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The Testaments

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In this brilliant sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, acclaimed author Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalized readers for decades. When the van door slammed on Offred's future at the end of The Handmaid's Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead for her--freedom, prison or death. With The Testaments, the wait is over. Margaret Atwo In this brilliant sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, acclaimed author Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalized readers for decades. When the van door slammed on Offred's future at the end of The Handmaid's Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead for her--freedom, prison or death. With The Testaments, the wait is over. Margaret Atwood's sequel picks up the story more than fifteen years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead. "Dear Readers: Everything you've ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we've been living in." --Margaret Atwood


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In this brilliant sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, acclaimed author Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalized readers for decades. When the van door slammed on Offred's future at the end of The Handmaid's Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead for her--freedom, prison or death. With The Testaments, the wait is over. Margaret Atwo In this brilliant sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, acclaimed author Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalized readers for decades. When the van door slammed on Offred's future at the end of The Handmaid's Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead for her--freedom, prison or death. With The Testaments, the wait is over. Margaret Atwood's sequel picks up the story more than fifteen years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead. "Dear Readers: Everything you've ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we've been living in." --Margaret Atwood

30 review for The Testaments

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tatiana

    I guess I'll have to be the one who says what nobody else is willing to say. This novel is terrible, and Booker judges are starstruck, hype-driven sellouts. I can't decide which work Atwood should be embarrassed for more - Angel Catbird, Vol. 1 or The Testaments. The book doesn't read like a novel written by one of the most lauded authors of the 20st century. The Testaments reads like a standard-issue feminist YA dystopia, filled with every overused dystopian trope and every stereotype, penned by an author who writes for teen I guess I'll have to be the one who says what nobody else is willing to say. This novel is terrible, and Booker judges are starstruck, hype-driven sellouts. I can't decide which work Atwood should be embarrassed for more - Angel Catbird, Vol. 1 or The Testaments. The book doesn't read like a novel written by one of the most lauded authors of the 20st century. The Testaments reads like a standard-issue feminist YA dystopia, filled with every overused dystopian trope and every stereotype, penned by an author who writes for teen audience, and is published by Harper Teen. As such, it undoubtedly has some appeal to a part of Atwood's readership, but literary merit The Testaments has none. If this book had a different name on it, I would have DNFed it after 50 pages for its lack of originality, predictability and mediocre writing style. I’ve read a fair number of similar novels, I am not opposed to them, I enjoyed some of them, and some of them (for example the upcoming The Grace Year) held my attention much better. As an Atwood novel, The Testaments gets one disappointed, angry, heart-broken star from me. Why did the publishers embargo Atwood's new creation, I wonder? Surely there is nothing to spoil. Maybe to conceal its poor execution, or its transparent, shallow, simplistic, and ridiculous plot? The story is told from 3 POVs - Aunt Lydia's and two teen girls' - one growing up in Gilead and another - in Canada. Oh my, who those girls might be? Twist! You can only glimpse Atwood's former brilliance in Aunt Lydia's POV, but just for a few moments here and there. If the whole novel was written about Aunt Lydia, maybe Atwood would have made her journey more convincing, but alas. The other two girls are quintessential YA dystopian heroines - one abused by an evil oppressive regime, and the other - a bratty teen on the run from bad people, but who nevertheless has time for some romance. Yum! Like I said, these POVs are so similar to what's been regurgitated over and over in teen publishing, it's uncanny. Has The Testaments been partially ghost-written by Lauren Oliver? I am not trying to dump on Oliver, she has her fans and her place in the industry, but I expected something infinitely more sophisticated from Margaret Atwood. The new information about Gilead Atwood promised? Well, new details of Gilead made the regime more nonsensical and less plausible than ever before. Who benefits from living in Gilead becomes unfathomable in this book, thus making the entire concept pointless (kind of like in Wither). Totalitarian regimes work, at least temporarily, because they are supported by a mass of true believers. Where are they in this book? But if you yearn for some more torture porn in addition to that supplied by the 3 seasons of the TV show, then sure. Rapists, molesters, killers, suicide victims galore, plus solitary confinement - there is an overabundance of that. All of it written bluntly, rashly, exploitatively and without any kind of nuance. There is no overarching theme in The Testaments except GILEAD IS BAD. The plot to overthrow it is a joke. If you are looking for a clever, thoughtful, well-written companion to The Handmaid's Tale, you are out of luck. If you want a bland, basic TV show fanfic ripe with action adventure and genre tropes, enjoy! The Testaments was written just for you.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emily May

    I can sum it up simply: this book is not needed. I hoped that wouldn't be the case. I really really hoped Atwood had something important to add to the world of Gilead with this book, but she honestly doesn't. If anything, The Testaments serves only to weaken the power of The Handmaid's Tale. In the past, I have spoken highly of authors who are not afraid to "be evil" with their books. This may give the impression that they are doing something particularly nefarious, but, in fact, it’s not so much something they do, I can sum it up simply: this book is not needed. I hoped that wouldn't be the case. I really really hoped Atwood had something important to add to the world of Gilead with this book, but she honestly doesn't. If anything, The Testaments serves only to weaken the power of The Handmaid's Tale. In the past, I have spoken highly of authors who are not afraid to "be evil" with their books. This may give the impression that they are doing something particularly nefarious, but, in fact, it’s not so much something they do, but everything they don’t. It’s an act of self-restraint to not say everything, to leave some things unanswered, some happy endings unexplored. That, I feel, is one of the greatest strengths of The Handmaid's Tale. Because there is so much we don't know; can't know. Everything we experience comes from Offred's narrow world view. Everything Offred doesn't know-- we don't know. The ending, too, is famously ambiguous. And these are extremely powerful tools. What we don’t know is powerful. Ambiguity is powerful. Knowing when to finish is powerful. As Aunt Lydia notes herself in this very book: Where there is emptiness, the mind will obligingly fill it up. Fear is always at hand to supply any vacancies, as is curiosity. The Handmaid's Tale forces us to wonder, to imagine, to fear the worst and hope for the best. The Testaments not so much. What this book does is remove the ambiguity. It provides answers to thirty-five year old mysteries that were best left unanswered. I am reminded somewhat comically of Jojo Moyes' inability to let go of her Me Before You characters, repeatedly opening up the story after leaving it on an emotional high. Not every "ooh, I wonder what the characters did next?" should be answered. Sometimes not knowing is so much more effective. And that's Moyes. I didn't expect Atwood to indulge in this sentimentality. The Handmaid's Tale uses one limited perspective to make us think; The Testaments uses three perspectives and an epilogue in the future to colour in all the corners, leaving nothing to the imagination. I gave this book two stars for Aunt Lydia's perspective. Without her contribution I am honestly not sure I would have pushed through the second half of the book. The rest of the book is told from the perspective of two teenage girls, one living in Canada and the other in Gilead, and the "twists" regarding them are so glaringly obvious that it is actually a bit embarrassing to read the scenes with the dramatic reveals (chapter cliffhanger obviously). The whole infiltration by the resistance thing was straight out of every other dime a dozen dystopia. I had so hoped this was going to do something new and important. I hoped it was going to impart a new message, perhaps relevant to modern times. I hoped it was going to be smart and thought-provoking. I am disappointed. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marchpane

