Bwogger Abi Peters returns this week to review Margaret Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments.
Recommended for: Both fans of the original book, the TV show, and those looking for a long, dystopic read.
Summary: The Testaments is set roughly 15 years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale and follows the journey of three characters. One young Canadian woman, a girl who has spent her whole life in Gilead, and a woman instrumental to both the rise and fall of the Gileadean regime. Throughout the course of the novel, the three character’s lives become entangled with cataclysmic results.
Review: When I heard there Margaret Atwood was writing a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, I had some mixed feelings. I was interested to see where she would take the plot, but I wasn’t sure if it felt needed. Particularly considering the popularity of the tv show, a sequel ran the risk of being too much.
I am trying to write this review giving as little away as possible, as the strength of the novel lies in the twists and turns throughout it. Atwood’s world-building is strong, and Gilead is a frighteningly imaginable place. However, at times it felt quite self-indulgent, with pages dedicated to explaining functions of Gilead that were never present in the first novel.
This leads me to the one big problem I had with the novel: consistency. Atwood tries to bridge the gap between the Gilead of the television show and the Gilead of the first novel but sometimes what emerges is a new Gilead entirely. Thus, I found myself entangled in three different universes. The format of the book itself didn’t help with this confusion as it combines three narratives and witness testimonies throughout.
Having said that, I remained enthralled throughout with is a testament to the characters Atwood has crafted- three unique women with shockingly different perspectives on Gilead- and the direction she has chosen to take the regime.
At the core of The Testaments are the stories of the three women with remained with me after the book ended. Everything else sort of got in the way.
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