Book Reviews / Canadian / feminism / The Latest

Margaret Atwood’s “The Testaments”: did we need this sequel?


Book cover of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments. Woman in a green cloak wearing a white and green bonnet.

Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale was ground breaking when it was published. The story still resonates today, and the novel being turned into a T.V. series only further solidifies its importance in contemporary culture. When Margaret Atwood said she would follow up her novel with a sequel, The Testaments, I was pretty excited to see what she would do with the story of Gilead. The Testaments jointly won the Man Booker prize this year, and it is so many book clubs, bookstagrams, and blogs. Yet, I just don’t know how I feel about it.

The Testaments is told from the point of three different women in- and outside Gilead, and arguably it gives us a more nuanced understanding of the inner workings of the place. The plot of the novel is one of self-discovery as well as a slow burning revenge. It is the women of Gilead working with May Day (a freedom fighter group operating underground outside of Gilead) that help bring down the backwards and barbarous place. The plot developments of the lost baby Nicole turning out to be Daisy, one of the female narrators, was a bit obvious and cliche for my liking.

I might be the only person on the earth who thinks this, but I feel like The Testaments were unnecessary for the story of Gilead. If you enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale so much that you need to read more, then you might really enjoy this book. I felt like this novel fell flat because it didn’t have a driving force behind the narrative. The driving force seemed to be the success of The Handmaid’s Tale and the possibility to cash in on that, narratively speaking.

The Testaments winning the Man Booker Prize this year also irked me slightly. The novel was released on the 10th of September and the prize winners were announced 14th of October. I don’t know why it jointly won with Bernardine Evaristo’s novel Girl, Woman, Other. It felt like a tack-on. Margaret Atwood is an amazing author, some of her novels are in my favourite books of all time. But The Testaments was not it. It was okay, at best. And while it is rare for the Man Booker Prize to have joint winners (it has only happened two times previously), I feel like The Testaments was riding on the hype of a different novel.

For any Gilmore Girl fans you might appreciate my comparison: I think “The Testamentsis like the Gilmore Girls reboot on Netflix. We wanted it so badly, but then we saw it, and it was such a let down… As always, share the reading love.

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