    JOINT WINNER OF THE 2019 BOOKER PRIZE Return to Gilead Check your expectations at the door: The Testaments is a highly entertaining page turner, but it is also probably quite different from whatever you were anticipating. It differs from its 1985 antecedent, The Handmaid's Tale, in tone, voice and literary heft. That earlier book had a power and a gravitas that is not recaptured here. For me the most striking thing about The Handmaid’s Tale has always been Atwood’s choice of narrator. Offred (in the book s/>Return JOINT WINNER OF THE 2019 BOOKER PRIZE Return to Gilead Check your expectations at the door: The Testaments is a highly entertaining page turner, but it is also probably quite different from whatever you were anticipating. It differs from its 1985 antecedent, The Handmaid's Tale, in tone, voice and literary heft. That earlier book had a power and a gravitas that is not recaptured here. For me the most striking thing about The Handmaid’s Tale has always been Atwood’s choice of narrator. Offred (in the book she has no other name) is so confined by her circumstances; her isolation is claustrophobic. She is essentially passive, keeping her head down and daring to aim only for survival, while other characters have more agency (Moira and Ofglen both find proactive ways to thwart the Gilead regime, either would have been a more natural choice for a protagonist). Offred is an Everywoman – with her passivity she confronts the reader: Well, what would you do in my place? And don't kid yourself. It's bleak, but the novel's power is in its intimate portrait of powerlessness. The Testaments is more action-driven, more hopeful, and by extension, less realistic. We follow three characters who are prepared to buck the system, to risk everything to crush the patriarchy. That two of them are teenagers feeds the sense of buoyancy, you get the feeling that Atwood too thinks the kids are gonna save us. The shift in tone will be familiar to viewers of Hulu's TV series — perhaps both Atwood and the showrunners 'read the room' and recognised that the catharsis of a feelgood fightback is what we crave and need most right now. If the idea of a book set in Gilead being entertaining — even fun — dismays you, best skip this one. Indeed The Testaments, rather shrewdly on Atwood's part, functions as a sequel to both the first book AND the TV adaptation — deftly combining elements from each, while avoiding the show's most glaring faults (eg its over-reliance on a single character, and tendency to get bogged down plot-wise). This novel isn't flawless either. One of the narrative voices is by far more compelling than the others (no prizes for guessing that it's the mature, morally compromised Aunt Lydia, not one of the idealistic teenagers). It's a little too TV-ready in the way the characters intersect. Certain plot twists are loudly telegraphed and the narratives don't always jive with the historical documents they purport to be. And my eyes rolled more than once (Underground Femaleroad, really?). Still there's much to enjoy. The conniving duplicity and monstrous ambivalence of Aunt Lydia makes for thrilling reading. Atwood's prose and story-spinning have lost none of their magic, and for an 80 year old she writes teenage voices surprisingly well! Most importantly, it's compulsively readable. The Testaments is unlikely to become a perennially relevant classic like its predecessor, and it's unreasonable to expect that kind of greatness from it. As an expansion of the Gilead mythos though, it more than satisfies.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emily (Books with Emily Fox)

    I haven't even finished season 2 of the tv show since it was so emotionally draining but here I am reading this!!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    Only two stars for the love of Aunt Lydia! If she wasn’t in this book, I could do something first by giving minus five stars to a book! See how I disliked and how I felt frustrated about this hope stealing, time wasting, one of the biggest failures of the year!!!! One of the tasteless testament you could ever have! 2019 could be one of this year I got really disappointed by movies, series books. They were like several ugly stabs to your stomach. I was unlucky to read Cari Mora ( After Only two stars for the love of Aunt Lydia! If she wasn’t in this book, I could do something first by giving minus five stars to a book! See how I disliked and how I felt frustrated about this hope stealing, time wasting, one of the biggest failures of the year!!!! One of the tasteless testament you could ever have! 2019 could be one of this year I got really disappointed by movies, series books. They were like several ugly stabs to your stomach. I was unlucky to read Cari Mora ( After 13 years of waiting patiently Thomas Harris released this…hmm…itshouldnotbenamed, yes this is worse than Voldemort!), Mister( My bad, I shouldn’t pick this one! The joke is on me!), several romance books released by Jewel E. Ann, Karina Halle, K. A. Tucker, Renee Carlino etc. I watched GOT’s final and started to fantasize how to punch the screenwriters who are also series-killers (worse occupation than being serial killer) in 101 different ways! And now I’m holding a book which is the worst betrayal to the memory of Handmaid’s Tale, one of the best dystopian books that have ever been written. I didn’t understand the writer’s motive stick to the characters of their previous works. Did I want to know what happened to June? Never, I just wanted to move on and get rid of terrifying, penetrating, mind numbing affect to book left on me. And here we are with 3 different POVs- Aunt Lydia(If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t add two more stars, but at least her parts kept me reading more because too many times I wanted to drop it and added to my DNF and HNITF-have no intention to finish- list) and two teenage girls ( one from Canada and one from Gilead). I really think, on those teenagers’ narration parts, the author stopped writing and summoned her interns who returned back from getting her clothes from dry-cleaner and her coffee orders and made them take her seat and write all those parts as she had a meeting with Hulu for the future episodes of Handmaid’s Tale. And twisty part about teenagers, oh please you don’t need to have spider senses to foresee it, even my ten years old nephew caught the surprise when I told him some specifics about the book. (I’m good with kids and their intellectual evaluation) What about the details of Gilead? Still senseless, illogical and more irritating than before. True believers supporting the system work properly. But I just wanted to learn something new, different, exploring something astonishing, shocking and more provoking. But no…nada… Now I’m sulking, fists clenched but this time as a big change I don’t want to punch any characters, I think the creator of them more deserved my slaps. I already sent my bill to the publishers for wasting my priceless time for nothing.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Felicia

    This was my most anticipated book for 2019. Wait... I should amend that statement... THIS WAS THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF MY MISERABLE FRIGGIN LIFE! And much like my life, it was an epic disappointment. The Handmaid's Tale is on my Top 10 shelf. It is, in my opinion, the greatest dystopian novel of all time. It is everything you expect from the genre and more. Shocking, terrifying, an unflinching account of a fucking nightmarish scenario that could ac This was my most anticipated book for 2019. Wait... I should amend that statement... THIS WAS THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF MY MISERABLE FRIGGIN LIFE! And much like my life, it was an epic disappointment. The Handmaid's Tale is on my Top 10 shelf. It is, in my opinion, the greatest dystopian novel of all time. It is everything you expect from the genre and more. Shocking, terrifying, an unflinching account of a fucking nightmarish scenario that could actually happen. At the end of The Handmaid's Tale I was left devastated and bereft of words. I loved the ambiguity and found myself never wanting to know what happened to June. I consider this decision by Atwood to be the crowning achievement of the novel. With The Testaments Atwood took that crown and crushed it beneath her pen. Obliterated it. And nearly took The Handmaid's Tale with it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    "How tedious is a tyranny in the throes of enactment. It's always the same plot." So why does Margaret Atwood choose to tell the story again? That question has haunted me since I heard the announcement of the project almost a year ago. WHY? I was convinced I would hate the hype and the gushing reviews and the book itself, and started reading with the attitude of someone who knew the story didn't need telling again. To my surprise, I liked it from the start, and soon engaged in t "How tedious is a tyranny in the throes of enactment. It's always the same plot." So why does Margaret Atwood choose to tell the story again? That question has haunted me since I heard the announcement of the project almost a year ago. WHY? I was convinced I would hate the hype and the gushing reviews and the book itself, and started reading with the attitude of someone who knew the story didn't need telling again. To my surprise, I liked it from the start, and soon engaged in the thriller unfolding with a rare reading joy, still wondering why Atwood wasted her precious time on a sequel like this. Not much new was added to the dystopian plot of Gilead, I thought. But then a shift occurred in my mind. I always saw The Handmaid's Tale as a warning of the slow normalisation of religious fanaticism and of the strengthening of patriarchal structures in our modern era, and the story itself as a mirror of our all too human tendencies to adjust to the most absurd situations if we are caught off-guard and left confused. The Testaments has a different purpose, and it comes as a challenge in the era of #MeToo. Don't accept the unacceptable. Act on injustice. Speak up. Do what has to be done to make the world safer for women and children. Say no to the objectification of your body. No tyranny will last forever if you are brave enough to do your individual bit. Whenever Aunt Lydia's badly executed statue was mentioned, I had this strange feeling that it was some kind of Atwoodian insider joke, but I could not put my finger on the reference. In the end I gave up trying to figure out what she meant, as I found my own truth. And I had to wait until the very end: the last page made me laugh out loud. Another scientific conference on Gileadean Studies, another reflection on the difficulty to find truth in details. Truth is in the symbol though, and that noseless, broken statue of Aunt Lydia that was found after the breakdown of Gilead spoke of the ephemeral immortality (deliberately oxymoronic from the start) that Ozimandias fell victim to in Shelley's famous sonnet. I will close with him, as he speaks of the timelessness of power(lessness) and (im)mutability: "I met a traveller from an antique land, Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand, Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed; And on the pedestal, these words appear: My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings; Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.” Nothing beside remains to be said. I leave my earlier testimonies as a tribute to the process of discovering the truth of the storyteller in each (his)story: My predictions will face reality(or fiction?)-check now! I can't believe I am actually holding a brandnew copy of The Testaments in my hands... we are writing the date of 9/11 Anno Domini 2019. Let the journey begin! Thoughts on hearing it was coming in 2018: Based on the scary prophetic power of some of Margaret Atwood's other dystopian social studies, I am not sure I can even stomach the idea of what will happen to Offred next. May I suggest a feel-good start, changing her name into Nofred? No, that's not going to happen. I think the world is currently growing into Margaret Atwood's new novel, demonstrating the insanity a bit more each day. Getting very, very impatient by now. If I were to embrace a religion (No!), it would have to be the religion of literature, and I would praise the special god in Atwood's MaddAddam every day by now: "Oh Fuck", as Snowman-the-Jimmy said only when it was really, really bad (which was quite often).

