“I’d believed all that claptrap about life, liberty, democracy, and the rights of the individual I’d soaked up at law school,” Aunt Lydia writes. Read about our approach to external linking. There is no doubt that Atwood is on top form here. The Testaments highlights this fact by making a more loaded demand than its predecessor did—that readers place themselves in the seat of an oppressor, not one of the subjugated. Those of us lucky enough to read The Handmaid’s Tale back when it first appeared in 1985 will remember the shock of a novel that felt both claustrophobically precise and shatteringly prescient. More than 30 years ago, author Margaret Atwood capped The Handmaid’s Tale with a gut-punch, revealing Offred’s story would be lost to — and shaped by — powerful men long after Gilead’s fall. How long has Atwood had this book in her? More than 30 years ago, author Margaret Atwood capped The … Atwood is fascinated by the erosion of the ordinary — a timely theme, certainly. Who, after all, is Donald Trump if not Commander Waterford without the charm? Check your expectations at the door: The Testaments is a highly entertaining page turner, but it is also probably quite different from whatever you were anticipating. It differs from its 1985 antecedent, The Handmaid's Tale, in tone, voice and literary heft. What is fact, what is fiction, who destroys the evidence, who lives to tell the tale? The pair ran in morally and functionally opposite directions upon Gilead’s uprising. (In the 15 years since The Handmaid’s Tale’s events, she’s become a revered figure in Gilead, her picture hung in classrooms and a statue erected in her image.) If someone had said “The Handmaid’s Tale” at any time in the 18 years since I first read Margaret Atwood’s dystopia, one scene would have come to mind: the Ceremony, the ritualised rape of the Handmaid Offred by the Commander, while Offred rests her head in the lap of his wife. But here, because all three central characters are apparently giving their accounts as “witnesses”, events unwind in the far less suspenseful and all-too hindsight-laden past. It’s about to get darker.”) Lydia keeps hidden an exhaustive stash of the corruption within Gilead; the sheer scale of it proves the whole system is rotting, which is what motivates her to rebel in ways that very gradually, very intricately reveal themselves. Gilead, as Offred knows it, is bedroom, house, daily walk. These are staggering discoveries; in spite of the first-person narratives, we don’t get inside their traumatic impact. The green satin bookmark is a nice touch. A little flicker between the pages, like the tail of the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Argentinian activists in favour of the legalisation of abortion disguised as characters from The Handmaid’s Tale. Lydia’s secret entries veer between espionage thriller and mournful recollection; she addresses us, her readers, describing how she, despite her initial horror, came to join the bad guys and amass remarkable influence. The Handmaid’s Tale ended on a note of interrogation: “Are there any questions?” Those questions were better left unanswered. The book comes in a jiffy bag stamped: “All things come to she who waits.” On the front cover: a handmaid in her distinctive cloak and bonnet. This – together with the constant “seepage” of handmaids being helped to freedom by the so-called Underground Femaleroad – has not been good for Gilead, which has settled into an inevitable “dog-eat-dog maturity”. The rapes aren’t the worst of Gilead. Atwood builds on key events from the series in the construction of her follow-up — specifically, the foundation that June has laid for the fall of Gilead. Entertainment Weekly is a registered trademark of Meredith Corporation All Rights Reserved. To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Agnes, at least, has the Gilead factor to explain why. They recall in their indignity and intensity the story of French Jews waiting in the Vélodrome d’Hiver in Paris to be deported to the Nazi death camps. The Testaments’ cover shows images of servitude and, on the back, freedom (Credit: Penguin/ Random House). “I’ve become swollen with power, true, but also nebulous with it — formless, shape-shifting,” she writes. That earlier … I have my own test of what makes a truly great work of fiction: can you revisit it at a later point in your life and read a whole different novel? Julie Myerson’s most recent novel is The Stopped Heart (Jonathan Cape). We look from under Offred’s headdress, we stare at her bedroom ceiling. B+, Credit: Which actually feels a touch disappointing. Certainly, right from the start, Daisy lets slip that she discovered on her birthday that she was a “fraud – a forgery done on purpose”. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood is published by Penguin/ Random House, £20. How these young women may or may not be connected – to one another and also, in Daisy’s case, to Gilead – is one of the questions that drives the first hundred pages or so of the novel. With surgical clarity, Atwood documents how the stripping of fundamental freedoms, the weight of systemic oppression, pushes individuals to extremes. In other words, is the novel sufficiently elastic – and slippery and enigmatic – to grow with you? Perhaps that’s why Atwood skirts around questions of her old heroine’s fate with the glee of a writer who knows she has her reader in the palm of her hand. I’d depended on that as if on a magic charm.”.
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