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The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: death, dystopia, extreme religion, murder.

Goodreads Rating: 3.5 Stars

Review:

When Margaret Atwood announced that indeed, there would be a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale (THT), I was both ridiculously excited and simultaneously really nervous. Would The Testaments answer all the questions I had at the end of THT? Would it live up to the skyrocketing hype? I snagged a copy on a post book club meeting, late night Walmart run (don’t judge me), and “returned” to Gilead as soon as I possibly could.

For those of you who haven’t heard, the book is broken into multiple points of view from three characters, sixteen years after the ending of THT.

Aunt Lydia, evil mastermind behind the “care” and use of Gilead’s Handmaids, shares her recollections of the beginnings of Gilead, the implementation of Aunts and Handmaids, and the secret societies that formed during Offred’s rebellion and the rise of Mayday. Those who have read THT will recognize her, but they might be shocked by what Aunt Lydia reveals.

Agnes is the adopted daughter of Commander Kyle and Tabitha, but born by Handmaid Offred. She grew up in Gilead, and was raised to become a chosen one, a commander’s wife. However, her step-mother, Paula, arranged a marriage with Commander Judd, who has a reputation for suspiciously becoming a widow when he grows tired his marriage. To avoid the marriage, she becomes a Supplicant, or a young woman who is in training to become an Aunt.

Finally, there is Daisy, a sixteen-year old living in Canada with her adopted parents, Neil and Melanie. As the plot unfolds, the reader’s learn that Daisy’s parents are operatives in aiding Mayday, as well as Daisy’s true identity.

Overall, I think Atwood did her best in giving her readers the answers to the following:

  • What happened to Offred?
  • What happened to Baby Nicole?
  • Will Offred’s family ever be free or reunited?

Additionally, I found the novel to be entertaining, engrossing, and enlightening on all things Gilead. However… I don’t think that this book lived up to the hype. Atwood’s novel skews more young adult, and shies away from the grit that snagged THT readers. Aunt Lydia’s perspective felt as if it stayed true to THT, but the other two perspectives felt like a fan fiction narrative. Daisy’s character especially felt unbelievable to me- her actions too obvious, her relationships too forced. I could forgive Agnes’s gullibility as a product of Gilead, but I couldn’t accept Daisy’s poor performance (even though I did like her spunky attitude) in owning her identity and rallying as a Pearl Girl. Their story arc was also predictable despite Atwood’s best attempts at action-packed plot twists.

So overall, The Testaments landed squarely in meh territory for me. Although I got the answers I was looking for from THT and I was amused by the story, I was let down by the lack of follow-up on Offred, the lack of conviction behind the two younger characters, and the overall predictability of the general plot.

One last thought, for those wondering- as I read, I also recalled another long-awaited sequel that gave me similar feelings… Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. No matter how I felt after reading these two books, I firmly believe I was better off reading the sequel, than fearing what would happen if I had not chose to read it at all.

Published: September 10, 2019

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

TL/DR: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood is the long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, about a dystopian state called Gilead.

Read it? Yes.

Recommend it? Yes, fans of THT, the Hulu series, and the general audience should still read it and form their own opinions.

Buy it? I would buy this novel to keep with your Atwood collection!

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Categories: Book Review, Classic Literature, Dystopian, Fiction

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