Margaret Atwood “The Testaments” – book review

I couldn’t resist buying this book, even though it was still only available in hardcover when I got it.

I was convinced by the anti-utopia of The Handmaid’s Tale. I did not watch the TV series, but I did request the “Nolite Te Bastardes carborundorum” t-shirt from a friend of mine.  And when the second book came out, I was ready to read on.

I enjoyed reading it. It looks like quite a thick tome in this hardback edition, but I raced through it.

However, having read it, I was left with some doubts.

First things first. The Handmaids Tale is a book of uncertainty. How the narrative survived, whether the narrator survived – it’s a book that leaves you profoundly unsettled.

The Testaments doesn’t. The Testaments is very much a thriller, a feminist fairy tale, in which women triumph in the end. The system is broken down from the inside by someone in its very centre, and a sixteen-year-old girl is allowed to become an emblem for both the regime and the resistance movement. I enjoyed reading it. But was I really convinced by its characters?

I’m afraid not. I hope this does not mean I am too cynical to believe in the possibility of change in a totalitarian regime. It’s just that the motivations of the heroines did not seem terribly convincing. Perhaps the one character who did convince me was Becka. Yes, her storyline was melodramatic – but her reactions do fit almost to the letter what I have read about others in oppressive regimes.  Think Svetlana Alexievich’s Second-hand Time.

But perhaps since Atwood herself has suggested that her writing of this novel was inspired by the TV series, I should start watching the movie adaptations and then I will understand the book better?

 

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