Wednesday, September 11, 2019

"The Testaments" by Margaret Atwood

When I think about it, Margaret Atwood and "The Handmaid's Tale" is one reason why I began this blog, waaaayyyyyy back in late October 2007.  ;)  I'd been lurking for a while on Melissa's Stirrup Queens blog and commenting here & there. I think Mel & I corresponded a bit by email as well, and she encouraged me to think about starting my own blog.  At that time, Mel ran a regular online ALI-themed book club (then known as "The Barren Bitches Book Tour"), and I was dying to participate -- which was one reason why I eventually decided to set up my blog & hit publish on that very first post.  The next book club selection, which we discussed in early December that year, was (you guessed it) "The Handmaid's Tale." (You can read my contribution to that book club discussion -- including the story of my one brief encounter with Atwood herself, some 30+ years ago -- here -- and my other Handmaid's Tale-related posts here.)

And here we are, almost 12 (!) years later, "The Handmaid's Tale" is even more of a phenomenon than it was when it was first published in 1985 (the year I was married), thanks in part to the amazingly well done television adaptation (and NO thanks to The Donald & Friends!!) -- and now there's a long-awaited sequel, "The Testaments," released on Sept. 10th.

I snapped up a copy early that afternoon at the local mega-bookstore, on sale for a reasonable $25. (It came with a limited edition souvenir cloth tote bag -- the cover of the book is on one side, and on the other, the phrase "Under His Eye," lol.)  I decided I was going to finish the book I'd been slowly working my way through, before picking this one up... and maybe even do a re-read of "The Handmaid's Tale" first. Of course, I couldn't resist sneaking a peek... and before I knew it, it was four hours and 200 pages later, lol.  I finished it in less than 24 hours.

By now, you have probably heard a few things about the book. I don't think I'm giving away too terribly much if I tell you the events take place some 15-20 years after the end of "The Handmaid's Tale," and that the story unfolds through the different perspectives of three narrators -- a Gilead Commander's daughter, a teenaged girl from Toronto (fun to read the local references to Queen Street and Parkdale, etc.), and.... Aunt Lydia -- the one and the same character from the earlier book.

(Apparently Ann Dowd, who plays Aunt Lydia so wonderfully on the TV version of "The Handmaid's Tale," is one of the narrators of the audio version of "The Testaments" ...I have not yet gotten into audiobooks, but this might be a good one to start with, lol.) 

I'm giving this one a solid 4 stars on Goodreads. I might have rated it slightly higher -- but it's hard to top the original.  It's a very good book, but I don't think it quite matches the original's greatness.  The plot that plays out in the last 100 pages or so is a wee bit on the improbable side (I kept thinking Margaret's been watching the TV version too much, lol).  The tone is lighter and far more hopeful than the original -- not quite so grim -- which, of course, is not a bad thing!

Overall, I enjoyed the book hugely, and I will admit to wiping my eyes at the end. If you wind up reading it, I would love to hear what you thought of it! 

This is book #30 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 125% (!) of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I have completed my challenge for the year -- currently six (6) books beyond my  goal -- and I have surpassed my reading total for 2018 by 3 books.  :)

6 comments:

  1. I'm definitely going to read it. Thanks for the lack of spoilers. Glad to hear it is not quite so grim. Though I think that's why nothing can top that first book - the shocks as the extent of the cruelty of Gilead were unfolded.

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    1. I caved, and read it yesterday! I'm not sure quite what I think, over all. I gave it four stars simply because it captured me for the whole afternoon! I could see one of the twists coming. (Or I hoped I could.) There were the usual fears and the scary sense of impending doom that I get from the TV series. And that's a good thing, I think.

      But I didn't absolutely love it. I think it was extremely hard for her to write something really original now that the TV series has captured so many of us, and of course now that we can visualise Gilead and its horrors. And I almost wonder why she bothered.

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  2. Oh, how I loved going down memory lane and reading your post on Handmaid's Tale.

    I really want to read this one, too. Thanks for your non-spoiler review, and congrats on #30!

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  3. Finished it last night! Don't want to have spoilers in the comments, but I did love it and devoured it as well. Loved the three perspectives, especially the pork pork Aunt Lydia's psyche. I love Ann Dowd and she was a reader at the event I saw in the movie theater, so that audiobook will be AMAZING. One of the things I love about series is that multiple perspectives you didn't get from the book, as it was all June and what she didn't know, you didn't know. The Testaments is somewhere in the middle, and I enjoyed knowing a bit more about what we going on around each of the characters. A+++! Loved it. And congrats on blowing your reading challenge out of the water!

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  4. I am so relieved to read your review. I'm on the waiting list at the library, and it's almost my turn. I want to love it because I loved the first book so much. Though cracking up at the idea of "I'll just sneak a peek..." and then 24 hours later, the whole book is done :-)

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    1. Oh, I hope you like it! Mali & Jess (above) both enjoyed it too, so consider their comments as well. ;) As I said, it doesn't have quite the power of the earlier book... but I think it's still a good read nevertheless... it certainly kept me turning the pages! I enjoyed the Aunt Lydia parts especially.

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