Sunday, November 3, 2019

"The Testaments" by Margaret Atwood

After Wayne and I purchased our float cabin in British Columbia, we started reading more books by Canadian authors.  I began collecting books by Farley Mowat. We visited some of the places he mentions while exploring the Northwest Territories and Nunavut in our Piper Arrow 997.

Next we discovered books by Margaret Atwood. It was her MaddAddam Trilogy that got us hooked. Then we discovered The Handmaid's Tale.

When it was announced that she would be releasing a sequel, we were ready to get it for our Kindles. In the meantime, we reread the original in anticipation.

In both books, Gilead is a Puritan theocracy located in the New England region of the United States.  The Testaments is set sixteen years after The Handmaid's Tale. It's based on past accounts from three women that were presented at the 13th Symposium on Gileadean Studies International Historical Convention.

One narrative was taken from a manuscript presumably authored by highly positioned Aunt Lydia, a woman significantly responsible for the structure governing women in Gilead Society. Two additional narratives came from young women's witness testimonies, one who grew up in Gilead and the other in Canada. The three testaments provided different perspectives of life in and beyond Gilead. 

In her October 2019 Maclean's Magazine interview, Margaret Atwood gave the reasoning for publishing a sequel thirty-four years after the original.  Readers and TV series viewers asked for a sequel, but that wasn't enough. Then Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, followed by Women's Marches with some protestors dressed as Offred from the Handmaid's Tale, and then there was the #MeToo movement. Atwood felt it was time because “we were going towards the world of The Handmaid’s Tale rather than away from it”

Whatever her reasoning, it's an exceptional book. I enjoyed the inclusion of Canadian values in comparison to Gilead society. The books may be fiction, but having lived in both countries, I too have seen a definite shift in attitudes and beliefs, especially south of the border.

And what an honour. The Testaments has just shared winning the prestigious 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction.

If you haven't read either book, I recommend starting with The Handmaid's Tale. It's currently free with Kindle Unlimited or $9.99 for purchase, and $15.99 for hardcover. The Testaments is for $14.99 for Kindle, and $16.99 for hardcover. Both books are also available at most online and brick and mortar booksellers.

Have you read either book yet? What did you think? -- Margy