Today, it’s a special review – the wonderful new novel, the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. Promise: no spoilers ahead…
As soon as this was announced, I hit the pre-order button straight away. No hesitation – I just did it. I’ve really enjoyed watching everyone’s excitement for the book and there’s a real buzz in the air and I love it when that happens with a book. It brings more excitement to it and builds a community of people who are all excited. But… I’m sure you know this already, but what is it about? Here’s the blurb:
More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.
Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.
As Atwood unfolds The Testaments, she opens up the innermost workings of Gilead as each woman is forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes.
For me, the ending of The Handmaid’s Tale is perfect. Like, perfect. It’s probably one of my favourite endings of a book I’ve ever read because it says so little but so much possibilities, too. But this isn’t like The Handmaid’s Tale. The Testaments is a much more wider and I think more accessible look into Gilead as The Handmaid’s Tale was quite claustrophobic and we only got to see/know of what Offred knows – which is very little. But now, we have three new narrators. One of them being Aunt Lydia who is in a powerful position and our way into seeing how these regimes work and the other two are young women – one in Gilead and has been all her life and on the outside, looking in. I think the second young female narrator, Daisy, is the weakest but I think that’s due to her character to some aspect, too. But for me, Aunt Lydia is the stand-out from the book. Atwood has really captured her voice and there are some wonderful lines from Aunt Lydia. We all know Aunt Lydia mostly from the recent television adaptation – played beautifully by Ann Dowd who also reads the audiobook for The Testaments – she is just incredible and has so many different layers to her character which makes an interesting read.
‘Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.’ – Margaret Atwood
I’m not going to go into plot at all but like I said, this is very different to The Handmaid’s Tale. This is more of a page-turner, it’s more of a thriller, more action compared to Offred’s observations. I really wanted to make this book last and savour every word, every page but that didn’t happen and I read it in about two/three days as I was just so absorbed by it all. I got stuck in the wonderful words of Atwood and I gasped a lot of the time, too. It’s addictive and everything you could want in a book.
The Testaments is also shortlisted for the Booker Prize… will it be the winner? Who knows, but I would be happy to see it win. There are so many interviews with Margaret Atwood about the book and her inspiration behind it all. I really enjoyed Front Row Late with Margaret and Mary Beard which was a really great watch after reading the book. I also really enjoyed watching her at the cinema from her National Theatre Live interview and found it really fascinating. I’m also in the middle of finishing the third series of The Handmaid’s Tale and really enjoying it and can’t wait to see The Testaments come to life, too.
Overall, I found it incredibly enjoyable and addictive. The only downside for me is that the ending seemed a bit too wrapped-up quickly and I would have liked to see more of the actual fall of Gilead but I’m just being picky as I really enjoyed it, a lot. Atwood is a master at storytelling – some descriptions are really beautiful, especially when she uses the images of fairy tales in the story. I don’t think it’s fair to compare this to The Handmaid’s Tale – this is a very different book. It has a different voice(s), a different motivation, a more optimistic, wide outlook. And this can be seen by the young women in the book as the younger generation are fighting, doing something all over the world and this shows right throughout the novel. But most of all, it’s a rallying call. A rallying call to do stand up, act, vote, do something.
Have you read The Testaments? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!