The Testaments by Margaret Attwood: joint Booker Prize winner 2019

I can’t believe it was over 20 years ago that I first read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood. It was originally published 35 years ago and since then it has become a popular TV series.

The Handmaid’s Tale depicted a totalitarian state, Gilead. Here there is a rigid control of women and their ability to reproduce. I would like to believe that this theme is just fiction but sadly it isn’t. In many parts of the world there is still this ethos. In Nigeria girls are kidnapped by the Boko Haram. Similar happens with far right sects in America and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Picture of Margaret Attwood from review post: The Testaments by Margaret Attwood published by Chatto and Windus

In her latest novel, The Testaments, Margaret Attwood returns to Gilead after the time of her previous main character Offred. Gilead is gradually changing. Internal structures are collapsing. The Eye that looks over the restraints on women is losing its power. For years, the men have controlled the goings on in the State but now the wind of change is blowing.

There is hope – resistance is beginning to emerge; albeit secretly. An underground group of women is created and these members have contact with the outside world in Canada. Women are becoming activists.

The Testaments is written in the form of 3 Testimonies in the first person.
Daisy and Agnes are two young girls, the former from Canada and the latter from Gilead. The third is Aunt Lydia. She is depicted both in the Handmaid’s tale and The Testaments as one of the most powerful people in Gilead. Her story is the most sinister one of the three.

Gilead is portrayed as a place and a way of life we all fear. We can already see the claustrophobic narrative in our lives today. A chilling and scary thought.

In the novel, the young begin to see Gilead for what it really is. They start to revile and rebel against the society their Elders have created. They fight against the brutality and the controlling and punishing ways of man against woman.

Unlike the Handsmaid’s Tale Margaret Attwood leaves us with a sense of hope. Gilead is losing its power to stand alone. You are left with the sense that it will implode at some point in the future.

Margaret Attwood has managed many years later to write a sequel as gripping as her earlier novel.

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