  8. 4 out of 5

    Justin Tate

    It's not easy being the most anticipated book of the year. I would argue that most of the negative reactions - including my own - are based largely on expectations. Since published in 1985, The Handmaid's Tale has become sacred ground in the literary world; a true modern classic further amplified by the successful show and current political tensions. Stakes for a sequel couldn't be higher and, even for the ever-talented Margaret Atwood, that's a tough performance to deliver. All in all, this is It's not easy being the most anticipated book of the year. I would argue that most of the negative reactions - including my own - are based largely on expectations. Since published in 1985, The Handmaid's Tale has become sacred ground in the literary world; a true modern classic further amplified by the successful show and current political tensions. Stakes for a sequel couldn't be higher and, even for the ever-talented Margaret Atwood, that's a tough performance to deliver. All in all, this is a well-written adventure story that expands the world building hinted at and alluded to by the original. But it's also boring, mostly unsurprising, and generally feels like a cash-in opportunity. More specifically, I was turned off by all the young characters. About 67% of the book is narrated by youth. Their lack of maturity creates a Middle Grade narrative voice that is jarring and undesired. Not necessarily unrealistic, just annoying. Their kiddish thoughts go on for pages and pages when a few brief lines would have sufficed to assure us these characters are indeed children. Another downer is how many questions this book doesn't answer. The original ended with such a dramatic cliffhanger, but the unresolved threads there remain largely unresolved here. I won't say which ones to keep this spoiler-free, but it's important to read this book with more appropriate expectations than what was set up by the publisher. You won't get all of your burning questions answered. Probably not any of them. As for its positive attributes, the few sections narrated by Aunt Lydia are truly spectacular. Aunt Lydia has always been a captivating villain and pulling back the curtain on her thoughts is endlessly intriguing. Listeners of the audiobook are in for an additional treat, since they brought in Ann Dowd from the show to reprise her role for the reading. Again, all in all, this is a decent yarn. It's not going to be a classic, but it's an okay pop novel. I knew pretty much from the first chapter that it wasn't going to deliver everything I desired for a sequel and by a quarter of the way in it was pretty clear what the ending surprise would be, but it still moved at a good pace and kept me moderately in suspense. For Handmaid’s Tale fans, as long as you lower your expectations there's no reason why you can't find enjoyment in these further adventures of Gilead.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sean Barrs the Bookdragon

    So I just found out about this, Margaret Atwood revealed it via twitter yesterday. I even had to create the book data myself on goodreads so I could write this update. I really did not see this coming. (did anyone?) I'm excited and surprised. The Handmaid's Tale felt like such a closed book, so it will be real interesting to see where this one goes. I wonder if she decided to write this after the success of the television adaptation or the show was made because this book was being written. Either way, I So I just found out about this, Margaret Atwood revealed it via twitter yesterday. I even had to create the book data myself on goodreads so I could write this update. I really did not see this coming. (did anyone?) I'm excited and surprised. The Handmaid's Tale felt like such a closed book, so it will be real interesting to see where this one goes. I wonder if she decided to write this after the success of the television adaptation or the show was made because this book was being written. Either way, I can't wait to read it. It's set 15 years after the first book (which was published 33 years ago) and it has 3 female narrators. I hope it carries with it the same depth and power as the first one. So I will be reading and reviewing this one come September. It's certainly a release not to be missed!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Meredith

    “One mysterious box, when opened, so often conceals another.” In relation to The Handmaid’s Tale Hulu series, I found The Testaments entertaining. As a follow up to the novel, I found it lacking. I am holding off on a complete review until I have finished rereading The Handmaid's Tale. More to come!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Meike

    Winner of the Booker Prize 2019 (together with Girl, Woman, Other) This is a flashy, placative, but also intelligent thriller, here to make some points about society and to entertain - it's certainly not the most layered or subtle literature ever written, but you know what? It's engaging, rather suspenseful and great fun to read, full of quips and commentary on the world we live in, and sometimes, that's more than enough. And honestly: The Handmaid's Tale wasn't particularly ambiguous or enigmatic eithe Winner of the Booker Prize 2019 (together with Girl, Woman, Other) This is a flashy, placative, but also intelligent thriller, here to make some points about society and to entertain - it's certainly not the most layered or subtle literature ever written, but you know what? It's engaging, rather suspenseful and great fun to read, full of quips and commentary on the world we live in, and sometimes, that's more than enough. And honestly: The Handmaid's Tale wasn't particularly ambiguous or enigmatic either. As we already know from the book's predecessor, the theocratic terror regime of Gilead did fall - the book ended with a historic symposium on the failed state. "The Testaments" now tells us how this downfall came about, and we hear the story from the alternating perspectives of three women: The infamous and powerful Aunt Lydia from #1, who is one of the women who helped develop the misogynist rules and rites of Gileadean society; a teenage girl who grows up in Gilead and is supposed to submit to her role as a women without any rights; and another young girl who lives in Canada (which borders to Gilead) and discovers her family's connection to Mayday, the resistance group that aims to save women and bring down the vicious regime. In case you are now wondering what happened to Offred, the handmaid at the center of #1, let me tell you that all of the characters are somehow connected to her - beware, readers, it does not make much sense to start "The Testaments" before reading The Handmaid's Tale first. Atwood does a great job addressing all kinds of current issues within the narrative: Not only the misogyny of the current US President is lurking between the lines, there are also parts that refer to ISIS, the refugee crisis at state borders and in the Mediterranean, xenophobia and the lack of empathy and solidarity. Another important topic is that of opportunism: We learn how Aunt Lydia became an instrumental part in a machine that systemtically exploits and violates women, and as we all know, it's the mass of enablers who keep such machines running, not those at the very top. Just like in #1, the threat of fascism is at the core of the whole story: When inventing Gilead, Atwood was inspired by the diaries of Joseph Goebbels, and the appearence of the women in the book was influenced by the aesthetics of Leni Riefenstahl's propaganda film "Triumph of the Will". And yes, Atwood paints with very broad brush strokes: This book is highly accessible, and readers aren't required to do much work themselves. I also suppose that the enormous marketing campaign put some people off and, in the eyes of quite a few readers, compromised the novel as a work of "serious" literature. I have to say that I don't really mind though: If "serious" movies with world-class actors can have major premiere events with red carpets, fancy dresses, press frenzy and all, why shouldn't a world-class writer like Margaret Atwood live it up at Waterstones London with her gang of Jeanette Winterson and freakin' Neil Gaiman as well as people dressed as handmaids and Pearl Girls while the whole literary world watches? More power to you, Ms Atwood! So if you expect intricately crafted, subtly plotted, lyrically written prose, or a completely new twist on the whole Gilead saga, this novel will probably disappoint you. But if you want to read a straightfoward, intelligent, well-paced, witty thriller spiced with social commentary in which women take down the patriarchy, this is the book for you. This text has the potential to reach many readers who normally wouldn't pick up a book on feminism, and it will allow people to join the conversation.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ariel

    I liked this one more than A Handmaid's Tale! Call me crazy! But I loved that there was this exciting plot that was pushing the momentum forwards and that we were learning more about Gilead and the world outside and the way it came to be. I read this DIRECTLY after A Handmaid's Tale, like I read both of them in the span of a few days, and I felt this enriched the world so much more.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Cecily

