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:

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.