The Testaments: The Sequel to The Handmaid's Tale

The Testaments: The Sequel to The Handmaid's Tale

by Margaret Atwood

Paperback(Large Print)

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Overview

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE

The Testaments is a modern masterpiece, a powerful novel that can be read on its own or as a companion to Margaret Atwood’s classic, The Handmaid’s Tale.


More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid's Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.
 
Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third: Aunt Lydia.  Her complex past and uncertain future unfold in surprising and pivotal ways.
 
With The Testaments, Margaret Atwood opens up the innermost workings of Gilead, as each woman is forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

A chilling invitation no Atwood fan can resist . . . The Testaments reminds us of the power of truth in the face of evil.
People
 
“Margaret Atwood’s powers are on full display . . . Everyone should read The Testaments.
Los Angeles Times
 
A fast, immersive narrative that’s as propulsive as it is melodramatic.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
 
The Testaments is worthy of the literary classic it continues. That’s thanks in part to Atwood’s capacity to surprise, even writing in a universe we think we know so well.”
USA Today
 
The women of Gilead are more fascinating than ever.
—NPR
 
There may be no novelist better suited to tapping the current era’s anxieties than Margaret Atwood.
Entertainment Weekly
 
Powerful, revealing, and engaging.
—Boston Globe

 
A rare treat . . . a corker of a plot, culminating in a breathless flight to freedom.”
—Laura Miller, Slate.com

Publishers Weekly

★ 09/16/2019

Atwood's confident, magnetic sequel to The Handmaid's Tale details the beginning of the end for Gilead, the authoritarian religion-touting dystopia where fertile single women (handmaids) live in sexual servitude. The novel opens in New England 15 years after the first novel ends. Aunt Lydia has become a renowned educator, an ally of Gilead's spy chief, and an archivist for Gilead's secrets. Ensconced in her library, Aunt Lydia recalls how she went from prisoner to collaborator during Gilead's early days. Now she is old and dying and ready for revenge. Her plan involves two teenagers. Gilead native Agnes Jemima is almost 13 when she learns her real mother was a runaway handmaid. Rather than marry, Agnes Jemima becomes an aunt-in-training. Sixteen-year-old Daisy in Toronto discovers she is the daughter of a runaway handmaid after the people she thought were her parents die in an explosion. Aunt Lydia brings the girls together under her tutelage, then sends them off to try to escape with Gilead's secrets. Since publication, The Handmaid's Tale has appeared as a movie, graphic novel, and popular miniseries. Atwood does not dwell on the franchise or current politics. Instead, she explores favorite themes of sisterhood, options for the disempowered, and freedom's irresistible draw. Atwood's eminently rewarding sequel revels in the energy of youth, the shrewdness of old age, and the vulnerabilities of repressive regimes. (Sept.)

Library Journal

04/01/2019

Whatever happened to Offred after the close of Atwood's iconic The Handmaid's Tale? In this talk-of-the-town sequel, we find out. Taking place 15 years later, the narrative is shaped by the testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.

Kirkus Reviews

2019-09-04
Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid's Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America's current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it's not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There's Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid's Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It's hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid's Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593149096
Publisher: Diversified Publishing
Publication date: 09/10/2019
Series: Handmaid's Tale Series , #2
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 576
Sales rank: 302,432
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

1 | The Ardua Hall Holograph

Only dead people are allowed to have statues, but I have been given one while still alive. Already I am petrified.

This statue was a small token of appreciation for my many contributions, said the citation, which was read out by Aunt Vidala. She’d been assigned the task by our superiors, and was far from appreciative. I thanked her with as much modesty as I could summon, then pulled the rope that released the cloth drape shrouding me; it billowed to the ground, and there I stood. We don’t do cheering here at Ardua Hall, but there was some discreet clapping. I inclined my head in a nod.

My statue is larger than life, as statues tend to be, and shows me as younger, slimmer, and in better shape than I’ve been for some time. I am standing straight, shoulders back, my lips curved into a firm but benevolent smile. My eyes are fixed on some cosmic point of reference understood to represent my idealism, my unflinching commitment to duty, my determination to move forward despite all obstacles. Not that anything in the sky would be visible to my statue, placed as it is in a morose cluster of trees and shrubs beside the footpath running in front of Ardua Hall. We Aunts must not be too presumptuous, even in stone.

Clutching my left hand is a girl of seven or eight, gazing up at me with trusting eyes. My right hand rests on the head of a woman crouched at my side, her hair veiled, her eyes upturned in an expression that could be read as either craven or grateful—one of our Handmaids—and behind me is one of my Pearl Girls, ready to set out on her missionary work. Hanging from a belt around my waist is my Taser. This weapon reminds me of my failings: had I been more effective, I would not have needed such an implement. The persuasion in my voice would have been enough.

As a group of statuary it’s not a great success: too crowded. I would have preferred more emphasis on myself. But at least I look sane. It could well have been otherwise, as the elderly sculptress—a true believer since deceased—had a tendency to confer bulging eyes on her subjects as a sign of their pious fervour. Her bust of Aunt Helena looks rabid, that of Aunt Vidala is hyperthyroid, and that of Aunt Elizabeth appears ready to explode.

At the unveiling the sculptress was nervous. Was her renditionof me sufficiently flattering? Did I approve of it? Would I be seen toapprove? I toyed with the idea of frowning as the sheet came off, butthought better of it: I am not without compassion. “Very lifelike,” Isaid.

That was nine years ago. Since then my statue has weathered:pigeons have decorated me, moss has sprouted in my damper crevices.Votaries have taken to leaving offerings at my feet: eggs forfertility, oranges to suggest the fullness of pregnancy, croissants toreference the moon. I ignore the breadstuffs—usuallythey havebeen rained on—butpocket the oranges. Oranges are so refreshing.

* * *

I write these words in my private sanctum within the library of Ardua Hall—one of the few libraries remaining after the enthusiastic book-burnings that have been going on across our land. The corrupt and blood-smeared fingerprints of the past must be wiped away to create a clean space for the morally pure generation that is surely about to arrive. Such is the theory.

But among these bloody fingerprints are those made by ourselves, and these can’t be wiped away so easily. Over the years I’ve buried a lot of bones; now I’m inclined to dig them up again—if only for your edification, my unknown reader. If you are reading, this manuscript at least will have survived. Though perhaps I’m fantasizing: perhaps I will never have a reader. Perhaps I’ll only be talking to the wall, in more ways than one.

That’s enough inscribing for today. My hand hurts, my back aches, and my nightly cup of hot milk awaits me. I’ll stash this screed in its hiding place, avoiding the surveillance cameras—I know where they are, having placed them myself. Despite such precautions, I’m aware of the risk I’m running: writing can be dangerous. What betrayals, and then what denunciations, might lie in store for me? There are several within Ardua Hall who would love to get their hands on these pages.

Wait, I counsel them silently: it will get worse.

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