The Testaments (Margaret Atwood)

30 November 2022

The Testaments

The Republic of Gilead is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, two girls with radically different experiences of the regime come face to face with the legendary, ruthless Aunt Lydia. But how far will each go for what she believes?

Average Rating:

Ross Hetherington (6 March 2023 16:22)

I enjoyed listening to this alot more than I expected. I don't think the style had quite the dash of The Handmaids Tale - but I think that is fine, as each narrator wrote or spoke in their own voice. Contrasting with Sinclair above, I really found Agnes's story the most interesting. I thought Atwood did such a good job of describing a believable female character being brought up in Gilead (at a certain social and economic level, at least), who was both herself and reflective intelligently of her upbringing. I did like the other narratives as well.

As the plot developed, it was almost a thriller! I didn't really expect this, but it worked well enough. I've had to be listening to alot of novels recently rather than reading, and this one was interestingly the one which really kept me hooked. I think I listened to about 5 or 6 hours in a row some nights!

Sinclair Manson (8 December 2022 21:48)

The Handmaid's Tale was a cry of rage, a warning against complacency. The Testaments feels more comforting. It reminds us that oppression can be overcome and of how fragile a regime can be. It seems like a reaction to an era of surging right wing populism. The novel's three protagonists form a triangle, each point with a different relationship to Gilead's regime: Lydia from within it, Agnes from under it, and Daisy from outside it. One might feel isolated in opposition to such a regime but this novel suggests that allies can be made across the boundaries it creates.

Of the three protagonists, Aunt Lydia's story dominated the novel for me. The author has taken an iconically wicked character and turned her into something else. It's tempting to see her as a secret goodie, a paragon of perserverance justifying her means with her ends. But is she really driven by more than survival and revenge? Does she protect vulnerable individuals on principle or to ease her guilty conscience? Can we even be sure she's telling us the truth? As she gleefully dispatched the awful awful people around her and brought down the whole house of cards, I found I didn't care. I just enjoyed the black humoured deviousness of it all.