Review: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

by Lucy Goodfellow

The long-awaited sequel to Margaret Atwood’s classic dystopia The Handmaid’s Tale is finally here after a wait of almost four decades. Critics, fans and obsessives like me could hardly wait for it to be released on September 10th and reviews are already flooding in.

This will be a NON-SPOILER REVIEW.
⚠️ Trigger Warnings ⚠️: sexual assault, paedophilia, violence against women, mental torture

An aunt, an outsider and a citizen. This is Atwood at her finest.

With three perspectives, that differ dramatically, Atwood is able to present the inner workings of Gilead naturally through reflective prose that allows for multi-layered sombre exploration of life in a totalitarian regime. This is made more effective by the time skip of 15 years since the events of the first book took place as the younger narrators have no memories of the world before Gilead whereas the older characters ponder over the extreme differences. The character growth is exceptional, and the empathy that Atwood is able to create for her characters is astonishing.

The relevance that her writing has today is equally terrifying and liberating. She is paying attention. Like everyone should be.

Some have already noted the tonal difference to The Handmaid’s Tale, but it’s important to note that this is a book for a different generation and she has been able to pull from another 34 years of recent history to colour her work with. Themes explored previously are not forgotten but they are explored from new angles. For example, the presentation of the Handmaids vs the Aunts is explored from the perspective of a child who grew up in this society rather than from the mind of a subjugated educated woman. Moreover, with her ‘outsider’ narrator Atwood is able to counter these perspectives with something current showing a multilayered cast which is reflective of present-day society. Different people have different views, and it’s only when these views can be countered that they can be changed. Something I would have liked to see more of was the presentation of the LGBT+ community which did feature in the first book. I felt like there could have been a possible relationship between two female characters but this was not followed through explicitly.

Overall, this is a near-perfect sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. Atwood leaves the reader with a feeling of hope and optimism for the future. Something which is sorely needed in this day and age.



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