    Why? Why did Atwood write this more than thirty years after The Handmaid’s Tale (see my review HERE), when she’d already written sequels to that for the TV series? Because “we started moving towards Gilead instead of away from it – particularly in the United States” and more specifically, to answer “How did Gilead fall?” and “How do you get to be such a person [as Aunt Lydia]?”. Why read it? Hype, a heavy discount, and morbid curiosity. It’s an easy read and enough of a page-turner to finish quickly. It answers plenty of questions - and raises m“How“How“we Why? Why did Atwood write this more than thirty years after The Handmaid’s Tale (see my review HERE), when she’d already written sequels to that for the TV series? Because “we started moving towards Gilead instead of away from it – particularly in the United States” and more specifically, to answer “How did Gilead fall?” and “How do you get to be such a person [as Aunt Lydia]?”. Why read it? Hype, a heavy discount, and morbid curiosity. It’s an easy read and enough of a page-turner to finish quickly. It answers plenty of questions - and raises more. No spoilers below. But, it’s a weird hybrid. It’s almost as if she’d planned adult and YA versions, then wove them into a single plait. The Decline and Fall…? “Per ardua cum estrus” The plot is predictable, the writing is full of clichés (excusable for Biblical homilies and Gilead sayings), and the more delicately variegated symbolism of Handmaid (especially red and tulips) degrades to more heavy handed mentions of flowers (usually blue ones - the colour for wives). Image: Tulips and forget-me-nots (Source.) Overall, it felt lazy, yet I eagerly read it to the end. It’s better than the unnecessary MaddAddam (see my review HERE) and the execrable The Heart Goes Last (see my review HERE). Old and Wise or Young and Annoying? There are three narrators, in short alternating chapters, mostly concerning events around 15 years after the end of Handmaid. It was obvious how and when the threads would cross and eventually join. The “Ardua Hall Holograph” was secretly written by Aunt Lydia, as events unfolded, though with relevant backstory about her life before Gilead. The TV series had already presented a more rounded, complex, and sympathetic view of her than the original novel, and this expands on that. It’s 4*. “He owes me, but that could prove a liability. Some people do not enjoy being indebted.” Aunt Lydia is strong, shrewd, knowledgeable, and ruthless. She’s the chief Aunt, but no one expects a woman to do all that she does or know all that she knows; her increasing power goes unnoticed. She knows the value of information; she plots, and bides her time. I was reminded of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies (which I confess I saw on TV, rather than read). The other sections are “Transcripts of Witness Testimony” by two different women, describing their teen years, apparently written years after the events described. Agnes, the wide-eyed innocent child of a commander in Gilead, and Daisy, a bit of a know-it-all, living free in Canada. After a dramatic event, the change in Daisy’s character and voice is disproportionate. She becomes an insufferable teen, complete with irrelevant crush. Her adult self alters tone accordingly. As the end of the story approaches, the mood and intended audience feels increasingly like The Hunger Games (see my review HERE) and its ilk. Not my thing, so I rate these narrations 2*. Contemporary Shadows? All three women have at least two very different roles and identities during their lives. The different names are not confusing, but the switching is sometimes inconsistent and thus distracting. All three find risky ways to resist the patriarchy and to stand up for women. This is written in the light (dark?) of #MeToo as much and the resurgence of religious-backed populist demagogues. Atwood is clearly on the side of women, and against authoritarian regimes, but I expect her readers already are. Unlike Handmaid, she doesn’t have anything very new to say, despite increased emphasis on bloodlines and whether the “real” mother is the one who gave birth or the one who raised and loved the child. Humour? For reasons I cannot fathom, Peter Kemp classed this as comedy in his review for The Times. There was a puerile pun (the Aunts say "Pen Is Envy", because other women can’t read or write), but other than that…? Rapid Reading? I read this quickly for a book of more than 400 pages. More impressively, supplicant aunts, totally illiterate when they arrive in their mid teens, are fluent readers of adult books in less than six months, with a basic knowledge of geography too, even though most of each day is filled with arduous chores. As a former primary school teacher, I’d love to know how! (All we’re told is that they start off with Dick and Jane books, whose illustrations had the clothes made more modest.) Meanwhile, Aunt Lydia’s favourite books are not quick reads: Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Paradise Lost, and Lives of Girls and Women. Quite a tribute to Alice Munro from her compatriot! Unreliable? "History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes." Like Handmaid, this ends with a Symposium of Gileadean Studies in the far future, discussing the newly-found testimonies (cassette tapes in Handmaid, documents here). It’s the first time we hear directly from a man. He questions the authenticity and accuracy - as men often do with women’s testimonies. But it’s important in an academic context, dealing with a regime that ruled with fear and relentless propaganda, and where few women were able to write. Aunt Lydia had plenty of reasons justify her role in the regime, so her embroidery may not be of the petit-point variety that future wives were taught. But Atwood didn’t leave enough doubt to make it worth raising the question. Image: Petit-point embroidered blue flowers (Source.) Redemption? For a book that is firmly against a perverted version of Christianity, redemption is a strong element. • Aunt Lydia wants to redeem herself in the eyes of possible future readers. • One person demonstrates the greatest love (John 15:13), yet we never hear from them directly. • By the time I finished this review, Atwood had redeemed herself in my eyes. I am still a fan, though I prefer her earlier works. Quotes • “She was no longer a precious flower, but a much more dangerous creature.” [Post puberty] • “The body has its twitches, which it can be humiliating as well as rewarding to obey.” [Sex] • “We were precious flowers that had to be kept safely inside glass houses, or else we would be ambushed and our petals would be torn off and oru treasure would be stolen and we would be ripped apart and trampled by the ravenous men who might lurk around any corner, out there in the wide sharp-edged sin-ridden world.” [Bit of a mouthful!] • “The crocuses have melted, the daffodils have shrivelled to paper, the tulips have performed their enticing dance, flipping their petal skirts inside out before dropping them completely.” • “Bibles brooded in the darkness of their locked boxes, glowing with arcane energy.” • “Melanie had a distant smell… Like a floral guest soap in a strange house… She didn’t smell to me like my mother.” • Family photos, “as if they lived their lives twice, once in reality and the second time for the photo.” • “I feared I might lose my faith. If you’ve never had a faith, you will not understand… You feel as if your best friend is dying… The world was emptying itself of meaning.” • “All that festers is not gold, but it can be made profitable in non-monetary ways.” • “Gratitude is valuable to me. I like to bank it.” • “Any forced change of leadership is always followed by a move to rush the opposition.” • "How tedious is a tyranny in the throes of enactment. It's always the same plot." • “It has an acid smell, fear. It’s corrosive.” • “Terror does not exactly reign. Instead it paralyses.” • “You’d be surprised who quickly the mind goes soggy in the absence of other people. One person alone is not a full person: we exist in relation to others.” Image: Empty cradle (Source.)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte May

    Holy shit is this real? Because I need it!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard

