I have been looking forward to this one for a while, so I’m glad I finally got to it.
More than 15 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.
It isn’t often that I enjoy the second book in a series more than the first but I have to say there was something a lot more compelling about this story, perhaps it is because I had watched some of The Handmaid’s Tale before reading it, whereas with The Testaments it is totally fresh or maybe it is the range of voices. Whatever the reason it was amazing to be immersed in the strange times of Gilead once again and to see things from different perspectives.
This story is told from three different points of view, Agnes who has grown up in Gilead, Daisy who is in Canada and…Aunt Lydia, if you have read The Handmaid’s Tale then she needs no introduction. I think it goes without saying that as soon as I realised that she was one of the narrators I was hooked, getting insights from someone who is part of the regime was always going to be very interesting but I didn’t realise the extra depth that this would give to the story.
I did enjoy getting to know the new characters, Agnes and her friend Becca, and seeing how their lives differed from that of the handmaid’s and about more of how Gilead worked in the larger sense. I wasn’t quite as taken with Daisy, I feel that her storyline wasn’t the strongest and to be honest when she became more relevant to the story these were the parts that felt a little more predictable than I would have liked.
Of course, Aunt Lydia’s voice is the strongest, getting more knowledge about the start of Gilead and seeing how Aunt Lydia ended up in her position was fascinating, the way she manipulates and manages to keep herself in favour, and therefore power, was exciting to read about. Even though she is a character I know that I should dislike I found myself hoping that she would succeed, that she would keep spinning things to her advantage. Again the ending of the book felt like a bit of a disservice to someone that had managed to have such a hold over the story but I can understand why it took the direction it did.
The narration once again was fantastic, Ann Dowd, Bryce Dallas Howard and Mae Whitman did an amazing job, they made all the characters seem that bit more relatable. I am glad that Ann Dowd was the voice of Aunt Lydia once again, I feel like no one else could have done the role justice, and even though it sets a very different tone from its prequel I was glad to have a bit more hope in the voices of the other characters.
I know that opinions were divided over this book but I have to say I really enjoyed The Testaments and quite liked that there were a few more answers and a bit more insight into the world of Gilead.
Reviews of other books by Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid’s Tale