THE white bonnets with ‘wings’ to restrict views, like those of blinkers on horses.

The blood-red garments covering every inch of flesh. The descriptive costumes of Margaret Atwood’s novel ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’ have been brought to life each Sunday night on Channel 4.

The story is grim, dripping in misery, rape, servitude and fear. But it is also oddly gripping.

It’s the tale of what could happen should Christian fundamentalists seize power in America against a backdrop of declining fertility and a poisoned planet. It’s a dystopian work of fiction at its very finest.

Margaret Atwood wrote A Handmaid’s Tale in 1984 – the very year that George Orwell’s classic premonition of the problems of Communist Russia was set, although he chose the year by reversing the digits of the year he wrote it - 1948.

Atwood’s book has seen television and film adaptations before, but the world wasn’t quite ready for it. This time, the age of the #MeToo campaign and the shadow of right wing extremism creeping in in the USA give it a sinister edge.

In Atwood’s novel, fundamentalists seize power in a coup after attacks which are blamed on Islamic extremists. Women begin to lose their rights to property. Finally they lose all rights, condemned to work either as a ‘Martha’ – a maid, a wife with little or no freedom of will, or for fertile women whose values don’t fit with the new era, a Handmaid.

Handmaids are effectively sexual slaves, walking wombs for the purposes of procreation and childbearing. A monthly ritualistic rape is carried out. After childbirth, they lose their children to wives higher up the social scale.

The fundamentalists seize power in consternation at what they see as an increasingly sinful and promiscuous society, caused in part, they believe, by the liberation of women.

Perhaps there could be echoes of the story seen in any generation, but in this one it is particularly poignant. Blaming Islamic fundamentalists for the world’s ill’s, and the so-called demise of the family, has echoes in today’s world.

The scriptwriters of the TV series have taken Atwood’s story on in their second season, with the heroine, Offred, hiding in the offices of the Boston Globe, where the journalists were lined up against the wall and shot when the revolution came. A free press is clearly the enemy to any authoritarian state.

The episode aired in the UK at around the same time as a gunman burst into the offices of the Capital Gazette in Maryland and shot five journalists dead.

President Trump’s frequent insults towards individual journalists and dictat that the media is the ‘enemy of the people’ (a phrase once used by Stalin) has fuelled a rise in animosity towards reporters in the US, although there is no evidence that was directly connected with the Maryland shooting.

Freedom of expression group Reporters Without Borders suggests that even democratically-elected leaders no longer see the media as an important part of democracy, but the enemy.

The Trump team’s use of Biblical passages to defend his affair with Stormy Daniels, and to defend the locking up in cages of innocent children at the border, is deeply sinister.

Could A Handmaid’s Tale, in fact, become as eerily prophetic as 1984 turned out to be?

With a powerful country like the USA sleepwalking into fascism, it is entirely possible.