Monday, November 25, 2019

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
Published September 2019 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Source: checked out from my local library

Publisher's Summary:
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: Aunt Lydia. Her complex past and uncertain future unfold in surprising and pivotal ways.

With The Testaments, Margaret Atwood 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.

My Thoughts:
The Handmaid's Tale was written in 1985 and Atwood calls it speculative fiction. But the thing is, Atwood drew largely actual global events to create that book, making it as much based on history as speculation about the future. By the time I finally read it in 2010, an astonishing amount of what Atwood had written was starting to be much more than fiction. Thirty-four years after Atwood created it, Gilead seems even more possible than ever. Which made this the perfect time to revisit it.

When a book has the kind of impact on you that The Handmaid’s Tale had on me, you both look forward to and dread a sequel. It's rare for a sequel to live up to the original book when a sequel wasn't in the original plans, and I've been disappointed more than once. Not this time. I can’t speak for all fans of The Handmaid’s Tale; but, for me, Atwood has not disappointed.

Aunt Lydia, as portrayed by Ann Dowd in the
Hulu adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale. 
In The Testaments, Atwood takes the original premise of Gilead and ups the game. This time we get a better view of how Gilead developed and the women who play a role in a regime that oppresses women. While the men may appear to hold all of the power, it is just as likely that it is women who are doing the damage to other women in Gilead.

Aunt Lydia, reappears in The Testaments and she is just as terrifying as she was in The Handmaid's Tale. Actually, she is even more terrifying as we learn just how much power she has in Gilead. But Atwood also forces readers to confront the "what if it was you" question when it comes to why Aunt Lydia has become the woman she is. It makes you hate her just a little bit less.

The book's not perfect. The girls aren't as interesting as Lydia, there is a section that I thought moved along at a much faster pace than the rest of the book, and a scene later that seemed a bit like something out of an action movie. But it's not enough to take away from the story for me.

As we did before, we see how little it would take to move from our current world to one of complete control, how easy it is to pit one faction against another. This time, Atwood is not just speculating about the future, she's reminding us that Gilead is just around the corner if we don't remain vigilante.

1 comment:

  1. Very happy to see that this one did not disappoint.