Thursday, 7 May 2020

The Testaments - Margaret Atwood

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

: Penguin Random House
Published: 2019
Pages: 415

The first thing I have to admit is that The Testaments is the first Atwood book I have read. 

I’ve long been a fan of television adaptations of her work. I devoured Alias Grace in a 

single sitting, and I loved the first two seasons of The Handmaid’s Tale (before it went a 

bit off the rails). Her reputation as a Booker winner had made me a little worried that 

Atwood’s work would be too literary and heavy for me, so I put it off for as long as possible. 

However, I received The Testaments as a Christmas present and decided that I should 

finally give Atwood a go.

The Testaments shifts perspective between three main characters. In Gilead,  it follows 

the infamous Aunt and Agnes, the daughter of a powerful general,(and the actual daughter 

of June).  In Canada we meet Daisy, a mouthy preteen who serves as an effective foil to 

the obedient and pious Agnes. The three perspectives start at different points in time, and 

begin to convene as the narrative progresses. This was a little difficult to follow at the 

beginning but I eventually got used to it. It actually sort of reminded me of the way the TV 

adaptation of The Witcher  was made. (I’m sure this is a common device used in many 

different stories, but I just happened to have watched The Witcher recently). I loved the 

use of the three different perspectives. Through Agnes and Aunt Lydia we got to see what 

life is like in different echelons of society in Gilead. Daisy gives us insight into what life is like 

living in Canada, in the shadow of the Gilead regime. Aunt Lydia’s story begins before the 

regime takes hold in America, and through her eyes we get to see some of that transition.

I’ve been told by people who have actually read the book( and not just watched the series 

like me) that The Handmaids Tale is a slow burn book. The Testaments is the opposite. 

This book is action packed from the get go, building from intrigue and suspicion to a full on 

chase. I found the book totally absorbing, I was unable to put it down and read it in a day and 

a half (thank you quarantine). The world building is was excellent, the contrast between Gilead 

and Canada is jarring and grounds what could be a ridiculous situation in reality. 

 I loved The Testaments, it makes me wish that I had had the sense to read The Handmaids 

Tale first. Atwood’s writing is accessible and absorbing, and her world building is exceptional. 

It goes without saying that her work as a feminist writer is as important as ever.

Five Stars *****

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