The Testaments

The Testaments

Book - 2019
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WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE
LONGLISTED FOR THE SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE
INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER

Margaret Atwood's dystopian masterpiece, The Handmaid's Tale, has become a modern classic--and now she brings the iconic story to a dramatic conclusion in this riveting sequel.

More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid's Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.

Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.

As Atwood unfolds The Testaments, she opens up the innermost workings of Gilead as each woman is forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes.

"The literary event of the year." -- The Guardian

"The international literary event of the season." -- Globe and Mail

"It's terrifying and exhilarating." --Judges of the Booker Prize 2019
Publisher: Toronto : McClelland and Stewart, ©2019.
ISBN: 9780771009433
Characteristics: x, 419 pages ;,24 cm.

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m
mclarjh
Aug 10, 2020

Very well organized; well (but not very well) written; often juvenile; and not particularly imaginative; nearly popular detective thriller.

m
Memawrayne
Jul 31, 2020

An interesting way to close and tie up most of the loose ends of the original story. By explaining that some records were destroyed or lost, all things cannot be answered but enough is revealed that the reader feels there was a fairly complete story. Something like this can happen when not enough people stand up to protect individual rights by a small group.

d
darcyhudjik
Jul 27, 2020

This novel is a wonderful follow up of The Handmaid's Tale. The story is very involved, moving, and well written.

r
rab1953
Jul 16, 2020

In spite of my admiration for Atwood’s writing and her thinking, I could not get to like The Testaments. If I’m being generous, I place it in a category of political satires like those of Jonathon Swift – the interest is in the ideas, but less so in the story line or the characters, who are cartoon caricatures instead of anything like real people.
This is disappointing in Atwood, because the characters in her other novels have depth and realistic emotions. Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale was not cartoonish, but invited readers to share in her emotions at the horror of her life. None of the three leads in The Testaments, to say nothing of the minor characters, invite empathy because they feel like sketches that an author might develop while working out the plot for a TV treatment that is not likely to be made. Was Atwood rushed into completing the book before she had time to go back and make the characters real? It feels like it.
This is not to say there is nothing to admire in the book. Atwood’s aphorisms about social life are thoughtful and provocative, and her caustic quips about the hypocrisy and corruption of Gilead are entertaining. Lydia, the senior aunt, ruminates in Atwood’s sharp, ironic, critical voice and that is worth the time. Some incidents, like the abuse of the girls in Gilead, create a sense of what life could be like for powerless young women in our own society. Lydia’s compromises, initially to save her life and later to protect her power in Gilead, illustrate some aspects of how a vicious and violent culture distorts the life and values of its victims. Even the small ways that the powerless girls find to gain some agency and self-protection are a thoughtful illustration of how people survive in our own culture. Generally, though, neither the young girls nor Lydia were convincing as characters from the start through to the end of the novel.
Atwood also makes good points about media and propaganda, literature misrepresented for the users’ own ends. But she also shows that literature is also a defense, allowing readers to discover the truth and manipulation. This is a theme in Atwood’s other writing, and it’s particularly relevant in the Trumpian political period.
However, so many details of the novel just feel wrong – that is to say, they don’t match the pictures I have from other, better writing. The spy story aspects, for example, are superficial and unrealistic compared to anything by John Le Carré. (Really? Sending an untrained child into a police state as an agent and expecting that she will extricate herself?) The capture and torture of the women in the initial revolution is unrealistic compared to what really happened in recent Latin American revolutions, for example, or even to the portrayal in The Handmaid’s Tale. I’m sure that Atwood knows better than this, as she reads widely and comments on these very topics in her political work.
What’s most disappointing to me, however, is the thinness of the ideas she presents here. Aside from shallowly exploring how a senior apparatchik rationalizes her participation, there’s little here that is not presented better in The Handmaid’s Tale, or in a large number of other novels about political dissidence.
In the acknowledgements, Atwood calls this a thought experiment, and that's probably the best way to think of it. It follows the threads of the earlier story in some new ways, but it's not a fully developed exercise (in spite of the many people who seem to have contributed, and the 400 pages). Clearly, many people react viscerally to its depiction of violent patriarchy, but this is a book that should and could have been much better.

