2nd October, 2019
Review: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (Chatto & Windus)
Highly anticipated by everyone, Atwood's The Testaments was published last month, almost thirty years after The Handmaid's Tale. While a lot of reviews were and are very positive, almost raving about the book's qualities, there have been quite a few mixed voices on social media. I was therefore both excited and anxious to get my hands on this novel and dipped into it with one eye closed, praying for it to be brilliant.
But I don't want to keep up the suspense. My opinion? I liked it. A lot. I think I even loved it. What I did: I made it last as long as I could, reading a 400 page book that I'd normally finish in two or three days over a period of two weeks. And I honestly believe that this is one of the reasons why I ended up liking it so much, because it made me look closer at the details. Yes, The Testaments is very different from The Handmaid's Tale - it's not focused on one perspective and voice, and it also details events outside of Gilead. Yes, in parts it reads a bit like a thriller, it's not a slow burn that gradually evokes dread but more fast-paced and looking at the "greater picture". So yes, it does not really have the same tone or atmosphere of its predecessor. However, it is also very clever!
A lot of people have complained that The Testaments brings both the Handmaid book and the TV show together, functioning as a sequel to both. I can see why some readers would see this critically, but as I love the original book but also tremendously enjoy the TV adaptation (and continuation of the story), I actually appreciated exactly that about this novel. Yes, everything is nicely wrapped up in the end and maybe this seems a bit far fetched but I somehow found this extremely gratifying as well. We get a satisfying end to the overarching narrative of Offred, Hannah/Agnes, Baby Nicole et al., but we also learn so much more about other characters, some of whom turned out to be much more subversive than they originally seemed (I have had a hunch about a certain character, however, and was glad to see it confirmed). I liked how we get three different voices of very different but important characters and how these voices are eventually merged. I liked how the passages taking place outside of Gilead in parts seemed more oppressive than those happening within. The only thing I didn't like was how Atwood tried to be vague about the speakers' identities in the beginning, even though it was blatantly obvious who they were.
All in all, a worthy sequel to a fabulous book and a gratifying read.
Rating: 5/5 stars
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