People are rating The Testaments 5 stars left and right, but I found the beginning confusing and the entire first half a bit of a slog.
The Testaments picks up about 15 years after The Handmaid’s Tale left off, telling the story of what came after through the eyes of three protagonists: Agnes (a Commander’s daughter), Aunt Lydia (the head of “the Aunts”), and Daisy (a Canadian girl).
Why I Read It
I loved The Handmaid’s Tale (the book…I still haven’t watched the Hulu TV series) and some trusted recommendation sources rated The Testaments 5 stars. For a bit of context about my perspective, I read The Handmaid’s Tale about 5 years ago and re-read the “Historical Notes” right before starting The Testaments.
Gender rights, totalitarianism, subversion
What I Liked
- I adore Atwood’s straightforward writing style.
- I was invested in Daisy’s narrative and was engrossed in the story during her chapters. Thankfully, she became a larger part of the story as the book went on.
- I stopped zoning out around the halfway mark and felt the story really picked up at that point. I started to feel closer to the characters and care about them more.
- I did enjoy going back in time to learn a bit about how Gilead came into being and about how Aunt Lydia ended up there, which we learn through flashbacks.
What I Didn’t Like
- I was completely confused during the first couple chapters of the book. I couldn’t tell who was narrating or what time period we were in. I had to text a friend who’d already read it for help. I always wonder why authors/publishers do this to readers…do they think they’re making the book seem “smarter” by confusing the reader or making the reader work really hard to orient themselves? I don’t see the harm in adding chapter headings saying who the narrator is.
- I also wonder if I was disoriented from re-reading the “Historical Notes” from The Handmaid’s Tale right before I started The Testaments. I kept thinking the Holograph in The Testaments were what Offred had left in the footlocker that’s mentioned in The Handmaid’s Tale‘s Epilogue. So, I kept trying to fit Offred into one of the narrator slots.
- I was less invested in Aunt Lydia and Agnes’s narratives and kept zoning out during those chapters…especially during the first half of the book.
- The big reveal was very obvious to me and I saw it coming a mile away.
A Defining Quote
For a time I almost believed what I understood I was supposed to believe. I numbered myself among the faithful for the same reason that many in Gilead did: because it was less dangerous. What good is it to throw yourself in front of a steamroller out of moral principles and then be crushed flat like a sock emptied of its foot? Better to fade into the crowd, the piously praising, unctuous, hate-mongering crowd. Better to hurl rocks than to have them hurled at you. Or better for your chances of staying alive. They knew that so well, the architects of Gilead. Their kind has always known that.
Good for People Who Like…
Dystopian novels, political novels, straightforward writing.
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