The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Reviewed by Zoe Stein 

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. Click for catalog link.

Location: Uni High New Books (temporarily shelved)
Call number: Fiction At96te

Location: Residence Halls Illinois Street SciFi/Fantasy
Call Number: 813 At96te

Margaret Atwood’s latest novel, The Testaments, is on hundreds of to-read lists and has been shortlisted for the 2019 Man-Booker Prize. A sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, the book is yet another foray into the horrific world of Gilead, following three all-new perspectives. Surprisingly, though, Offred barely makes an appearance. Instead, Atwood gives voice to the vicious Aunt Lydia, Agnes, a child of Gilead, and Daisy, a Canadian child who finds herself embroiled in a plot to take down Gilead.

While all three women are represented in the chapters of the novel, the most compelling ones are those of Aunt Lydia. During and after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, Aunt Lydia was seen as an agent of Gilead—a woman destined to spend the rest of her life enforcing the misogynist laws of the new country. The Testaments, though, provides depth to the previously one-dimensional character. Her past, present, and innermost thoughts are explored as the reader learns that everything is not quite as it seems. Every chapter is compelling and utterly addictive.

The Testaments is a departure from the plot structure of The Handmaid’s Tale. While the latter is an exploration of Offred’s past and the world around her, The Testaments reads more like a thriller. It is action based and plot heavy most of the time and character exploration is at a minimum, with the exception of Aunt Lydia. Though the novel is certainly entertaining, it’s undoubtedly a different reading experience than that of The Handmaid’s Tale. 

While certainly a compelling read, it is unfair to compare The Testaments to Atwood’s earlier exploration into the world. This new book is an entirely different experience, and I urge readers to go in with an open mind.

Margaret Atwood. Photo by Jean Malek. Click for author’s website.

Read other reviews:

New York Times

Kirkus Reviews 

Publisher’s Weekly 

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