The Testaments by Margaret Atwood – Was It Really Needed?

The sequel to The Handmaid's Tale that shouldn't have happened.

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I’ve always been a huge fan of Margaret Atwood; The Handmaid’s Tale was the first book I read by this prolific Canadian author and it is one of my favourite books of all time. Naturally, I was ecstatic to hear a sequel to this book was going to be released. Who knows what questions this book would answer about Gilead?

Obviously, it has taken me a while to even get to this book. My hiatus last year meant that I didn’t get to read many highly anticipated books (including this one) … but I wanted to do it justice and set aside the proper time to read a book that I honestly thought would be amazing.

The Testaments (The Handmaid's Tale, #2) book cover

The Testaments (The Handmaid's Tale, #2)

by Margaret Atwood

Published August 10, 2019 by Nan. A. Talese
Series: The Handmaid's Tale
ISBN: 0385543786

Data from Goodreads

Set 15 years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the story is told through the perspective of 3 female characters and how Gilead has affected them. We hear from Agnes, a girl who has lived her entire life in Gilead but has begun to suspect that all may not be as perfect as it seems. We also hear from Daisy, who lives in Canada with her parents, but firmly opposes everything Gilead stands for. And finally, we read about the formidable Aunt Lydia, who featured in The Handmaid’s Tale, but now gets her own backstory and hidden agenda revealed.

I wanted to prep myself for this book by rereading The Handmaid’s Tale. I wanted an easy transition back into Gilead, especially if there would be little nuggets of information revealed in this new book.

Looking back, that might have been the first thing that led to my ultimate disappointment. The Handmaid’s Tale is an amazingly written book, with powerful imagery. Its charm comes from how much it withholds from the reader, how we just have to go along with what Offred is saying and feeling.

The Testaments, on the other hand, is all about revealing everything. And the “truth” is never as good as one’s imagination.

I don’t know what exactly I expected from this novel. Maybe I was hoping it would just continue in Offred’s voice and follow only her story. I certainly wasn’t expecting to read from three perspectives and it took me aback when I first realized that the voices were switching.

Surprisingly enough, I didn’t like that the story had so many perspectives to it. And that’s not usually the case with me. I love reading stories where there are multiple characters’ viewpoints expressed. But here, all it did was bring the story down – and also ruin The Handmaid’s Tale.

I think it was a mistake for Atwood to have written from the perspective of 2 young girls. While she still managed to somewhat capture Agnes’s persona, both young girls sounded so unrealistic. The writing and their storylines came off as sloppy, which is not a word I have ever used to describe Atwood’s work. There was just no way for me to connect with these characters – and frankly, I hated one of them because she was just so bratty!

Thankfully, Aunt Lydia’s perspective was included. This was done well, but even then, it didn’t make this book an enjoyable reading experience.

Gilead itself made even less sense than before. A regime that was crumbling and had Handmaids escaping all the time was still functioning? How?! Who was actually benefiting from maintaining the facade? The fear of Gilead that had been prevalent in The Handmaid’s Tale was gone, replaced by this pathetic attempt at control.

I wish this book had not been written. There was nothing in it that needed to be said, as it did not enhance the story. In fact, it has left me extremely disappointed with its recycling of dystopian tropes and shallow teen perspectives.

Moral of the story: sometimes, a good book should just be left alone.

But now I would like to hear from others:

Did you love this book or hate it? And if you loved it, what made it work for you?

Let me know in the comments!

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