Friday, 13 September 2019

THE TESTAMENTS by Margaret Atwood

5 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Goodreads
On BookBub

How I discovered this book:  I didn't so much discover it as awaited it with baited breath after reading The Handmaid's Tale.

In a Nutshell: A dystopian Christian fundamentalist America - what happened next.

Fans of the TV series should not expect the continuing story of June, for this long-awaited sequel is a different version of the story, in which June features only in occasional references.  This is the written/spoken testament of three people: Aunt Lydia, Hannah/'Agnes' (the daughter of June/Offred), and one other person whose name I won't reveal because it would be a major spoiler.

The book is written in alternating chapters between the three, dotting from one to another with little indication of who is speaking, at first, or the exact timescale, though you get used to this.  All three stories held my attention absolutely, all the way through - and I loved the inclusion of a group that doesn't feature in the TV series.  The Pearl Girls are missionaries to other countries to recruit for Gilead, and are essential to Margaret Atwood's new plot.

Any negatives?  Only very slightly - the path of Hannah/Agnes means that she knows no world other than Gilead, of course, and although she is something of a rebel in her head, she is bound to have their belief system ingrained within.  At the beginning there was little difference between her 'voice' and that of the third POV, but she becomes more devout as she grows up and follows a route other than the one her 'parents' chose for her.  The story speeds up in the last third, and the change in her seemed to come too suddenly.  I was unsure about one aspect of the continuity, too, as the three POV stories converge. 

Despite any slight misgivings, this book was even more compelling than I had hoped, faster moving and with more action and events than The Handmaid's Tale, and gives more indication of what really goes on in Gilead, and how fragile the whole structure really is.  Also featured is a backstory for Aunt Lydia that is different from the one on the TV, and just as interesting.  Highly recommended - if you loved the prequel and are an addict of the TV series, you'll adore this.



  1. Terry, I am probably the only person in the world who had NOT read The Handmaid's Tale or see the series on TV. Color me out of it! However, your outstanding review may compel me to read the first book. I did read an interview with Margaret Atwood in which she talked about the new book.

    1. You would definitely need to read The Handmaid's Tale first, Noelle - can't recommend too highly!

  2. I kind of skimmed your review as I haven't yet read this one - I'll come back when I have! She's my favourite author and I've read everything she's written - have you tried her poetry?

    1. No, I haven't, but poetry doesn't really do much for me, alas - call me a philistine if you wish! I have read one of her other books, Oryx and Crake, and liked but didn't love - it wasn't as good as some post apoc/dystopian books by indie authors; less convincing. I am sure I will read more by her in the future, though.

      Some of the reviews for this said that it was a bit like fan fiction, with YA sterotypes, and I can see what they meant. I felt like that in some parts - the Aunt Lydia sections were the best. I think that if the book had not had the Margaret Atwood name tag, it might have been criticised more. I did still love it, though!