THE TESTAMENTS: Want to talk about it?

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THE TESTAMENTS: Want to talk about it?

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1avaland
Set 22, 2019, 10:58am

This thread has been created to provide space for those who HAVE ALREADY read Atwood's The Testaments, the sequel to The Handmaids Tale. EXPECT SPOILERS.

SO, you've read the sequel. What did you think? Was it a worthy follow-up?

2avaland
Set 22, 2019, 11:15am

Generally, the book in no way has the power of the original book—at least not for me personally— but its tells what happened, and is still a rollicking good read, so I'd call it a worthy sequel.

I thought the character of Nicole was a bit less believable but then perhaps I've forgotten what being 16 is like.

I was not that surprised by what she did with Aunt Lydia - but it did not make her a hero in my mind. I really liked that Aunt Lydia speaks directly to the reader. Very effective.

I was disappointed the Marthas didn't have more a part in the book. Those mentioned seemed compliant, just doing their jobs.

As I am a fan of the limited television series, I am glad the sequel works okay with that, also. No doubt, Maggie had a hand in that.

3japaul22
Set 22, 2019, 3:37pm

It's interesting that even though The Testaments is a more plot-driven novel, I did not find it a page-turner. For me personally, The Handmaid's Tale was more of a page-turner, probably because when I read it 15+ years ago it was the first dystopian novel I had read. The Testaments feels more conventional, with the three alternating narrators, and there is less world-building since the world was already created. I'd say it's not a great stand-alone book, but I felt it was smartly done and I liked that it didn't try to be more than it was.

I thought that the final words of the book (the gravestone marker for Becka) was very moving. I loved that they remembered her in that way and recognized her sacrifice. I also liked that it hinted at the family being reunited in some way.

What did you think about the hopeful tone? It was certainly different than Handmaid's Tale. In today's political and cultural climate, I wasn't sure that I was actually ready for a hopeful outcome - I suppose Atwood wanted it to be comforting.

4nohrt4me2
Editado: Set 22, 2019, 9:30pm

I don't think Atwood is out to comfort anyone, but she has made a study of totalitarian regimes, and they tend to implode from the inside. It's not that "it can't happen here," but that when it does, the tendency is for people to get sick of authoritarian regimes and move back to more representative forms of government--though who gets represented is often a point contention. I think that remains ambiguous in a post-Gilead world.

When I read Handmaid in the 1980s, I was 30. I felt that it was an interesting premise given the rise of televangelism--Episcopalians at that time were very concerned about the rise of fundamentalism and conservative evangelicals--and some religious backlash against Second Wave feminism. But it didn't strike me very viscerally.

Testaments, which I read at 65, seemed less topical, more psychological. The novel is less a take down of a particular scapegoat (religious authoritarianism and patriarchy), and more broadly of how information ("truth") is power.

I was deeply disturbed and moved by Aunt Lydia's story.

Interesting bits Atwood has offered in the many TV and radio interviews I listened to. Each of them would make interesting discussion points:

--Everything that happens in the two books has happened somewhere in recent history or is happening now. None of the Gileadean horrors is made up.

--Canada and the U.S. share an English Puritan history. The books are meant to nod at the underbelly of that shared Puritan society.

--Canada has often been a refuge for Americans--Tories fled there after the American Revolution, Canada was the end of the line on the Underground Railroad, Canada took in 200,000 Vietnam War draft resistors.

5avaland
Editado: Set 23, 2019, 7:18am

>4 nohrt4me2: I agree it is "less topical, more psychological." I think her intent was a warning against conservatism in general, both social and political, and the evangelicalism was a part of that.

I think Maureen Corrigan's review (link in next message) is more or less how I feel about the sequel.

I was pleased to that the limited series is also holding to the 'rule' that everything that happens in the series has to have happened before.

Before the Tories, the Native Americans fled north through NH into Canada. One only has to listen to Sarah Vowel's The Wordy Shipmates to get a more realistic picture of the hypocrisy of the Puritans (I say "listen" because it is far more entertaining to listen to Vowel's dry delivery).

>3 japaul22: I agree it does give hope. It is certainly not the "awful warning" novel that Handmaid's was in the 1980s. And while I might agree that it is not a page turner in the conventional sense, the story moves along. I read it in two sittings.

7framboise
Mar 2, 2020, 7:07pm

>6 avaland: Thanks for all the links. I just finished The Testaments on the weekend and loved it, although I have to admit it didn't pick up for me until the 2nd half. I think Margaret Atwood is just genius and will definitely be reading all the above links.