultimately found that really unsatisfying.
I also had some issues with a few of the major events in the book itself. Mainly with baby Nichole. Offred got in the back of that van in the early stages of her pregnancy. So early that she didn't actually know for sure that she was pregnant and Fred and Serena hadn't a clue about it. We know from there that she made it to Maine and made her tapes. And other than that was lost to history. Yet in this book Baby Nichole that nobody in Gilead knew about nor should they ever have had means to know about, was a big deal. A huge deal because her 'legal' father, Fred, who shouldn't have known she existed wanted her back. And she continued to be a big deal long after Fred was purged. This makes no sense.
In the future, apart from her relatively anonymous tapes Offred is unknown and untraceable. Luke and Nick are unknown and untraceable. Yet their daughters are free celebrities who have given full testimonies that are a matter of public record. And all five are so publicly reunited that they declare it on a statue in a park! But nobody could ever work out what happened to Offred, who she really was and what happened afterwards? Nope, doesn't make sense.
And lastly, Lydia's backstory. The original book and even the crappy tv series have always inferred that the creation of Gilead was akin to a slow boiled frog. Small changes, freedoms eroded a little at a time, so that by the time it was unpalatable it was too late. Yet in Lydia's backstory we are told that Congress was bombed, women lost control of their money, the constitution abolished and professional women (including the receptionist) rounded up in the space of about 3 days. That's not a slow boiled frog. It's a microwaved frog. She sits in the stadium berating herself for not leaving sooner, but what sooner? No more than 4 minutes passed between her learning that her bank accounts were frozen and the constitution abolished and her arrest. Even if she wasted no time after learning about women not being allowed money, she wouldn't have made it out of the building. It was lightening fast. The opposite of everything ever implied in the original book.
Lastly, that Judd, and the other founding Sons of Jacob, would think that turning women like Lydia in the space of a couple of weeks and then handing her power of the kind the aunts, especially the founding aunts, would have is just stupid. The stadium treatment, followed by the carrot and stick approach of the Thank Tank and the Holiday Inn is an interesting idea. But not for turning modern women with no religious inclination into what is essentially the female leadership of Gilead. It's stupid. Gilead was well planned. There would have been 3 other women like Vidala who had been groomed for years and years in advance of Gilead in order to become those 'founding aunts.' The SoJ would not have been dependant on just one pre-prepared woman and 3 who they 'made' in a hurry. I could buy Lydia finding her way into the aunts as a means of survival and working her way up really quickly, while always trying to bring the system down. But not that Judd had earmarked her as a leader before the treatment, yet never, ever moved to work on her until the lightening fast take over and then he was so happily confident in his superfast brainwashing system that he gave her massive amounts of independent power immediately. It, again, makes no sense. The Lydia backstory on the tv show wasn't great but it made far more sense than this did.
So overall, I think the book was a big step up from the garbage that the tv show has become but it's massively flawed in itself. It was fine as I read it, as I enjoyed the entertainment aspect of it. And Atwood is a lovely writer. But the more distance I have from reading it, the stupider it's becoming. And I only finished it a few hours ago. In this way it's reminding me of the first of the Kelvin timeline Star Trek movies. Entertaining enough while watching it that I ignored all the stupidity, but still so stupid that I wasn't even out of the cinema before all the 'but!!!!! s' started refusing to be pushed aside anymore.