It’s been 35 years since the release of Margaret Atwood’s seminal tome The Handmaid’s Tale. Shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize, the novel paints a vivid picture of a modern day America that has been transformed into the totalitarian state of Gilead: a patriarchial, Puritan society where fertile women are forced to produce offspring for childless couples.
There is one central element of The Testaments’ plot that is alluded to with its distinctive cover design by Noma Bar: two of the book’s narrators are believed to be Offred’s daughters (the first of which was snatched from her and raised by a Commander family, while the younger girl was born during the course of her escape from Gilead).
Bar’s brief from the publisher was to create a contrasting image of the two sisters seen on the front and back covers, playing up to the fact that they are in wholly different situations, locations and circumstances. While the front cover bears a generic resemblance to his design for The Handmaid’s Tale cover, featuring the handmaids’ distinctive cloak and bonnet, the back cover depicts a girl that would be recognisable to most of us today, wearing earrings and her hair tied up.
“The main thing I wanted to do was to show the parallel worlds and lives of the two girls by reflecting and mirroring the sisters,” says Bar. “We chose the design as a double cover as I wanted to highlight the two characters’ presence – it’s not about one sister, it’s about two worlds.”