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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

Review: Margaret Atwood, The Testaments

** spoiler alert ** I finished reading The Testaments a few days ago, and I've been stewing over my emotions since the last page. I wanted to love it--I should say that right off the bat. I watched THT before reading the book, and Season one of The Handmaid's Tale gutted me. I was hoping for a continuation of that same ambiguous storytelling.

The structure really worked for me. First-person accounts via testimonials and hidden diary entries? Sign me up immediately. A page turner, to the fullest extent. Yet,while I found The Testaments easier to read than THT, it didn't have the same emotional impact. It reminded me of, for lack of a better comparison, The Walking Dead when the original cast is mostly gone and the next generation is charged with carrying on the tale.

What detracted from my experience was the unshakable feeling that this was, at least in part, capitalizing on the Hulu series. Season 2 and 3 largely relied on new material, and with a renewed season 4, I couldn't help thinking that The Testaments was written in such a way as to propel the downfall-of-Gilead arc.

Additionally, I had an extremely hard time finding sympathy for Aunt Lydia's character. Is redemption possible? Sure. Did I think any of her mind games and trickery were worthy of celebration? Nope.

I guess what it boils down to is Handmaid's Tale left me with in array of juxtaposition: doomed, yet hopeful. Scared, yet motivated. The ambiguity worked so well, made the narrative relevant, insightful, and utterly terrifying. I never sensed the high-stakes tone Atwood so meticulously crafted the first time around. It never felt like the characters would fail. The roar of victory was too loud for the quiet nuances of rebellion.

I think I'll reread this one in a few years. Atwood is a wonderful writer and I wonder if my appreciation would change if I read them both together. For now, however, I liked it.


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