I was quite conflicted about reading Margaret Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. A big fan of the TV adaptation, I’ve recently watched series two, which has developed the story line independently of Atwood’s original story. So would reading her own sequel be confusing? As it turns out, no.
The Testaments allows us to explore and compare how life has been for June’s two daughters, Hannah and Nicole – the first growing up in the repressive regime of Gilead, the second in Canada. Contrasting their viewpoints makes you really think about the impact of indoctrination and the ties that bind us whatever our circumstances.
But the voice that really sticks with you through this sequel is that of the terrifying Aunt Lydia, who oversees the handmaids in Gilead in brutal ways. The scenes in which she describes the bargain she had to make in order to survive in Gilead will remain with me for a long time.
While aspects of the denouement were a little predictable, it was satisfying to see this harrowing dystopian tale reach a conclusion (especially as the TV series is set to run and run). A a time when women’s reproductive rights are under serious threat – and not only in the US – it really packs a punch flashing with ‘danger’ signs. A hugely important book that will be talked about for years to come.