    Joint Winner of the 2019 Booker Prize - which I captured in this photo. You’ll labour over this manuscript of mine, reading and rereading, picking nits as you go. I was fortunate enough to attend one of the live cinema screenings of the readings and author Q&A from the National Theatre on the evening of the book's official publication, managinclass="gr-hostedUserImg"> Joint Winner of the 2019 Booker Prize - which I captured in this photo. You’ll labour over this manuscript of mine, reading and rereading, picking nits as you go. I was fortunate enough to attend one of the live cinema screenings of the readings and author Q&A from the National Theatre on the evening of the book's official publication, managing to complete my first read of the book just as the event started. The event was excellent - and I think only reinforced my view that Handmaid's Tale is a great works of fiction. Great firstly because it proved so prescient - I always felt that Brave New World was a better written book than 1984, but only one is still widely quoted and referred to today - and Handmaid's Tale has I think equalled if not eclipsed 1984. And great also because it has inspired and resonated with so many people. Trump and anti-abortion male legislatures (Atwood remarked that young, fertile women - a minority in any society have across so many civilisations and cultures been a resource that society feels it can shape for its own purpose and without their consent) have been subject to the silent but dramatically effective protest of the Handmaids. Even these last two weeks in the light of the proposed (and now executed) prorogation of the UK parliament a quote from the Handmaid's Tale is going viral: "That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn't even any rioting in the street. People stayed at home at night, watching television" So to the extent that the publication of the Testaments causes people to revisit the novel - address some of the misconceptions around its message, celebrate Atwood as a writer then I welcome it. But it is the novel itself where I start to pick nits: Atwood has said that she was inspired to write the novel as she wanted to examine how oppressive regimes fall, and perhaps secondarily to explore how people survive in those regimes and even what causes people to resist the regimes. On the second front I think she does succeed. The Aunt Lydia character is an excellent one - inspired heavily by Thomas Cromwell. From the event this evening Atwood is fascinated by the paralles between Gilead and Henry VIIs court and particularly the way in which Thomas Cromwell navigated his way to a position of power while carrying out his own schemings. She is obviously familiar with and a fan of both the Mantel trilogy (well the two published and knows of the one to come - she jokingly stage whispered "it doesn't end well for him") and the Diarmaid MacCulloch biography last year (she did not mention the author). On the first though I struggle really to see the insights she brings. Atwood has made a big thing - in both books (and as a pre-condition for the TV serialisation of the Gilead world) that all events must have a basis in real life events. However I am struggling to tie the way in which the Gilead regime to the downfall of various regimes that she references heavily as inspirations for the book. These include USSR (where the Stalinist purges are a key inspiration for this novel), East Germany (more of an inspiration for the first), Pinochet's Chile, the Argentina Junta (the latter two inspiring the stadium scenes in this book and the disappeared babies of Argentina having clear parallels with one of the characters here). In most if not all the cases the actual abuses of the regime I think emerged as a result of (and post) their fall rather than precipitating it. And the resistance part of the novel ends more as a rather simplistic adventure story - I don't really read literary fiction for passages like this “Glad you made it,” said Captain Mishimengo. He shook our hands; he had two fingers missing. He was stocky, about sixty, with tanned skin and a short black beard. “Now here’s our story, supposing you’re asked: this is a cod schooner, solar, with fuel backup. Flag of convenience is Lebanon. We’ve delivered a cargo of cod and lemons by special licence, which means the grey market, and now we’re heading back out. You’ll need to stay out of sight during the day: I heard from my contact, via Bert who dropped you at the dock, that they’re bound to be looking for you soon. There’s a place for you to sleep, in the hold. If there’s an inspection, coast guard, it won’t be thorough, it’s guys we know.” He rubbed his fingers together, which I knew meant money. I also felt that rather than illuminating how things in Gilead worked, the book at times struggled to maintain a coherent and consistent world view (for example I was not entirely convinced how the extreme punitive emphasis on the sanctity of the handmaids tied with the dentists ability to abuse children; the food shortages did not always seem prevalent; the continuing use of "MayDay" as a password by an organisation known to everyone as MayDay, and the addition of "June Moon" to add more secrecy is just silly) and other than the Pearl Girls I did not gain as much additional understanding of new depths to the societal picture as I had wished. And whereas I liked the Aunt Lydia character - her depth and complexity, the other characters seemed far more one-dimensional. While I think I can excuse this for the Gilead based girl (and I think she does give a sense of how people can rapidly become assimilated to any culture if they have grown up with it); the Canadian girl was much less convincing - the device of having her unable to curb her language, attitude or atheism was significantly over-used and her (lack of) reaction to the murder of the people she thought were her parents for the first 16 years of her life was simply implausible. The book ends - like Handmaid's Tale - with a 22nd Century Symposium looking back at the events of Gilead and using source materials (which are effectively the book we have been reading). This is one area where The Testaments is better constructed than its predecessor - we are given more convincing explanations of the provenance of the documents that make the novel and even a clever hint by Atwood (via a link with Mary Queen of Scots and the Casket Letters) that the Aunt Lydia piece may even be a fake - Atwood left a rather hanging comment in the launch event that she is "fascinated by forgeries". The character links between this book and its predecessor (taken for granted in pretty well every review - not least due to the influence of the TV series) are instead described as "not definitively excluded .... jumping to conclusions .... [for] future scholars to examine" We are also told that the Professor and his assistant prepared a "facsimile edition of the three batches of materials, which we have interleaved in an order that made approximate narrative sense to us" - initially for the symposium attendees but also for the "benefit of a broader audience". And here I think is the crux of my dilemma with this novel. The Handmaid's Tale even as a novel had moved well beyond the literary fiction space, and the TV series took it into popular culture. Atwood has I think written a novel which is deliberately broad in its appeal: it cleverly builds on the novel, fan theories and the TV series while adding her own stamp; it is also much more clearly an adventure type book and less literary. But its those very strengths which I think will lessen its appeal to fans of literary fiction. So on the day of its publication I am: more convinced then ever of the greatness of its predecessor; glad I read this book; pleased it has been written; unconvinced of its individual literary merits; of the view that a lifetime achievement Nobel Prize would be a more appropriate recognition for the author than the Booker would be for this book.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    “The Testaments” opens in Gilead about 15 years after “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but it’s an entirely different novel in form and tone. Inevitably, the details are less shocking — at least in part because the horrors of Gilead’s male-centered theocracy are already so well known. When Offred first told her “sad and mutilated story,” we were hearing about the hangings, the Unbabies and the Sons of Jacob for the first time. But by now, Gildead’s breeding Ceremony is a creepy cultural touchstone. < “The Testaments” opens in Gilead about 15 years after “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but it’s an entirely different novel in form and tone. Inevitably, the details are less shocking — at least in part because the horrors of Gilead’s male-centered theocracy are already so well known. When Offred first told her “sad and mutilated story,” we were hearing about the hangings, the Unbabies and the Sons of Jacob for the first time. But by now, Gildead’s breeding Ceremony is a creepy cultural touchstone. Atwood responds to the challenge of that familiarity by giving us the narrator we least expect: Aunt Lydia. It’s a brilliant strategic move that turns the world of Gilead inside out. In “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Aunt Lydia is the orthodox teacher whose platitudes and instructions cycle through Offred’s mind. But in “The Testaments,” Aunt Lydia speaks directly to us in all her conflicted complexity. She has become the supreme matriarch of this masculine cult. “I control the women’s side of their enterprise with an iron fist in a leather glove in a woollen mitten,” she says. “And I keep things orderly: like a harem eunuch.” As a living legend, the very model of moral perfection and feminine wisdom, she enjoys a special position of extraordinary power — and she knows just how. . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Paul Fulcher

