October 20

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Praise be! I finished a book. 

The year started so well, but by Easter I had lost control of the laundry v reading life equation. Trust Margaret Atwood to return my domestic equilibrium. Like her or not, it is impossible not to finish a Margaret Atwood book.

The Testaments is the highly anticipated sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale and completes the story of both the beginning and end of Gilead. It has just been honoured with the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction and I’m confident it will be loved and dissected by readers and academics for decades to come. 

For the most part, The Testaments tells the story of Aunt Lydia; how she arrived in Gilead and her not unimportant role in the formation of the rules of this dystopian State. It also gives voice to the stories of two girls; one that escaped from Gilead and one that didn’t. 

As a sequel, The Testaments is exceptional. It fills in so many gaps and provides rich detail and context to the original story.  There is the familiar lechery and gore in bedrooms and hallways as the Handmaids, Aunts and Marthas live with the “thick red knowledge” of women and their abuse in the hands of men. But there is also a look into the politics of power and survival amongst the women. Another side to the story in a way.

Whereas the Handmaid’s Tale was about male dominance, The Testaments challenges perceptions of who really is in control.

You can’t fault this book for its story, structure or chilling message but I want to fault it for its language. I know I’m just a random blogger with a job, three kids, a flatulent, ageing dog and heaving basket of laundry, but I couldn’t help but cringe at some of the dialogue and settings. It all just seems a little dated to me.  The simple explanation for that is that Margaret Atwood is almost 80 years old and not getting out and about as much as she used to…but I am going to give her the credit she deserves and say that it’s a deliberate attempt to match the language of original Handmaid’s Tale written 34 years ago.

And that is my 2 cents worth