Curiosity got the best of me so I decided to read “The Testaments,” Margaret Atwood’s follow up from her novel “The Handmaids Tale,” written 30 years ago. The book was so popular back in 1985 that a 1990 film version was made and recently a 2017 TV series was adopted because everyone wanted to know what happened to the state called Gilead. At the end of the book, the authoritarian racist state had not been brought to its knees.
The Testaments provides a clear picture of what eventually happened 15 years later. If you want to have an understanding of what’s happening in The Testaments you can read the prequel “The Handmaids Tale” or watch the first season of “The Handmaids Tale” TV series. The first season follows the book closely so you will get the idea of wants at stake. The only caveat is the TV series cleaned up post racist Gilead into a more diverse living hell for all women.
For those that have not read The Handmaids Tale in any format, here is a short synopsis: In a not too far future, the United States slowly took away the rights of women. No jobs, no bank accounts, no passports, no drivers licenses or the right to leave the state. Birth rates were very low so fertile young women were forced to become ‘handmaids’ – sexual slaves serving as a surrogate for high ranking commanders wives that could not conceive. The oppressed women won some battles but the dystopian United States was still in power at the end of the book. The Testaments does not pick up where the Handmaids Tale ends, but rather tells of its downfall 15 years later through the eyes of 3 overlapping narratives.
The first POV is from Nicole, now 16. She was just a baby when she was taken from her mother and given to a commanders wife, as a symbol as status. She escaped Gilead and is living in Canada under another name.
The second POV is from Agnes. On the TV series, she was called Hannah and was born from a forced encounter. Like Nicole, she was taken from the biological mother and is given to a commanders wife. Hannah grew up in the world of Gilead and only knows that authoritarian way of life.
The third POV is from Aunt Lydia, the unforgiving enforcer aunt that imposed Gilead’s rules on the handmaids with a vengeance. We come to see that Aunt Lydia has become a collaborator ‘under his eye’ raising up in power, acknowledged in the form of a statue in her honor. Aunt Lydia is hated by many but details of her backstory paint a picture of a woman trying to survive like the handmaids.
The theme of the Testaments is about women slowly chipping away at the foundation of Gilead and the mystery of who is the high ranking mole in Gilead, working with the resistance called mayday to bring down Gilead.
This novel is for fans of the film, book and TV series. If not a fan, give it a pass. If you are, The Testaments gets a 4-star rating for giving the fans what they wanted.