Last week, I read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and I fell in love. I have just finished The Testaments, and it’s as if I am falling in love with Atwood’s brilliance all over again.
The Testaments is a sequel to her award-winning novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. We are taken back to Gilead, some fifteen or sixteen years after the time of Offred. Gilead has aged well and with its age, it has birthed a young populace clueless as to what was before the nation’s inception. One of Gilead’s young is Agnes Jemima. Daughter of Commander Kyle and Tabitha, she attends the Vidala school for daughters along with friends Becka and Shunnamite. Agnes narrates what it is like growing up in Gilead.
“I imagine you expect nothing but horrors, but the reality is that many children were loved and cherished, in Gilead as elsewhere, and many adults were kind though fallible, in Gilead as elsewhere.”
She is one of three narrators who bear witness and play fundamental parts in the downfall of Gilead. The second narrator is Aunt Lydia (shocked? I am.)
In the Ardua Hall Holograph, Aunt Lydia too bears witness, guiding her reader by hand, she writes of her rise to power and the many tests she had to overcome to prove her allegiance to the regime. While reading, I found Aunt Lydia’s story very fascinating in the way it depicted the power struggle between the four founding women. Aunt Lydia is portrayed as cunning. Information is power, and she’s drunk on it. The entire novel is like a chess game orchestrated by her. It makes the take-down all the more sweet, to think that it was all done by this one woman.
The third narrator who bears witness is Daisy, a sixteen-year-old Canadian girl who is tethered to Gilead in ways she hadn’t imagined. Like Agnes Jemima, she too will question and unearth all the secrets hidden.
This sequel lived up to my expectations. After reading The Handmaid’s Tale, a part of me was scared that I had read the best of Atwood’s work (it is her most notable book after all). I’m glad I’ve been proven wrong.