Margaret Atwood's The Testaments: A Review & Book Club Questions
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!
The Testaments Review
Exquisitely plotted, The Testaments was a fabulous read that I really didn't want to put down. (That's not ideal when you are visiting your husband for a very short time only and shouldn't be spending all your time reading!). However, with more twists and turns than a meandering country lane (approached in the Boxster S of course), 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 Handmaid, the plot really did have to hold together superbly, so thank goodness that it did. The structure 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.
The Testaments and The Handmaid's Tale - Questions Raised
As I read these were the main things that I ended up thinking about:
Although these two titles were intricately linked the writing style of the Testaments didn't tightly imitate Handmaid. In addtiion, the structure was completely different. Rather than a single narrator, Offred in Handmaid, we are shown the inside and outside of Gilead from three different narrators' perspectives as they recount their part of the story, roughly in turn. I don't think this matters but what do you think?
The Testaments has a greater variety of age and lifestyle of narrator and thus enables the reader to have far more breadth of understanding of Gilead and what happened. I got to thinking whether the book would have been as effective if we had continued with only one narrator?
Atwood places The Testaments in a more 'real' setting often referring to parts of neighbouring Canada. I wondered if this made the threat of this dystopia more or less frightening? I think Atwood says that she has only written about what she has known has happened in different places in our current world. I didn't hear the whole interview but I'm really curious about what she referred to. I need a class of kids to really get a good chat going about links to our current world.
Finally, sisterhood in all sense of the word, completely dominates the text. It is particularly poignant at the end. Sisterhood is a big term. I noticed in the Fortunately podcast the presenters use it in reference to each other. Not sure how I feel about that (!) and I need to reflect on what sisterhood really means to me.
Reading back these would only need a little bit of adapting to become book club questions. Hmmm... I wonder if that's the way to go in my blogging? In the meantime though I think it is time to read a new book. Mick has just finished Pat Barker's The Silence of the Girls I haven't read any of her books for years so maybe that's the way to go, unless anyone has any other suggestions?
I do enjoy a good book!