The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

I only finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale a couple of weeks ago, and as I recall I said that it was an essential dystopian book. The sequel, The Testaments, was written almost 35 years later, in a very different world and a very different America.

The Testaments isn’t a pure sequel, in that Offred, from the first book isn’t mentioned, so we still have no idea what happened to her. I’d like to think that she made it across the border into Canada and was eventually re-united with her husband and child.

This book is also written in a very different style. For one, there are now quotation marks, an oft mentioned complaint from the first book. The Testaments is also written from the perspective of three different characters; two teenage girls, one from Gilead and the other from Canada, with Aunt Lydia being the final character, the first and more powerful of all of the Aunts. I don’t think its too much of a spoiler to say that the lives of all three characters intertwine. We learn more about the history of Gilead and the wars between Gilead and Texas, California and Canada. There are also ‘Pearl Girls’, in effect missionaries travelling abroad in an attempt to convert young girls to emigrate to Gilead.

I thought that the book was truly excellent, maybe not as good as The Handmaid’s Tale, but then not many books are. It must be daunting to write a follow up book to one of the most important books ever written. See also Joseph Heller’s follow up to Catch-22, or Gyorgy Dalos’ sequel to 1984, titled 1985. There are plenty of reviews saying how disappointed they were with The Testaments, which is unfair.

I can’t write about the TV Series as we only watched half of the first series. I can’t comment on differences in storylines or characters, and I have no idea if the plot from The Testaments is included. What I can say, is that if you enjoyed reading The Handmaid’s Tale, then you’ll enjoy this.

Finally, some reviewers insist that this could never happen and that the book is unrealistic. The Stand and It are two of Stephen King’s most popular books, but I can’t remember reading about them being unrealistic. Before the end of 2022, half of the States in America will have banned abortion, and within 10 years America will no longer be a democracy, if it still is at the moment, as Republican rule is minority rule. Can someone explain to me why the person who gets the most votes doesn’t become President, and how this is ‘Democracy’. Scary times are ahead.

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