I enjoyed reading Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale“. So naturally I jumped on the band wagon when she wrote “The Testaments”, the second part of the feminist dystopian, that aims to answer some of the questions which readers were wondering about ever since “The Handmaid’s Tale” was first released.
Set 15 years after The first book “The Testaments” presents us with three new first-person narrations by women whose lives were impacted by Gilead: The infamous Aunt Lydia, a familiar face for readers of “The Handmaid’s Tale”, who tells us how she became an Aunt and reveals the inner corruptions and lies of Gilead. The second protagonist Agnes Jemima is a girl raised in Gilead’s upper class who begins to question her predestined path as a commander’s wife. And last but not least, we meet Daisy a naive teen in Canada who is outraged about the women’s rights violations in the neighbouring country Gilead.
The three narratives are intertwined and highlight different parts of Gilead, how it became a country and how it’s perceived by the outside world. I was especially interested in Agnes’ experience of being socialized in the oppressive state and how her upbringing shaped her outlook and beliefs. I also loved the perspective of Aunt Lydia who used to be a judge pre-Gilead but was forced to become part of the aunts, a group of women that oversees women’s education and enjoys at least some privileges.
I didn’t read “The Testaments” but listened to it as an audio book which made the first person narratives even more personal and intense. The narration by Ann Dowd (who also plays Aunt Lydia in the hulu series), Bryce Dallas Howard (Agnes) and Mae Whitman (Daisy) was truly fantastic and really drew me into the stories of these three women.
What I liked about the book is how the different narratives were intertwined with one another and how you get to see more and different parts of Gilead and the outer world through the stories of the three protagonists.
However, the plot – especially the story of Daisy – soon became predictable and eventually felt strikingly similar to a generic YA dystopian. While I’m sure that many readers were happy to see this development of the story, I personally didn’t enjoy it because I simply expected something else from the sequel of “The Handmaid’s Tale”. It just became too obvious where the narration was heading after about a third of the book and the ending seemed too forced, rushed and unrealistic to me.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed listening to the fantastic narration and getting a glimpse into the lives of these women. And even if I was rolling my eyes a lot during the second half of “The Testaments”, I loved its first part. I highly recommend the audio book format if you’re interested in reading this book because it’s really well done and adds to the narration.
Have you read “The Testaments”? If yes, did you like it? You can find more book reviews here.