Top critical review
Relevant, despite the flaws
10 October 2019
'The Testaments', the most anticipated book of 2019 and the sequel to the much loved 'The Handmaid's Tale' soon turns into a story of vengeance and salvation, shedding the profoundness that is usually associated with Atwood's writing. Countless times I have wondered if the story was written, with Atwood acting as a guide and an editor of sorts. But it wouldn't be fair to assume that a book be the same as it's predecessor, especially if they are 35 years apart.
In 'The Testaments', the virtuous and stern Aunt Lydia emerges as a storyteller, enlightening us about the rise in her ranks to finally occupy one of the most influential positions in Ardua Hall and hence, Gilead.
Her transcripts which she hopes to be considered as 'a fragile treasure box' by the future generation, also contains testimonies, narrated by two girls- Agnes and Daisy who have to shoulder the burden of purifying Gilead from the corrupt totalitarian regime.
'The Testaments' brings all of Gilead to light (the life of the Aunts, Commanders exploiting their power, the systematic abuse of women and a little bit of the contrasting life outside Gilead), unlike The Handmaid's Tale. As much as I enjoyed living inside Offred's head, it was intense and confining. The narrative here is much simpler, lacking a substantial level of word play, and divulging more towards introspection.
I enjoyed reading the chapters on Aunt Lydia and Agnes (the former more than the latter), as they echoed the same tone left by THT. I was, however, put off by Daisy's narration more times than once because of the taste it left in my mouth (very YA-ish).
Now that I have read the book and thought about it long and hard, it dawns upon me that I had expected too much out of this sequel.
What Atwood brings to the table is the fall of Gilead because of internal conflicts and selfish interests- an empire crumbling from within. I had prepared myself for a story as vehement and bitter as THT, but this plot driven narrative fails to deliver. While I appreciate the story, I am also left disappointed by the lack of depth, especially in the characters. It's not one of those books that sucks you in and makes you forget the concept of time. Neither does the book try to latch on to you through thought provoking statements.
This brings me to my why I think you should give this book a try.
✨The plot resonates extremely well with young minds, looking to free themselves from the shackles of an orthodox society.
✨The fall of Gilead through Aunt Lydia's smart and evil scheming. While she was one of those villainous figures in THT, The Testaments provides a different angle to her story, one that is full of torment and injustice.
✨An open-ended plot. We have all wondered what happened to Offred at the end of THT and this book might offer you closure.
It's a conundrum, I know, but give this book a chance, okay?