Margaret Atwood won me as a fan after I read the classic The Handmaid’s Tale. I also really enjoyed another one of her dystopias: Oryx and Crake which is very different to the aforementioned, but I was impressed by her world building, characters and execution of plot.
Although The Handmaid’s Tale didn’t have the fastest moving plot, it was still enjoyable to read. I felt I was with Offred during her monotonous life, patiently waiting for change that unfolded in a way that fitted with the pace of the novel. The Testaments’s three plots are so separate and different in pace, they could have been three volumes of a series. On the other hand, broadening the scope of the novel could translate well to screen, as The Handmaid’s Tale did so successfully. The Testaments gives an insight into the lives of women raised in Gilead, women who knew of life pre-dystopia and women like us who are viewing Gilead from the outside and can see all of its hypocrisies.
I appreciate Atwood perhaps trying to attract a wider audience and avoiding replicating The Handmaid’s Tale. But what made The Handmaid’s Tale so good, such as the tension between the central characters, is missing from The Testaments.
Atwood’s writing style is beautiful as ever; her use of language, imagery and metaphors are strong as usual. The best parts of the novel are when Aunt Lydia describes her transition from lawyer to Aunt and all the horrific treatment she faces and witnesses.
The Testaments’s strength lies in its message. The themes it deals with are still important and it shows the progress or lack thereof of women’s rights between the 1980s and now. This new generation of readers are conscious of the relevance and problematic consequences of a patriarchal dystopia.
About the reviewer
Tionee Joseph is completing an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. She has a blog where she writes about writing and gives lifestyle advice, which you can read here. Her articles on film, TV and adaptations have been published. She is currently working on her first thriller novel and writing her first album.
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