The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

For a long time I had Atwood on a pedestal. I mean she wrote The Handmaid’s Tale!

Then I read Angel Catbird and it was a bit sad and embarrassing (please don’t read it). So it has been a while since I’ve read anything by Atwood (not counting the brilliant graphic novel adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale).

I was however curious about The Testaments.

Please note I will attempt to make sure there are no spoilers in this review and as such, I won’t talk much about plot (here’s the the Goodreads synopsis) but the storyline takes place 15 years after the first book.

First of all, if this were written by a YA author as her version of what happened to Gilead I probably would have applauded it.

But this is Margaret Atwood we are talking about, and so I had high expectations.

I don’t mean to say I didn’t enjoy it. I did. I liked (or liked despising) the fact that we were back in Gilead and hearing from Aunt Lydia. Lydia was a great character and it was especially interesting hearing from her perspective.

The story was fast-paced, very plot-driven, and it ended up being a quick read despite its 400 pages. But I felt that her young teenaged character in the non-Gilead world wasn’t convincing. Some of what she said sounded odd. And really, I was disappointed that we don’t hear from Offred.

After I read the book, I saw a review that remarked that The Testaments picks up plot elements from the TV series and I wondered, what have I missed out on since I haven’t seen the TV show? And to be honest, after learning about that, I was a bit pissed off. Is this a sequel of a book or of a book and a TV show? Did I need to get a Hulu subscription in order to learn what I was missing?

So after it all I feel that this book, while readable and entertaining, was, for me, not very satisfying. It brought me back into a familiar world with hopes of answers but I wasn’t wowed by it.

6 Comments

  1. Thank you for this honest review! I have not read the book yet; but it comes highly recommended to me by a like-minded friend, though she has read the book and seen all three seasons.

    I will say that I watched the series first, without knowing anything about the premise or story. I’ve watched Seasons 1 & 2 thus far (and am awaiting Season 3 from the Library – no Hulu subscription needed. 😉 )

    I’ve since listened to the audio version of the original book. I can honestly say that had I not seen the series, I would have been totally lost for a good 1/4 to 1/3 of the book. I’m glad I knew what she was describing. Season 1 of the series covers the book.

    Season 2 starts where the book left off. From what I’ve read/heard/seen Margaret Atwood is a consulting producer of the series. As I understand, the director also consults UN leaders to link to incorporate and represent conflicts and other real global issues. Knowing that makes me sadder about the state of the world; but also gives the premise much more plausibility.

    I am waiting to read The Testaments after I see the 3rd season partly due to the reasons you describe here. I know that the book was written 15 years after the original, but was unaware the perspective had changed to Aunt Lydia. I’m not sure how much I’ll like that!

    I appreciate this review! Thank you.

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    1. Thank you so much for your insightful comments! It’s interesting hearing from one who has watched the show before reading the book!
      The Testaments is partly told from Aunt Lydia’s POV. I didn’t want to talk much about the others because of possible spoilers. So hopefully that might make it more enticing for you?
      I hope to one day watch the series! Somehow I never thought of borrowing from the library

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  2. Yeah, I think I was OK with The Testaments because I’ve always been scared of the potential bleakness of The Handmaid’s Tale and only read it to help my daughter with her A-level project. And then I only read it in chunks out of order. I liked the way The Testaments returned obliquely, because THT worked well for me in the not knowing what happened after the end – you are left to read hope or bleakness in as you wish. I really enjoyed the political perspective of how people are turned from one side to another, but thinking how much are they really turned?

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  3. Hello! I haven’t come by your blog in awhile and I’m so happy to see you are still writing! Just wanted to say that I always enjoy your writing and reviews. Happy Thanksgiving!

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