    Here I also keep another set of files, accessible only to a very few; I think of them as the secret histories of Gilead. All that festers is not gold, but it can be made profitable in non-monetary ways: knowledge is power. Aunt Lydia It was an “extraordinarily complicated process” to get copies of the manuscript, which is protected by a “ferocious” non-disclosure agreement. Chair of Booker Judges as told to the Guardian When, in 2197, the Thirteenth Symposium on Amazonian Studies takes pla/>It Here I also keep another set of files, accessible only to a very few; I think of them as the secret histories of Gilead. All that festers is not gold, but it can be made profitable in non-monetary ways: knowledge is power. Aunt Lydia It was an “extraordinarily complicated process” to get copies of the manuscript, which is protected by a “ferocious” non-disclosure agreement. Chair of Booker Judges as told to the Guardian When, in 2197, the Thirteenth Symposium on Amazonian Studies takes place, the assembled historians, looking for evidence of the Great Amazon PRH war, will pore over the details of the launch of The Testaments as one of the first skirmishes that signalled the epic conflict to come. With a midnight launch planned by PRH for September 9th 2019, a plan with which the Amazonias had officially concurred, suddenly on September 3rd the Twittersphere was set ablaze by two separate breaches of the agreement. Select Agents of the mysterious Prime organisation had been sent copies of the top-secret document, although the Amazon empire denied any deliberate malpractice and even, although only once it was too late to remedy the situation, issued a, nearly unprecedented, apology via diplomatic channels. Simultaneously media outlets in the free world began to release details of The Testaments, despite a worldwide embargo, the first from the publicly funded NPR, quickly followed by the Washington Post and New York Times, each competing to reveal as many of the secrets as possible. How this information was shared despite a strict worldwide embargo remains unclear, but a microdot may have played a part: “Microdot?” I asked. “What is that?” “An old technology that has fallen into disuse, but that is still perfectly viable. Documents are photographed with a miniature camera that reduces them to microscopic size. Then they are printed on minute plastic dots, which can be applied to almost any surface and read by the recipient with a custom viewer small enough to be concealed in, for instance, a pen.” “Astonishing,” I exclaimed. “Not for nothing do we at Ardua Hall say ‘Pen Is Envy.’” It was a fascinating saga, which is unfortunately rather more than (that one good joke aside) I can say for the book itself. Atwood was once an author whose books I eagerly awaited but this, after Hag Seed and The Heart That Goes Last, is the third major disappointment of recent years. Ultimately Atwood appears to be trying to please too many audiences at once: those who have been waiting 35 years for a sequel to the Handmaid's Tale, and forming their own theories in the meantime: fans of the TV series (who feel the primary target); and prize judges swayed by ferocious NDAs. Indeed there are some quite clever nods to each group that will pass others by. But the net effect is to leave this literary fiction fan distinctly underwhelmed. The end result has cardboard characters (a cliched teenager who seems completely unphased by the death of her parents in a terrorist attack, rapidly followed by being told they weren't her real parents), a hokey plot (as pointed out by Gumble's Yard, the infamous resistance organisation Mayday has as its password ... Mayday?!) and a tedious drip..drip..drip of revelations that are obvious to the reader well beforehand (to be fair not helped by the fact that all the early embargo breaking press reviews competed to reveal as much of the plot as possible). 1.5 stars rounded up to 2 for the fun of the botched launch.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    3.5 stars. It pains me to write this, because I love The Handmaid's Tale, but this book just felt incredibly unnecessary. The plot is predictable, with ‘revelations’ that are glaringly obvious, and characters that just don’t have the same level of depth of emotion that Offred had. With The Handmaid’s Tale, we have a novel that leaves a lot to the reader’s imagination. The ending is ambiguous and interesting, with a story that features an incredibly narrowed view of a world by a woman so obviously wro 3.5 stars. It pains me to write this, because I love The Handmaid's Tale, but this book just felt incredibly unnecessary. The plot is predictable, with ‘revelations’ that are glaringly obvious, and characters that just don’t have the same level of depth of emotion that Offred had. With The Handmaid’s Tale, we have a novel that leaves a lot to the reader’s imagination. The ending is ambiguous and interesting, with a story that features an incredibly narrowed view of a world by a woman so obviously wronged by it, and I felt that all of that is taken away here. Blanks are filled that didn’t need filling in, and it ends up just feeling gratuitous. Unlike The Handmaid’s Tale, this is told through the interweaving lives of three women. One, a girl growing up in Canada with a mysterious link to Gilead, one a girl growing up within the walls of Gilead, and Aunt Lydia - a founder Aunt, and a character we first see from Offred’s perspective in The Handmaid’s Tale. Aunt Lydia’s is by far the most interesting perspective, as we delve into her past and some of the more dubious choices she makes to become so powerful in a world that favours men. In terms of her story, I enjoyed looking back at the founding of Gilead and the struggles women faced during the initial upheavals, and their transition from powerful professions like lawyers and doctors, to nothing. If anything, I would have liked more of this time period to add some more emotional depth to the future plots. Some of Aunt Lydia’s decisions later on the book also seemed a little out of character however, and I struggled to understand her reasonings behind them, given what she goes through to ‘get to the top’. I did love her interactions with the other founder Aunts though and the many levels of scheming and backstabbing that goes on amongst them. They made the chapters, and I would have loved if this was explored more. In terms of the other characters, Agnes and Daisy, I struggled to differentiate between the two at times, as their voices are so similar. I also didn’t find their stories particularly engaging and Daisy in particular is extremely irritating at times. The passage of time over the overall plot is also a little disorientating, without any clear idea of how much time passes between chapters. Agnes goes from being a child to early twenties with very little comment. The use of secondary characters in these later chapters is also largely underdeveloped, and used only for plot progression (a very obvious one) that makes future developments feel a little cheap. I know I’ve mainly slated this, but I do love Atwood’s writing style. After a slow start getting in to this, I flew through it in a couple of days - which can be credited to Atwood’s ability to create a world I still find deeply intriguing. I just wish there had been more to add to this story instead of taking away my wonderful experiences of the original novel. Disappointing.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    UPDATE OCTOBER 2019 The Coode Street Podcast goes into the SFnal roots of this title. My hold came in today!! The librarians saw my name on the holds list and our library bought one, instead of relying on the system's many multiple copies. That way I got my hold immediately instead of being wherever I was, deep in the triple digits. They like me. They really like me. *** All three stars are for Aunt Lydia's sections. Agnes is annoying, a lump of nothing as required by her up UPDATE OCTOBER 2019 The Coode Street Podcast goes into the SFnal roots of this title. My hold came in today!! The librarians saw my name on the holds list and our library bought one, instead of relying on the system's many multiple copies. That way I got my hold immediately instead of being wherever I was, deep in the triple digits. They like me. They really like me. *** All three stars are for Aunt Lydia's sections. Agnes is annoying, a lump of nothing as required by her upbringing; it didn't make her any fun at all to read about. Daisy is intolerable, both for her backstory and her impossibly selflessly perfect nature; we're unsurprised at her actions because she is The Chosen One. Try this: Only read Aunt Lydia's sections, flipping quickly past the character-as-mouthpiece young women. You'll get an interesting sidebar to the amazing [The Handmaid's Tale]. Aunt Lydia's story is, in fact, better than the original book. I'll only get yelled at if I say more so that's it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I've had less than good experiences in my last few Atwood reads - first I spent money on the novella series that was then removed from my Kindle with no renumeration. Then I held off and finally read The Heart Goes Last and ended up sorely disappointed in it. You can read my 2-star review but part of my complaint had to do with a feeling of author laziness on some level. Claiming it was an all new book, but to me half of it being very familiar since I'd already read it in the novella version. And paid for I've had less than good experiences in my last few Atwood reads - first I spent money on the novella series that was then removed from my Kindle with no renumeration. Then I held off and finally read The Heart Goes Last and ended up sorely disappointed in it. You can read my 2-star review but part of my complaint had to do with a feeling of author laziness on some level. Claiming it was an all new book, but to me half of it being very familiar since I'd already read it in the novella version. And paid for it twice. I've reread The Handmaid's Tale in the last few years, and it holds up. The MaddAddam trilogy has a fond place in my heart. I don't believe I should have to watch a TV series to appreciate a book, and this forms the major part of my criticism of this book. I did watch the first season of The Handmaid's Tale, but the episodes came slower and slower, because I was having nightmares. I delayed watching the second season because real life seemed dark enough, and my husband finally went ahead and watched it without me. When I got to the end of this book, I went and read the synopses of seasons 2 and 3 of the show and here's the thing - this book intertwines with the show and you simply will not understand it without all the parts. This is more aggravating than I can express. My second major complaint is a complex frustration of this book being included in the Man Booker Shortlist. It is a good enough book in the sense that there are three narrators that rotate and tell different pieces of a somewhat exciting story, but as others have pointed out since two of the narrators are teenagers the novel reads like a pretty typical dystopian YA novel. And maybe not the best one I've ever read (The Hunger Games, for instance, has far more complexity, higher stakes, and dynamic characters.) The writing serves for the pace of a thriller-dystopia but there is nothing literary about it. Even Justin Cronin's vampire novels are of a more literary nature than this book, and I feel like the Man Booker judges are decades, maybe centuries, away from considering such a novel on their list. It does not deserve the spot it is occupying; there were books far better in writing and creativity and voice that were excluded for what, a nostalgia spot? This is not the bitter accusations of someone who is whining because she didn't get a review copy. I don't always, I'm not important enough, so I hadn't even tried. I was happy to purchase it the day it came out in Audible and listen to it in all my spare time to finish it by last night. I also feel the book leaves several questions unanswered but as a reader, I don't even know if I should remark on them or assume they are explained in the show, to the extent that Margaret Atwood felt she didn't need to. For now I'll let them be.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Collin

