The Testaments

by Margaret Atwood

I am late as usual to read this. I hung on until all the women in Handmaid’s outfits had finished parading in front of Waterstone’s – it was all a bit gimmicky for me. I mean I don’t mind a fancy dress launch (so long as no-one is asking me to wear it) but blimey, some people were treating this as a religious experience. I do think that The Handmaid’s Tale was a big deal book. There were themes around religious fundamentalism and perhaps more interestingly how freedoms and democratic norms are lost inch by inch and tiny decision by tiny decision. It was also a megaphone into misogyny. I read it in a couple of sittings.

I haven’t watched the TV series. Too many bodies hanging off walls for me. I understand that there was some of that in the book but over many years of reading, I have developed the skill of being able to read whilst mentally putting my fingers in my ears and whistling loudly. That way, I can be reading something disturbing but not really taking it too far in. I really am a delicate soul you know. I think that Margaret Atwood has said that the TV programme and its ongoing sequels have influenced the plot of this book and it shows. You can certainly imagine this coming to a screen near you.

So…The Testaments. Well it’s a completely different book. Whereas The Handmaid’s Tale was full of heavy duty ideas and challenges – this is a racing page turner. It’s Mission Impossible with long frocks and ritual torture. It follows three women – Aunt Lydia (nasty piece of work from first book) Agnes (a young daughter of a commander) and Daisy (another young woman who lives with her adoptive parents in Canada). We get to see some of the motivation behind Aunt Lydia’s behaviour and you will probably work out who one of the women is fairly early on. My main issue was a change of heart by one character which is never explained and seems a little bit – well – out of character.

But, she’s a great writer and this is a really good book. I’m not sure that it is Booker level good. (Although I have never really got the hang of the Booker I’ll be honest). I didn’t like it as much as I liked some of her dystopian science fiction but that’s probably just me.

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4 Comments

  1. November 15, 2019 / 7:17 am

    I watched one episode of the handmaid’s tale on TV (I was staying with someone who was really keen on itl and found the hanging and the childbirth scenes a bit strong. So I haven’t read that book, and not sure if I’ll read this one either. But like you, I can ‘blot out’ gruesome bits when reading. So my quite happy to read gory crime novels as the nasty details don’t sink in. It’s harder to ignore them on screen though. Perhaps I should persevere with Ms Attwood’s books. Hope you two are OK coping with AP and losing Morecambe etc xx

    • lesleyps91
      Author
      November 17, 2019 / 6:23 pm

      Not too bad thank you. Although, I will be glad when this year is over
      I think (I hate it when people say that)

  2. November 15, 2019 / 8:15 am

    I remember reading The Handmaid’s Tale soon after it came out, and was too, too appalled at the society it described. I didn’t watch the TV adaptation at all; although I don’t remember much about the book, I remembered how disturbed I was. (I really should learn not to insert myself into the plot of every book I read!). So I’m not planning to read The Handmaid’s Tale, although I have a fear that the Book Club might well choose it!
    I’m suffering agonies (not literally, but mentally) in that the club is reading a book I suggested, and now I have re-read it myself, I KNOW that it was probably a bad idea. Oh well, they said they wanted something lightweight and frothy in the run up to Christmas, and Rivers of London (Ben Aaronavitch) is a silly as they get.
    Thinking of you and Morecombe and AP – I think we are on the final run to moving my 91-year-old godmother to a Nursing home down the road – beats a 90 minute drive several times a week to visit her.

    • lesleyps91
      Author
      November 17, 2019 / 6:26 pm

      Oh, I really liked Rivers of London. Though, if I remember – ending was a bit weak? I think he has written a few of these books now. Hope things work out re your Godmother’s move. We haven’t started yet and it is “interesting” already.

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