I really like Margaret Atwood’s stories. She’s an absolute crafts-woman with words and can convey an idea in a word, a short sentence or in this specific instance, in a whole book. The much awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s tale goes deeper into this new world and offers a view from the inside as well as a birds-eye outlook from the outside.
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More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.
Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.
As Atwood unfolds The Testaments, she opens up the innermost workings of Gilead as each woman is forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes.
‘Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.’ Margaret Atwood
My Take on it.
The country, always at war, was not as big as the people in it would think. There were countries on each side of it and borders and passports were issued to the few. This was not an archaic society who relies on religious rules to have a society. This “utopia” is a construction of mankind with two core values: women should not be taught anything other than how to be wives, and men should have total control over women.
As I was reading, I had this nagging feeling that the underlying message was not how absolutely f$^ked this Gilead is but how it actually got that way. Young girls molested at the dentist’s office, school girls bullying others for being born by a handmaiden – who is considered a slut by most. The gossipy nature of the Marthas, the cheating wives who were killed rather than divorced as divorce is a sin. The murders from wives who wanted freedom from their abusing husbands. The commander who had a string of young wives who tragically died after either giving birth to a child with defects or not having given birth at all.
The aunts – nun-like characters who evangelise the Gilead-way of living while backstabbing each other in order to get to the top. The network of spies and betrayals.
And as the book went on, I got bored. Yes, I get it. Canada up north is fine. Gilead is in a backwards time where women are less than house pets. Men are villains and they will lose their cool at the sight of a bare leg or some hair. I don’t think I’ve even seen a good male character through the length of this book. Just women.
So is this a book with a feminist agenda? A strong yes.
Is this a book about equal rights? Just between men and women. White men and white women. I don’t think there was any mention of race or queerness.
Is this a book about marital rape and abuse? Yes yet again.
Is this a possible-fiction book rather than a science-fiction? Yes – if we take just certain parts of an ideology (the Bible in this book) and then only pick and choose the parts that suit one side of the population to the total disadvantage of the other part, and then you make sure that the oppressed part doesn’t know it’s oppressed, yes, it can totally happen.
Lack of education in most countries lead to regimes where women are no more than child-bearing tools and have no rights in comparison to their male counter parts.
This is political fiction at its best.
And you want to know what made me abandon the book about 3/4 in? This book is not fun. It’s not entertaining enough. It has nothing going for it. Female characters plot and dream and have a lot of side-quests. But nothing really entices the reader like the Handmaid’s perspective did. Imagine this book like a brunch at a yacht club while the previous one was like a car chase through the streets.
Yes, there is talk about a revolution, some manipulations and some machining happening in the second half.
But the girls perspective, it was more boring than reading a Mormon girl’s diary.
Would not recommend. 2/5