    At the opening of The Testaments, a statue is unveiled. This is a statue of the infamous, puppet-master, Aunt Lydia. Readers of The Handmaid’s Tale will know her well. The Testaments is narrated by three narrators, but Aunt Lydia is the dominant of the three. Through her secretive writings, we learn of her history, and how she rose to power to become the mastermind that sets in motion the destruction of Gilead. Again readers of The Handmaid’s Tale will recognise the diary style of writing that i At the opening of The Testaments, a statue is unveiled. This is a statue of the infamous, puppet-master, Aunt Lydia. Readers of The Handmaid’s Tale will know her well. The Testaments is narrated by three narrators, but Aunt Lydia is the dominant of the three. Through her secretive writings, we learn of her history, and how she rose to power to become the mastermind that sets in motion the destruction of Gilead. Again readers of The Handmaid’s Tale will recognise the diary style of writing that is employed by Aunt Lydia as she records her actions and deeds, hopefully to be found by historians in the future. Aunt Lydia is such a wonderful character and the irony in which a woman, albeit the most powerful of the Aunts, but still a woman, seen by the men of the Republic of Gilead as second class citizens, barely more than vessels for carrying babies, brings the Republic crashing down around their heads. Aunt Lydia may be the dominant narrator, but the other two have vital roles to play in the narrative as well. Their chapters are labelled as “Witness Testimony 369A” and “Witness Testimony 369B” respectively. Both narrators give the reader valuable insight to Gilead and how young impressionable minds are easily directed and nurtured into the beliefs of a theocracy. One comes from outside Gilead and provides a contrasting view to the other who was raised in Gilead. Atwood skilfully shifts perspective back and forth with these characters at just the right moments and it works a treat. It is interesting towards the end of the book when the young girl raised in Gilead does not even know how big Gilead is, its geographical location, which countries surround it and share borders. This is what happens when a theocracy is in power and the women, apart from the Aunts, are not even allowed to read. Information, and intelligence, as Aunt Lydia proves so succinctly are a powerful weapon. This book was always going to face intense scrutiny being the sequel to such a classic book and the length of years it has taken Atwood to answer her fan’s pleas. The Testaments has a very different feel to The Handmaid’s Tale, but for me at least, it loses nothing in comparison. After reading some negative reviews, I went back and read this a second time because I was enjoying it so much. I think that most readers will agree that this novel will not be considered the classic that The Handmaid’s Tale is, but for sheer enjoyment, it holds its head high. To be able to find out the history of Aunt Lydia, and to watch her plan and scheme the destruction of Gilead was worth reading the book for me. There is a tenuous link found at the end of the book to Offred, that will tantalise fans of the first book. Just like any sequel trying to live up to impossible hype, this book is going to have its critics, but if you are a fan of the world of Gilead, I urge you to give it a try, you may be pleasantly surprised. A well deserved 4 Stars!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

    Joint Winner of the Booker Prize 2019 I can't help but be a little disappointed with this book. In my view The Handmaid's Tale didn't need a sequel, but I suppose we can't begrudge Atwood the opportunity to cash in on the popularity of the TV version. In my view this book is not worthy of a Booker shortlisting, and is possibly the weakest of the Atwood novels I have read. There are two main problems - firstly by alternating the accounts of three narrators, the distinctive voices are l Joint Winner of the Booker Prize 2019 I can't help but be a little disappointed with this book. In my view The Handmaid's Tale didn't need a sequel, but I suppose we can't begrudge Atwood the opportunity to cash in on the popularity of the TV version. In my view this book is not worthy of a Booker shortlisting, and is possibly the weakest of the Atwood novels I have read. There are two main problems - firstly by alternating the accounts of three narrators, the distinctive voices are lost, and secondly the final part of the book lacks subtlety, and its plotting defies credibility. The book does not really stand alone - too much knowledge of the original is assumed for that. Another problem is that the three narrations interleave a little too neatly. I did quite enjoy the first half - Aunt Lydia as a subversive plotting the downfall of Gilead is a neat twist, I liked the contrast between life in Gilead and life in neighbouring Canada, and the perspectives added by the two younger narrators were interesting, as was Lydia's account of how she came to work for the Gilead regime. I could have written a more detailed review, but I would rather leave that to those who enjoyed it more.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Maxwell

    [3.5 stars] So I'm finally getting around to reviewing this. I finished it about 2 weeks ago, and didn't really mean to wait that long to write a proper review of it—but I'm glad I did. As I've sat with this book after finishing it, I think my initial feelings have faded a tiny bit. I will say first and foremost, reading this was incredibly enjoyable. It affirmed my love of Atwood's writing, at a sentence level, and storytelling. Her ability to weave plots and deliver complex themes in a very accessible b[3.5 [3.5 stars] So I'm finally getting around to reviewing this. I finished it about 2 weeks ago, and didn't really mean to wait that long to write a proper review of it—but I'm glad I did. As I've sat with this book after finishing it, I think my initial feelings have faded a tiny bit. I will say first and foremost, reading this was incredibly enjoyable. It affirmed my love of Atwood's writing, at a sentence level, and storytelling. Her ability to weave plots and deliver complex themes in a very accessible but elevated way is quite a feat. I'm impressed that she can balance a propelling, engaging story with complicated characters all wrapped in beautiful prose. That being said, I think this one is really hard for me to rate/review because I am such a fan of the show, and this is sort of auxiliary material if you watch the show. BUT, you do NOT have to watch the show to read this book. If you've only read The Handmaid's Tale but never seen the show, you can absolutely read this. There will just be some little easter eggs you will miss or reveals you won't see coming, but watching the show is NOT required to read this by any means. Unlike the first Handmaid's novel, however, I found this one to be a bit tidy. It's a lot more crafty and, maybe, because it has the show to play off of, feels almost restricted by what it can and cannot do. After thinking about it for a couple of weeks, I've had less to stew on than when I originally read The Handmaid's Tale. This one definitely seems to tie things up a bit more neatly and may serve as a coda for whenever the show is finally finished. But at this point, who knows what the show will choose to do with the information here. It doesn't really matter. I'd still recommend this one for fans of the first book, and especially for viewers of the show, but it might not have the staying power that book #1 had for me. Nevertheless, Atwood is a skilled storyteller and writer who will keep you turning the pages.

  24. 5 out of 5

    sue

    Well, it’s written by Margaret Atwood who pens a very good read in all her books, so I added another *. Or it would have been 2.75* The book itself in MHO is that it should have been left as it was. So why did I buy it? Because I was hoping it lead on from the previous book The Handmaids Tale. For over 60% of this read it focused on the children. Nothing wrong with that, it was written really well. On the whole I enjoyed it but it was slow moving, tedious at Well, it’s written by Margaret Atwood who pens a very good read in all her books, so I added another *. Or it would have been 2.75* The book itself in MHO is that it should have been left as it was. So why did I buy it? Because I was hoping it lead on from the previous book The Handmaids Tale. For over 60% of this read it focused on the children. Nothing wrong with that, it was written really well. On the whole I enjoyed it but it was slow moving, tedious at times. Lydia is still around and as in the last book she’s still a force to be reckoned with. For me, this could have spoilt my enjoyment of the Vintage Classic of The Handmaids Tale. It didn’t because it IS a pure classic. I can’t help thinking as other reviewers, did the publishers and author actually see an avenue to make money? Of course they did. But readers were excited, eager to get their hands on this hyped up book. I was! It’s GREAT writing. It’s what you’d expect from this author. She tells the tale so well that you have to continue to read it. I notice there are some sitting on the fence to read this. Some really loving it and others knowing and realising it’s not what we were expecting although, still good in its own right. The children were of course important. The emphasis just a little too much drawn out. It’s Margaret Atwood though, so what can you say? You just have to read it. Hype or no hype.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    this is the most unexpected thing of 2019 so far

  26. 5 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    When it comes to highly anticipated books, assuming it's one I actually want to read, I like to get hold of a copy early on and read it before the hype gets started. In this case, I re-read Handmaid's Tale a few months ago to get a fresh take, then put a hold on this one at the library to ensure being at the head of the line. I did watch the first season of the Hulu series, since I had been told that followed the first book very closely, but stopped there until the book was published. When it comes to highly anticipated books, assuming it's one I actually want to read, I like to get hold of a copy early on and read it before the hype gets started. In this case, I re-read Handmaid's Tale a few months ago to get a fresh take, then put a hold on this one at the library to ensure being at the head of the line. I did watch the first season of the Hulu series, since I had been told that followed the first book very closely, but stopped there until the book was published. My opinion is this: Handmaid's Tale was complete in itself for me. I had never expected a continuation of Offred's story, and when she climbed into the back of that van, my imagination could continue her story or end it. It was my choice. However, I appreciated The Testaments for the new insights it afforded into the world of Gilead. Set 15 years after the end of Handmaid, we see the realities of the wives, the children, and most importantly, the Aunts. The Aunts make us realize that true power lies with those who know things, and men who underestimate women's strength are doomed. Maybe that's what Atwood is trying to say. Strength is not limited to the physical, intelligence and guile can be just as effective. But then, we women have always known that, haven't we?

