The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

“We’re stretched thin, all of us; we vibrate; we quiver, we’re always on the alert. Reign of terror, they used to say, but terror does not exactly reign. Instead it paralyzes. Hence the unnatural quiet.” ― Margaret Atwood, The Testaments


*** Spoiler alert! ***If you are a fan, this book might very well the best thing you read this year. My review might contain some SPOILERS so please do not read any further if you really looking forward to reading this. At your own risk, please scroll to the How-To section at the very end which will be spoiler-free.

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The Testaments is a 2019 novel by Margaret Atwood. It is a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale (1985). The novel’s events occur fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale.  The Testaments is narrated by Aunt Lydia, a character from the previous novel; Agnes Jemima, a young woman living in Gilead and Daisy. A girl living in Canada.

I have been a huge fan of Atwood for a very long time and Handmaid’s show too which is just incredible. There are books that really get you out of your reading slumps and this is one of them. This was pure perfection.

Three narrators could not have been better picked. Ah, we meet Aunt Lydia again. Differing from the show, she is not a teacher. She is a judge. Now, I always despised the aunts. I just never grasped what would drive a woman to become like this and treat other women so badly. Well, I do now. They collect women who are in powerful positions but too old to have children and basically brainwash them and plead to their powerful side and perhaps even on keeping a level of order in a society gone wrong. They tell you all this until they have no other option but to become aunts. They have no choice in the matter, the same as the handmaidens.

“You’d be surprised how quickly the mind goes soggy in the absence of other people. One person alone is not a full person: we exist in relation to others. I was one person: I risked becoming no person.”
― Margaret Atwood, The Testaments

We meet Agnes Jemima. A young girl living in Gilead and by a twist of events, instead of being married off to a commander when she is just 13 years of age, she is chosen to become an aunt and moves to live there with another girl who is also chosen as a future aunt. Agnes starts her new life surrounded by aunts and of course, one of them being Aunt Lydia. Two girls learn to read and gain access to forbidden books that are only available to aunts. Moreover, they are also given confidential documents where Agnes learns about her bloodline. Of her mother, Offred. Hi Hannah!

“The adult female body was one big booby trap as far as I could tell. If there was a hole, something was bound to be shoved into it and something else was bound to come out, and that went for any kind of hole: a hole in a wall, a hole in a mountain, a hole in the ground. There were so many things that could be done to it or go wrong with it, this adult female body, that I was left feeling I would be better off without it.”
― Margaret Atwood, The Testaments

We jump to the other side, to Canada and we meet another girl. Young Daisy who lives with her adoptive parents. Daisy is taught about Gilead and about Baby Nicole who has become a saint in there. One day, Daisy’s adoptive parents are killed in a car bomb and guess what we learn. Hi Holly! Well, Nicole is soon recruited to go undercover to Gilead. She has no way of knowing who she can trust. There are only rumours of a source in Gilead.Plot twist. Aunt Lydia is the informant to the other side. The one to play the game against Gilead for decades and she reunites June with her girls. I liked this so much. I have trouble thinking of a more empowering moment in literature.

The Testaments is absolutely incredible. My review will come off as plotty but it is incredibly deep and thoughtful about all the descriptions as well. But hell, I did not see that coming. Uniting two sisters and uniting them via Aunt Lydia. Totally the ending deserved by The Handmaid’s Tale. And it is such a happy ending too, especially for a dystopian. Not only for the narrators of the book but also it seems that Gilead has fallen. You could not have asked for a better novel. 5/5 stars

I, too, was once like you: fatally hooked on life.”
― Margaret Atwood, The Testaments

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*** Spoilers end***

How-To Read The Testaments
1. If you’re a huge fan then this will likely be the best book you read this year. For me, this was also the book to end my reading slump.
2. I would recommend reading the Handmaid’s Tale first, then watching the tv series until season 3 and then reading The Testaments. I don’t think it is necessary to see the show but you will definitely get more out of it. Series got weaker at season 2 but season 3 will make it up for you ten times.
3. I have to read Atwood again but I think this differs a bit from her usual style. It’s very thoughtful and clever as expected and at the same time, it is like an action-packed rollercoaster. And the plot twists are insanely delicious.
4. 422 pages but it felt like 80 so the pace here is fast.

Have you read this? Or is it on your to be read list? Thoughts?

8 thoughts on “The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

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  1. I honestly was severely disappointed by this book. I thought it lacked the depth that the Handmaids Tale provides and gave a simple answer for all of the questions that the Handmaids Tale created. I have to write a literary analysis of this book and I’m struggling to figure out what the message or point of this book even is.

    1. Ah you know her style varies by book. For a dystopian, that’s hard ending to pull off. I hate teachers who kill the fun in reading this. I think if you want analyze it, it’s about female strength. All those years and they never gave up. About freedom. About change from past to now and even to modern day. About hope. That they made and we made progress. We fought to be heard. Together it’s no longer just the original book and the sequel. It’s a phenomena. Something in the background of MeToo. Maybe write on that 😆

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