It’s been a while since I published a book review on here. That’s because it’s been a while since I read a book. A whole year in fact. For many years I was a voracious reader but motherhood has really taken a bite out of my time and my ability to concentrate (hence TV series’ over movies of late too). When Mrs O Senior gave me The Testaments for Christmas I decided it was time to break the drought and put some effort into reading again.
The Testaments is a follow up to the bestselling novel, The Handmaid’s Tale which is now also a very famous TV series. I loved the original novel and the first two seasons of the series so I was keen to jump in and find out what was happening in the dystopian world of Gilead.
For those who have been living under a rock, Gilead is a post-revolution USA that treats women as second class citizens. They are valued only for their ability to breed and any deviation from the brutal rules of behaviour assigned to each gender is punishable by torture or execution.
The Testaments contains the accounts of three women. A
unt Lydia is the head “Aunt”, one of the female enforcers who keeps the “handmaids” that are used as breeding machines in line and educates the next generation of “wives”. Agnes is a commander’s daughter, who escapes an unwanted marriage by entering into training to be an Aunt. And Daisy is a teenager living in Canada who discovers her connection to Gilead when her parents are murdered.
As the stories of the three converge, we learn how Aunt Lydia became Aunt Lydia and what the history of the Aunts is. It is a truly dark and fascinating account and one that somewhat changed my perception of Aunt Lydia. It also demonstrates how deep the indoctrination in Gilead is and how restricting people’s access to knowledge hampers their thought processes. All of this is alongside the powerful themes of female friendship, sisterly bonds and how it is never truly possible to quash the human spirit.
It’s a great read with strong character development, adventure, heart and even a little bit of humour. It’s a logical and fitting follow up to its iconic predecessor. My only issue is the that there isn’t really a resolution. It feels like the start of something more. Possibly Atwood is planning another follow up. Either way I would highly recommend it to both readers of the original and fans of the TV series.