Review | The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

In this brilliant sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, acclaimed author Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalized readers for decades.
When the van door slammed on Offred’s future at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead for her–freedom, prison or death.

With The Testaments, the wait is over.

Margaret Atwood’s sequel picks up the story more than fifteen years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.

When I first heard that The Testaments was being published, I immediately assumed it was because of the massive success that The Handmaid’s Tale saw on Hulu. While The Testaments didn’t rehash the show’s plot points, as I initially feared, it was an unnecessary addition and a far cry from the original source material.

I went into The Testaments expecting to be taught some new information about the inner-workings of Gilead, however, it barely expanded upon that world. Many of the burning questions that I had upon finishing The Handmaid’s Tale remain unanswered – something that I would have been very okay with if the sequel didn’t expressly promise that it would deliver those answers.

Where The Handmaid’s Tale had a single narrator, The Testaments has three: a teen from Canada, a teen from Gilead, and the fearsome Aunt Lydia. When used effectively, dual narration can open up the story and add to the world-building; in this case, however, it felt as though I were reading an amalgamation of two separate books, rather than a cohesive piece.

The plot itself was predictable and formulaic, and it was indistinguishable from any YA dystopian novel that arose during the heyday of The Hunger Games. The story was neither thought-provoking nor challenging, and held none of the ambiguity for which The Handmaid’s Tale was famous. The tone was surprisingly hopeful and uplifting, which makes sense in the context of The Testaments being a response to today’s political climate — if it weren’t for the trope-laden plot, this would have felt more authentic.

Overall, The Testaments was a very disappointing read. It only received two stars for the mention of Parkdale (my Toronto neighbourhood!) and Aunt Lydia’s narration. Without her sections, I definitely wouldn’t have finished this.

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