If you haven’t seen the cover of Margaret Atwood’s new book plastered in the media and over the windows of your local bookshop, where have you been?
More importantly… Go check out your local bookshop!
The Testaments, a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale was released 10th September 2019, and it is a long-anticipated entry in Atwood’s fabulous portfolio of material.
Atwood’s writing has always been respected and loved by many in the literary world, but thanks in a large part to Hulu’s TV show The Handmaid’s Tale a new spotlight has driven many to the borders of Gilead and it’s inhabitants. The TV show took off in popularity and left many wondering what was going to happen once the TV show ran out of source material from Atwood’s first book, which left an ambiguous ending for its readers to contemplate. Book lovers and fans of the TV show came together in anticipation for more news and drama about Gilead when The Testaments was announced.
The Testaments straight off the bat with its title tells you that this book is about evidence, or a will, some kind of story that is coming to light after the fact. The only other clue about the book at first glance was that the cover imagery featured a binary nature, showing what looks like traditional Handmaid apparel with the white hoods and in contrast, there are also female figures sporting ponytails.
The whole cover is coloured though in green and black, not red like The Handmaid’s Tale, telling us that the focus of this book may not just be through the Handmaid’s eyes this time, perhaps a clue to signify the characters of the book who wear green, the Martha’s – reading was the only way to find out. A new colour for a new tale…
Now, to keep this review of the book spoiler-free for fans who might not have got themselves a copy yet I’ve chosen to focus on the book as a whole, it’s cover, it’s audience and Atwood’s masterful craft of writing more on Gilead without impeding the TV show’s immediate future. This review is written by a fan to encourage others that picking up a copy of The Testaments is one you’ll not regret.
At first and just momentarily, the style of this book threw me off, we are not continuing in the same style or the same character’s perspective, we don’t open with a continuation of June’s (Offred’s) story, instead we are flung into a new frame in Gilead’s time. The Testaments introduces us to multiple voices intersecting each other – documentation and diary-like excerpts from the differing characters of the book and/or TV show, but not to worry, Atwood’s mastery here is that she teases us with a slow drip-feed of information to fill in the gaps between all the pieces.
This book utilises some aspects from The Handmaid’s Tale and of the TV show, but without fully relying on one or the other. The Testaments stands on its own two feet as a piece of wonderful fiction, yet having the knowledge of the previous book and the TV show makes the reader feel like they’ve become an informed Eye or an underground operative, working out the who’s who and what/where surrounding Gilead and it’s operations, we have all the scattered pieces and we are treated as investigators looking back at the historic actions of the time.
Atwood’s wonderful way of presenting this story, or rather this collection of tales within the larger story of Gilead, lets us as the reader feel in control, we can judge the material, the evidence critically for ourselves. It gives us a separation to see the “truths” of Gilead from a distance for an investigative and understanding approach to the overall effect of the political, religious and gendered aspects of this world.
As a personal view, I like to think that Margaret Atwood, reflecting on the world around her, created The Testaments with curiosity and questioning in mind, similarly to The Handmaid’s Tale, to encourage others to open their eyes the possibilities of the world around them, not just the zone that they inhabit, to be active participants in our own stories of our world.
I adore Margaret Atwood’s writing and her career is one I always hold up as an example of success. The Testaments has become a firm instalment in her history of great writing and one I will revere always as an example of great writing.
Some other information about The Testaments here:
#TheTestaments smashes records to sell 103k in first week, becoming the fastest-selling adult fiction title of the year – The Bookseller [via Twitter]
is number 1 in the hardback fiction chart and #TheHandmaidsTale returns to the fiction paperback chart (34 years after it was first published)! – Vintage Books [via Twitter]
I got my personal copy of the book from Waterstones after seeing the fan anticipation, the events, and critic’s reviews. Here’s a snippet from their Twitter feed.
‘Rich in suspense’ – Telegraph ‘Atwood at her best’ – Anne Enright ‘A dazzling follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale’ – Guardian
Yet to start @MargaretAtwood ‘s landmark new novel #TheTestaments? Find your copy here… – Waterstones [via Twitter] waterstones.com/book/the-testa