The Testaments by Margaret Atwood is the much-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale which has almost a cult following around the world. The book was released with much fanfare and publicity and recently also won the Booker Prize along with Girl, Woman, Other. The reactions to the book, however, have been divisive.

The Testaments picks up fifteen years after the previous book. Gilead is still the same; if anything else the fundamentalism and extremism has gotten worse. For some reason, all of the stringent laws mostly apply to women in an attempt to suppress them further. Which is probably why this aspect resonated with me as currently many cultures are receding into their traditional roots.

Women in this military-controlled zone are merely instruments for childbearing as in this dystopian future, humanity has self-destructed to the point of rampant infertility. Girls in schools, even the elite are not allowed to learn how to read and write in the fear that they may develop independent thought. The male commanders rule all and they use older women called ‘Aunts’ to control the younger members. The atmosphere of suffocation and fear that Atwood has created is almost palpable.


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Without giving away spoilers, the storyline revolves around Aunt Lydia, an influential all-powerful force to be reckoned with; Agnes, a young girl in Gilead who doesn’t quite belong; and Daisy a young girl living in the free world whose story has some surprising twists and turns. Each of these women are struggling with their own troubles and adversities in an atmosphere of extreme mystery and secrecy which adds to their fear and tribulations.

Margaret Atwood

Is this book as powerful as The Handmaid’s Tale? Perhaps not. I reckon Atwood wrote this more for the large television viewership that the series enjoys. I found it an easier read than the prequel but perhaps less profound. However, this is not to say that it is not a good book – it brings the story to a satisfying conclusion and keeps the reader engrossed until the end.