Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Testaments

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
Penguin Random House: 9/10/19
hardcover; 432 pages
ISBN-13: 9780385543781

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood is very highly recommended story of intrigue and suspense.

Over fifteen years have passed since the events of The Handmaid's Tale occurred. The misogynistic theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead still reigns, but the end may be in sight. This novel is presented as the alternating testimonies of three women: Aunt Lydia and Agnes Jemima in Gilead and Daisy/Nicole in Toronto. Aunt Lydia knows that knowledge is power and she has been secretly collecting and documenting Gilead's secrets and the crimes by the leadership. While acting as head Aunt of Ardua Hall and an ally of Commander Judd, she has simultaneously been planning the downfall of Gilead for years. Lydia's plan of revenge involves two teenage girls, Agnes Jemima and Daisy, known as "Witness Testimony 369A" and "Witness Testimony 369B" in the narrative. Agnes is a thirteen-year-old who is being raised in Gilead to be a commander's wife. Daisy is a sixteen-year-old being raised in Toronto, when her parents die and she learns some of her real background.

Confession time. While I would very highly recommend The Handmaid's Tale it is not among my favorite novels written by Atwood and not my favorite dystopian tale. I have never seen the Hulu series and don't plan to do so. The Testaments is described as the sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, but I found it best to approach the narrative as more historical documents and testimony pertaining to the Republic of Gilead and this approach served me well in my regard of the narrative. I could appreciate the cunning plan to take down Gilead - the long-con that Aunt Lydia shrewdly played out. It is an exemplification that women can certainly strategize, analyze, reason, and execute a plan as well as any man.

Atwood had to know that any novel portrayed as a sequel to The Handmaid's Tale would suffer in comparison. Unlike the MaddAddam series where the three novels followed one another quickly, the gap between these novels combined with a popular TV series would make any continuation of the original story or a revisit to the envisioned theocratic country of Gilead suffer in comparison. But, bear in mind that ultimately women are taking the power back here.

Upon reflection, Atwood might represent the older generation (Aunt Lydia) and is hopeful that the younger generation can continue to speak up for themselves and take back any ceded power. Or a case could also be made that this is a reminder that those who choose to forget history are doomed to repeat it. Or it could just be a well-written novel that visits the end of the regime of the original story after a clamor from fans to do so.

1 comment:

Serrah Miles said...

Planning to read this one after I read the Handmaid's Tale. Although it got mixed reviews, I hope I will still like it like the first one.