When I first heard there was a new book from Margaret Atwood my first question was, What happened to Offred? I couldn’t wait to read it to discover the truth and expected it to be a continuation of her story. The Testaments isn’t a direct follow on from Offred’s tale, and it is so much better for it! You don’t need my review, it is a well deserved Booker Prize winner, but here are my thoughts.
The Testaments shows Gilead through the eyes of three other characters; an Aunt, a child coming of age in Gilead, and a child coming of age in Canada. This helps immerse the reader in the world of Gilead and how it is seen, by women, from all sides. We learn of further rituals, rules and experiences from a young girl who is a commander’s daughter. Although less shocking than the life of a Handmaid’s, the constraints on young girls are still subtly disturbing. The life of an Aunt before Gilead, and how she came to her position, shows how easily the community was formed and rules enforced in the early days. The Aunt was one of my favourite characters throughout as her motivations and decisions made helped to shape the lives of those under her care. The young girl growing up in Canada helped put the story of the girl in Gilead into perspective. She gave a great contrast of lifestyle and learned of Gilead in school.
The Testaments pulls you into each of these three worlds and surrounds you hatred for what is being done to these women, but also empathy and compassion for the decisions that have to be made. The book expands on what we learned previously about the founders of Gilead, how they made rules and their relationship with the architects. It also gives further information about Mayday and how it continued after Offred’s journey in The Handmaid’s Tale. There are pages and pages of dispair with the odd glimmer of hope; a promise of good people in terrible situations.
Finishing The Testaments was an emotional journey. All the questions I had after reading Offred’s tale were approached. The book also fits well with the TV series, without tripping over characters, or having to skirt around things I had seen, but not read, about Gilead. Margaret Atwood brings the story to a satisfying conclusion in keeping with the dystopian world we have grown to know so well.
You can buy your copy here The Testaments: WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE 2019