  27. 5 out of 5

    ☽¸¸.I am¸¸.•*¨ The ¸¸.•*¨*Phoenix¨*•♫♪ ☾

    “Once a story you’ve regarded as true has turned false, you begin suspecting all stories.” As a big fan of The handmaid's Tale, I was extremely excited when I heard of this sequel coming up, and I must say it was my most anticipated book of 2019. I pre-ordered it as soon as possible, and re-read the first one earlier this year to refresh my memory. I made myself ready for this one, and I also talked myself into “Once a story you’ve regarded as true has turned false, you begin suspecting all stories.” As a big fan of The handmaid's Tale, I was extremely excited when I heard of this sequel coming up, and I must say it was my most anticipated book of 2019. I pre-ordered it as soon as possible, and re-read the first one earlier this year to refresh my memory. I made myself ready for this one, and I also talked myself into resignation in case it would be a disappointment. Luckily, it wasn't! At least, not completely. It wasn't as great as the first one, and the revelations contained in it were quite predictable, but overall the sheer genius of the author made this a very enjoyable book, and definitely worth the wait. Well, maybe not a 35 years wait, but you know what I mean. For some reason which I cannot conceive, as a fan of the genre, it seems like dystopian novels are not quite fashionable today as they were in the past. But it is true, that when an author has such a great and universally acclaimed talent, they can sell nearly any kind of book and being praised for it. This is great, but I hope it will also mean a resurrection of the genre per se, because I miss having new content in this field. The kind of horror depicted in this novel, a society which oppresses, suppresses and punish to protect its own ends, masked as a "greater good", is so much closer to my idea of horror than any other spooky scenario I can imagine, that it always strikes me as thought-provoking and, in a word, real. I mean, what would be worse: spotting a blood-covered devil or living a life as a woman in Gilead, whose only alternatives in life are being a wife completely subjected to her husband, a legal prostitute or a nun? I am aware of the flaws of the society we live in, but I am more prone to see the positive aspects of it; so I am not going to compare what happens in this book to what is actually happening today. But it is true, that people need to be reminded of the dangers that some political currents still well active today, could bring if followed to the extreme. So, instead of a report of the dangers of modern society, I think it's much more useful to see this book and others in this genre as a reminder to be grateful for the freedom we have today, and the accomplishments people who came before us achieved; for as cheesy as it might sound. Overall, I am quite satisfied on how the author decided to end this story: even though, as I said, it was nothing extraordinary unpredictable, it was indeed plausible and told with such mastery that reading it felt much like a pleasure. So, if you are waiting to read this book because you are scared it will ruin the first one for you, fear not! It will definitely be worth your time.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    Whilst I wasn’t clambering for a follow up, the fact that I brought this sequel straightaway does highlight how keen I was to return to Gilead. I tried to keep my expectations in check and accepted that this novel was written mainly due to the success of the Hulu series. Seeing as the show has surpassed The Handmaid's Tale and with other series also continuing past the source material with mixed results (I’m looking at you Game of Thrones), my theory is that Atwood has used this oppo Whilst I wasn’t clambering for a follow up, the fact that I brought this sequel straightaway does highlight how keen I was to return to Gilead. I tried to keep my expectations in check and accepted that this novel was written mainly due to the success of the Hulu series. Seeing as the show has surpassed The Handmaid's Tale and with other series also continuing past the source material with mixed results (I’m looking at you Game of Thrones), my theory is that Atwood has used this opportunity to steer the shows creators in one direction whilst preparing the fans for the inevitable conclusion. The thing is with this type of story is that less is more and any concrete conclusion would seem like a disappointment. The ambiguous ending of the first book was so perfect... Set 15 years after the first book, at least this doesn’t feel like a cheap quick cash in on the back of the current popularity. But it does feel more like a natural sequel to the TV series than the original book. Whilst I’ve only seen the first two series, it was easy to spot the elements that were introduced through the show. The story is narrated through three main characters as well, so again felt very episodic. It was easy to spot the reveals and whilst this was more action packed some of the drama just felt a little forced. Overall it was just fine if not slightly underwhelming, it’s clearly going to be the final series of the show so in turn I’d only really recommend those fans to pick this up.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Alice Lippart

    Really, really loved getting to revisit this world and the people in it.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    "You could believe you were living virtuously and also murder people if you were a fanatic." I have a confession to make:  I did not particularly care for The Handmaid's Tale when I read it several years ago.  I know, shocking, right?  Most of you, my friends, gave it 5 stars, many gave it 4, and only a tiny handful of you (you know who you are 😉 Thank you for making me feel not-alone) granted it 2 or 3.  The reason I didn't care for it could be simply that I had just finished the second book in Atwood's Th "You could believe you were living virtuously and also murder people if you were a fanatic." I have a confession to make:  I did not particularly care for The Handmaid's Tale when I read it several years ago.  I know, shocking, right?  Most of you, my friends, gave it 5 stars, many gave it 4, and only a tiny handful of you (you know who you are 😉 Thank you for making me feel not-alone) granted it 2 or 3.  The reason I didn't care for it could be simply that I had just finished the second book in Atwood's The MaddAddam Trilogy: Oryx and Crake / The Year of the Flood / MaddAddam, and wanted more, more, more.  The next book in the series was 2 years in the future and I decided to give another of Ms. Atwood's dystopia books a try.  I borrowed The Handmaid's Tale.  It wasn't what I wanted more, more, more of; it wasn't anything like a Maddaddam book.  It wasn't about Snowman and Oryx and Crake (duh!) -- I was disappointed.   I didn't remember anything about The Handmaid's Tale, aside from the title and author and that it's a cautionary tale, until I watched the first season of the show.  Now that I liked!  I liked it a lot!  So there I was with many, many others, in the Cool Kid's club this time, eagerly awaiting the publication of this book, the sequel to The Handmaid's Tale.   I'm not going to bother recapping it.  If it interests you, you already know what it's about.  If you don't know, it's probably because you made a conscious choice not to and aren't going to be reading this review anyway.   My thoughts: It was good; I liked it much more than the first book.  I eagerly devoured most of it ... except for those parts I had to skim over.   Ms. Atwood tells the story through three POVs and two of them were teenagers.  Now, I can handle the occasional YA dystopia but I'm definitely not in the Cool Club when it comes to being a YA aficionado.  I find most YA irritating and composed of dumbed-down, surface-level writing.   Unfortunately, at times in this book Ms. Atwood dumbed down her writing too.  Why?  Why is this?  Do writers think people can't handle reading anything written on a normal adult level?  Or do they think that teenagers are by default dumb and thus stories about them must be dumbed down and one-dimensional?  I don't know but neither of these are assumptions an author needs to be making.  Then again, with the popularity of YA, maybe they're onto something I'm unaware of.  Whatever.  That's my bitch and I'm sticking to it.   Obviously, with the above having been said, the parts narrated by Aunt Lydia were my favourite.  I would rather the entire book have been her POV but I can understand why Ms. Atwood chose to include the voices and viewpoints of the two teens as well.  Agnes, the girl who was raised in Gilead, was OK; the girl raised in free Canada came across as a brat and a very annoying one at that.  I could have done without her POV and had to skim parts of her story.  Maybe Ms. Atwood was trying to appeal to a broader audience by making this somewhere between an adult novel and a young adult novel.  I don't know.   I did appreciate learning how Agnes felt about not having any choices in her life, as she was waiting to be married off to the best available man ("the best" of course being deemed by her parents' standards). Anyway, good story, despite the at-times dumbed-downed-ness of it.  I'm glad to know "what happened" to bring down Gilead.  And I'm glad to know Aunt Lydia's story. And now, before we go, I have another confession:  I really don't mind being in the minority.  I know, another shocker, isn't it?  Please don't tell anyone 🤫

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