d
DianneN
Jul 10, 2020

This is not a kid's book.
Although it is fictional is seems very real and could be an account of many places or times such as when Hitler was around, or what might have happened with slave's by there owner's, or even in 2020 with government trying to change so many things and taking control of people. It feels very real!
If we don't learn from history, we are bound to repeat it!
Enlitening, Scarry, Sorrowful, awful deeds but where they needed? ...
I did have some trouble with the characters going back and forth and trying to figure out who was who.
5 stars
The Hadmaids Tale is a book the goes before this one.

k
KellyLatimer
Jul 06, 2020

An excellent follow up to The Handmaid's Tale. This engrossing novel is both triumphant and heartbreaking as it takes some unexpected turns. It ticks all the boxes and I can't recommend it enough as an entertaining quick read.

s
sasie
May 21, 2020

Well it's not Handmaid's Tale but I thought it was still pretty darn good. If you drop the idea of a comparison before you begin, I think you will enjoy the story.

m
moyatori
Apr 09, 2020

It's been too long since I read the Handmaid's Tale, but while this book was a delight to read (if "delight" can describe a dystopian novel), it didn't quite carry the same depth of emotion. Loved the Aunt Lydia parts, appreciated Agnes' narration, and gradually grew to dislike the Daisy bits. There might be things about the characters and their plots that are rather unconvincing, but if you're an imaginative enough reader, you'll be alright. It was enjoyable overall, and I would recommend it to anyone who has lingering questions about the Handmaid's Tale.

CALS_Lee Apr 09, 2020

It’s definitely not what I was expecting. It's a breezy thriller, I'd say. The primary bad guy, Commander Judd, as physically described by Atwood resembles Santa Claus, if Santa took a really bad turn down the road of totalitarian patriarchy (don’t do it, Santa!). An image of a demented Santa, for me, brings an air of the ridiculous to the proceedings. One of Judd’s characteristics is that he’s only interested in teenage girls: marry one, go a few years, kill her, repeat. Horrible but treated with a touch of the slapstick by Atwood (“rat poison? It’s so easily detectable,” the central character and antihero Aunt Lydia muses. Yes, disappointingly sloppy, Santa).

On the positive side, it’s well paced, and kept me turning the pages. It flew by for being a 400 page novel in the hands of a slow reader. Aunt Lydia is the sort of Machiavellian character it’s enjoyable to encounter in fiction (if only we could keep them all there).

I appreciated how it agreed with Nabokov’s take on totalitarianism: that it is marked more by the ineptness and buffoonery of those in power than by any impressive calculating evil.

I get the sense, reinforced by Atwood’s acknowledgements here, this was just written for the entertainment of people who have enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale in its written and televised formats, and not so much because it was a novel that was demanding to be written, so to speak. It exists because there was an eager market for it that didn’t call for it to be very “literary”. Which is fine of course. But that it was a co-winner of the Booker Prize is much less understandable.

s
sgcf
Mar 21, 2020

It is clear that, in shaping her sequel, Atwood drew on the current Trumpian regime and the #MeToo backlash against patriarchal injustice. I liked that this book was more plot-driven by the three female narrators who recorded events in their journals (their testaments/holographs), that the elder becomes a double agent, and that the other two are young – the new generation rising up. We learn more about Gilead’s history and Canada’s response. Despite the last part seeming rather hurried, here’s a sense of hope, and a sense of the world turning on the same themes.

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moyatori
Apr 09, 2020

"Astonishing," I exclaimed. "Not for nothing do we at Ardua Hall say 'Pen Is Envy.'"

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NadiaHathor
Oct 02, 2019

"There were swings in one of the parks, but because of our skirts, which might be blown up by the wind and then looked into, we were not to think of taking such a liberty as a swing. Only boys could taste that freedom; only they could swoop and soar; only they could be airborne. I've never been on a swing. It remains one of my wishes." Part II - Chapter 3 - pg.16

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