Book Review: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood


Margaret Atwood The Testaments

I finally binge-watched The Handmaid’s Tale late this spring. My friends couldn’t believe I hadn’t started it yet but I was hesitant as the COVID lockdown was giving me the moody blues.

The first time I picked up The Handmaid’s Tale was in my grandmother’s bookcase when I was twelve. At twelve, I read the novel with morbid fascination however I didn’t truly understand the significance of what I was reading.

I have read it a few times at different stages of my life since then and every single time, Gilead and its society has simultaneously fascinated and terrified me even more than the last. I attempted to watch the 1990s film and it did not apellate me at all. I was left feeling that I might just have a very creepy imagination. The current series’ atmosphere is as dark and horrific as the novel made me feel as I read it. The actors are absolutely phenomenal as is the setting and the costumes.

I purchased The Testaments as soon as the novel was published but as I said during lockdown, I was moody. Only when we were finally released from lockdown did I begin to binge watch the show and as soon as I finished the last episode, I jus wasn’t ready to let Gilead go.

To further complicate the situation, I read an article online which announced that The Testaments would become a televised series as well. This caused the quintessential question of all readers to come into play: should I watch the show or read the book first?

I am too impatient it seems as it didn’t matter which I should do first. I just had to start reading the novel.

The Testaments’ narrative is told from three distinctly different point of views. One of which is Aunt Lydia (how we always love a complex villain), Agnes a young girl growing up in Gilead and getting ready to marry a Commander and finally Daisy, a young girl growing up in Canada (the land of the free).

The three points of view offer a unique perspective into three different views of Gilead and the corruption inherent in any totalitarian patriarchal regime. The Testaments’ atmosphere is less dark than the original Tale however, similiar themes dominate the novel. Power, gender, guilt and the chronicling of history are some examples.

I highly recommend reading The Testaments. It kept me captivated until I turned the very last page. I am positive that I will read it again in a few months time to capture what I most likely missed on the first read. Atwood’s novels tend to cause one to reflect upon our own perception of events and The Testaments highlight via stating: “Once a story you’ve regarded as true has turned false, you begin suspecting all stories”. I am anticipating the series as it’s always interesting to see if what you have imagined when reading will have a similar portrayal captured on film.

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