Today I wanted to write a review of ‘The Testaments’ by Margaret Atwood, as this is a book I’ve been wanting to read for ages. So when my boyfriend bought it for me this Christmas, I finally got chance to read it! I’m so glad he did as I might never have got round to it, and it has to be one of the best books I’ve read this year.
‘The Testaments’ leads on from Margaret Atwood’s famous novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.‘ Written just as cleverly as the first novel ‘The Testaments’ is set in Gilead, a place where women are placed into different roles and are treated as inferior beings, often with extreme violence and brutality.
In ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ there were whisperings of the May Day revolutionaries- people who are sick of the Gilead regime, and work to overthrow it in any way they can. But in ‘The Testaments’, set 15 years after the first book, this revolution is starting to get louder and louder, with more and more “moles” appearing in Gilead. The regime is so hard to overthrow as it is highly religious and manages to cleverly indoctrinate its members.
Many of the May Day revolutionaries operate from Canada, and this book looks at how some Gilead women are using secret routes to escape their awful lives, particularly those who are forced to work as handmaids. In Canada the women are given help and support, with various homes set up in order to rehabilitate them back into safe society.
‘The Testaments‘ focuses on the stories of three women, all related to Gilead in some way. Aunt Lydia’s perspective shows the inner workings of the Gilead regime, considering how she came to be an integral part of the regime, and the life she had before this as a successful judge- a career she was forced to give up when the regime began, with women given no rights to handle money or have jobs.
But while Aunt Lydia is deeply entrenched in the Gilead lifestyle, she too has secrets that could destroy her, and it is clear that no one in Gilead can be trusted.
The other two perspectives are two young women. Agnes has grown up in Gilead, and is set on a path for marriage. Daisy has grown up in Canada, free and yet with her own set of Gilead troubles, finding she has to play an integral role in the revolution against Gilead.
I loved the switching perspectives of this book- I love novels that alternate between different points of view so the reader isn’t stuck with just one person’s ideas and thoughts. This really helped to build my views on the issues presented in the book.
As well as offering different views, this book also looks at very different sections of Gilead society. I enjoyed reading about the plight of a young girl growing up in Gilead, who has never known any different and yet knows that marriage is not all she wants.
I also enjoyed the sections from Daisy’s point of view, considering the view of someone who was not born in Gilead, but who was on the outside looking in. The parts where she talks about seeing the struggles of women in Gilead on the news, and even writes essays on them in school, makes it clear that Canada scorns Gilead. It does little to help the women there- a theme which can be seen across the world today.
I also liked that this book looked at the May Day revolution, as it had a different tone to the first book. While there were parts of this book which seemed without hope, the fact that there were more and more people inside and outside of Gilead who were prepared to fight for freedom was uplifting. It was the women themselves who had to change the system.
Overall I’m so happy I read this book, as it was a great second part to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ Atwood’s style is difficult to pin down, because while it’s “easy” to read in the sense that she doesn’t use particularly fancy language, some parts cover tough themes, such as rape, physical abuse and murder.
Both ‘The Handmaid’s Tale‘ and ‘The Testaments’ were brilliant reads, and I cannot help but admire Atwood’s incredible gift for language- her prose is amazing, and the way she builds the world of Gilead is incredibly clever. I can definitely see why this book was one of the books to win the Booker Prize this year.
What do you think of my review of ‘The Testaments’? Have you read ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’? Do you think this book lives up to its hype?
Drop all your thoughts in the comments below 🙂
Happy reading x
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