Book Review of Margaret Atwood's The Testaments
The Testaments - Worth the Wait?
I blogged earlier in the week about reading Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale in preparation of reviewing Atwood's The Testaments. I wanted to thoroughly prepare for the new release and make sure that I could remember who was who, why they mattered and so on.. Was it the right thing to do? Yes. If you haven't read either book, then definitely read The Handmaid's Tale first. Was it worth the wait? Yes. It was a superb sequel. Having said that it is definitely possible to enjoy The Testaments with no prior knowledge of Gilead and the characters in it. Atwood is a clever old stick!
Exquisitely plotted, Margaret Atwood's The Testaments was a fabulous read that I really didn't want to put down. However, with more twists and turns than a meandering country lane this sequel had a great storyline that held together meticulously well. I think with the passing of so much time and the nature of the dystopian society set up in The Handmaid.s Tale, the plot really did have to hold together superbly, so thank goodness that it did.
The structure of The Testaments was fantastic, with not a flaw and the characters overall were very well drawn too. Very little not to like with Aunt Lydia's testament being particularly strong. Incidentally, I also loved her backstory. The ambience of Gilead was created, probably, or at least possibly, even more effectively than in Handmaid and most of the questions that I had were answered. I had blogged that I didn't want the book to waste too much time on what happened in Offred's 'love life', but I've let myself down as I would have liked to have one or two loose ends tied up that weren't, but I can hardly complain.
There have been few books I've anticipated more excitedly than this one, and I am glad to say it didn't let me down.
A Personal Review of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale
As far as I know, Margaret Atwood is a pretty ‘out there’ author, offering inspiration and online writing advice. This would be great for IB students to tap into. I even think I read or heard on a radio interview somewhere that Atwood has a scheme where she ‘pair writes’ with a new author and acts as their mentor. If I haven't got that wrong (which I possibly have, how incredibly cool. She is one of those people that I’d invite to my dream dinner party, I’d probably be so star struck that I would just gawk in awe and say nothing whilst our elderly and incontinent dog Wizz, did her trick of wanton weeing beside the guests!
I first read The Handmaid’s Tale when I was about 18 or 19. I loved it then, but I love it even more now. If there was ever a book (and even better, a sequel) for a nostalgic 50 year old to revisit and reflect upon this is it. It is brilliant. I’d give almost anything to (just one last time) sit down with a group of students and study it together. Faces of students I’d taught jumped into my mind continually as I read – Elyse, Vic, Petra, Hanoi, Leonardo, Michael. We’d have an absolute ball soaking up the text and debating the themes within. Honestly, there is just so much to dissect and chat about, it’s absolutely a first-rate read which I’d highly recommend. If anything it feels even more relevant now than it did thirty years ago. It’s made me determined to revisit all of Atwood’s other books too and check out what I missed. Oryx and Crake, as well as being a love story, is of course such a great text for exploring environmental issues with. As a teacher, fiction can keep topics intensely personal whilst completely de-personalizing them and thus avoiding conflict in the classroom (does that even make sense?) As a Harry Potter fan it seems like Atwood is constantly ahead of her time - a much more relaible version of J.K Rowling’s Professor Trelawney, with the added extra of talent beyond belief thrown in for good measure.
I’m sitting in Humberside airport lounge (again) waiting for yet another Cityhopper plane to fly me to Amsterdam. I am then travelling onto Bangkok. Actually I've just discovered an excellent website about Bangkok called www.thatbangkoklife.com and definitely plan to do some of the tourist things suggested in it, Time is always short in Bangkok so this things to cover in one day will be idea for me. It's fun being a tourist at home!
This time my final destination is Bangkok to see my Mickey. I am beyond excited about this. I can tell it’s been too long since I’ve seen him (six weeks) because I’ve been overcome with sentimentality simply because the background music playing in the airport is Madness’ It Must Be Love. At the risk of a pass the bucket moment we (along with probably half the population of the Madness generation) used to think that this was ‘our song’!
Tips for my Younger Self
Do you believe in fate?
Do you believe in free choice or do you think everything is pre-determined?
I watched and really enjoyed the film Sliding Doors last night starring Gwyneth Paltrow, John Hannah and co-starring John Lynch. It’s made me terribly confused though as I’ve always been a big believer in free choice and it suggests that everything is pre-determined. I’ve generally been a little dismissive of people’s arguments that 'it was destined to be’. Now I don’t know what to think! Do you believe in fate?
In the film we see two completely different versions of how the life of the main character Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow), unfolds. In one version Helen drops her earrings in a lift, thus delaying her and making her miss a train connection. In the other version she doesn’t drop the earring, makes her train connection and arrives home unexpectedly early to discover her boyfriend, Gerry, (John Lynch) cheating. In the first version Helen remains ignorant of her boyfriend’s infidelity for some time, and on a later train connection meets James, who had initially picked up the dropped earring for her (John Hannah). A tight plot ensues, that I won’t spoil, but did enjoy.