The Testaments by Margaret Atwood has been a hotly anticipated and contested book. Many have deemed it ‘unnecessary’, stating that it will never live up to the original and that Atwood shouldn’t be responding to the current political climate. Others are just completely here for all things Atwood and will enjoy the book come what may. Having only read The Handmaid’s Tale this year, I am not a die hard Atwood fan, and therefore can give a largely unbiased opinion on the new release.
The Testaments is not a follow-on of The Handmaid’s Tale. In this book, we follow the story of baby Nicole, who was smuggled out of Gilead at a young age who reunites with her sister and Aunt Lydia who we left evil and conniving in the previous book. Without giving much away, this book centres on views of Gilead, its difference to the outside world, while connecting so importantly with the current political climate in the US.
What I liked…
I actually liked the action-packed, plot-driven feel to this book. It felt as though Atwood was using a developed world and telling a new, yet connected story within it. I liked seeing the contrast of the two young girls’ lives, as it showed the contrast between Gilead and the outside world, which made it feel smaller than in the first book. I really liked the character of Nicole, finding her relatable and entertaining to read.
The chapters told by Aunt Lydia were exceptional in writing and character development, however I still don’t feel as though the reader was ever given an explanation for her actions in The Handmaid’s Tale and were just expected to get on board with new elements to her character. Both sections were entertaining in different ways, and I enjoyed getting inside her head in a way that wasn’t possible previously.
Of course, there will always be issues with novels like this. Was it as good, or as literary as The Handmaid’s Tale? No; it’s not literary fiction, but falls more into dystopian YA/dramatic fiction in my opinion. But, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not going to be properly competing with the rest of the Booker prize nominees and if it does win, it will be for Atwood and not this book in particular. Atwood struggled to keep me believing the scenes between the younger girls, as the misuse of ‘young’ language and exclamation marks was rather jarring. I will also never change my opinion on Aunt Lydia.
Overall, The Testaments is a good book. It is, in my opinion, more of a dramatic young adult dystopian novel than a great work of literature, but it is entertaining and could reach a wider audience. I would recommend this to most people who enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale or Margaret Atwood in general, but not if you’re going to tear it apart for not being a strict sequel or being quite different.