Review 1422: #MARM Margaret Atwood Reading Month—The Testaments

I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to read The Testaments. I had heard conflicting opinions. More importantly, I felt that The Handmaid’s Tale was just about a perfect book that didn’t need a sequel. The Testaments ended up co-winning the Booker Prize, though, so I had to read it for my project, and I also decided to read it in time for Margaret Atwood Reading Month.

The novel is narrated in documents: testimonies, a hologram hidden in a library, and finally the text of a lecture. The major narrators are Aunt Lydia, one of the founders of Gilead; Agnes, a girl raised in Gilead; and a younger girl named Daisy raised in Canada.

Aunt Lydia is busy recording a secret document telling tales of corruption by the leaders of Gilead. Her narrative takes us back to the founding of Gilead, when she, a judge, and all the professional working women were rounded up and “tested” for their ability to move forward. Agnes tells about how her protected childhood was destroyed by the death of her mother, the discovery that her actual mother was a handmaid, and the advent of her stepmother. At 13, she is to be forced into a marriage with Commander Judd, a much older man who has had many young wives who have all died. Daisy begins to find out secrets about herself after her parents are killed in an explosion.

So, what did I think of this novel? Well, Atwood always knows how to capture and keep her readers’ attentions. The book is fast moving and well written and should make many of the television program’s followers happy, which is its purpose. Did I change my mind about a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale? Not really, especially since it does its job in a way that is so often predictable. I also felt that the final chapter was very weak. Atwood has tied everything up nicely, but sometimes I prefer ambiguity. So, a mixed review from me, even though overall it was a good book.

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12 thoughts on “Review 1422: #MARM Margaret Atwood Reading Month—The Testaments

  1. Liz Dexter November 26, 2019 / 1:09 pm

    A fair review. I’d been waiting to find out more for nearly 30 years and appreciated finding out more, however I really wish Bernadine Evaristo had had the Booker to herself!

    • whatmeread November 26, 2019 / 3:34 pm

      Ah, I haven’t read that one yet!

      • Liz Dexter November 27, 2019 / 3:59 am

        You’re in for a treat if you decide to pick it up!

  2. Naomi November 27, 2019 / 10:18 am

    This book can kind of be considered in two ways, I guess – the book itself, and the book as a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. I didn’t think The HT needed a sequel, but since it got one I was happy to know more!

    • whatmeread November 27, 2019 / 12:15 pm

      Well, I guess. It still isn’t as good as the first book.

      • Naomi November 27, 2019 / 12:21 pm

        I agree!

  3. Davida Chazan November 30, 2019 / 7:40 am

    I think Atwood is one of the most brilliant writers around, but for some reason… I’m not ready to read this one. Maybe some day…

    • whatmeread November 30, 2019 / 11:00 am

      I like her more sometimes than others.

  4. buriedinprint December 4, 2019 / 10:34 am

    Like you, I wasn’t sure what to expect of a follow-up so many years later, having loved The Handmaid’s Tale as a standalone for so long. Unlike you, I don’t think this book was written to make the TV show’s viewers happy;The Handmaid’s Tale’s sales have been surging anew since November 2016 and I think she could have chosen to write anything she pleased at this point in her literary career now. Take her cat-bird comics for instance. 🙂

    • whatmeread December 4, 2019 / 10:42 am

      I think she pretty much said she wrote it because of the renewed interest in the series.

  5. Brona December 8, 2019 / 2:08 am

    I think the two books will become an interesting look at an authors career and the things that change/mature/evolve over time. Attitudes and writing style.

    THT was such an angry book. It was timely, of it’s time and a wake up call. It was sharp, frightening and harsh. It was ambiguous and fresh. It was the kind of book a younger woman writes – experimental and cutting.

    TT was a more thoughtful story. It fleshed out the history and the herstory. It gave us more than one perspective. It was less urgent. Not so much a warning as a take care message. It showed the ways that women find to take (some) power and control even in totalitarian states. It wasn’t perfect (or maybe even necessary) but it shows a more mature writer creating a world more complex and nuanced and layered.

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