Emily May's Reviews > The Testaments

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
4622890
's review

it was ok
bookshelves: modern-lit, 2019

I can sum it up simply: this book is not needed.

I hoped that wouldn't be the case. I really really hoped Atwood had something important to add to the world of Gilead with this book, but she honestly doesn't. If anything, The Testaments serves only to weaken the power of The Handmaid's Tale.

In the past, I have spoken highly of authors who are not afraid to "be evil" with their books. This may give the impression that they are doing something particularly nefarious, but, in fact, it’s not so much something they do, but everything they don’t. It’s an act of self-restraint to not say everything, to leave some things unanswered, some happy endings unexplored. That, I feel, is one of the greatest strengths of The Handmaid's Tale.

Because there is so much we don't know; can't know. Everything we experience comes from Offred's narrow world view. Everything Offred doesn't know-- we don't know. The ending, too, is famously ambiguous. And these are extremely powerful tools. What we don’t know is powerful. Ambiguity is powerful. Knowing when to finish is powerful. As Aunt Lydia notes herself in this very book:
Where there is emptiness, the mind will obligingly fill it up. Fear is always at hand to supply any vacancies, as is curiosity.

The Handmaid's Tale forces us to wonder, to imagine, to fear the worst and hope for the best. The Testaments not so much.

What this book does is remove the ambiguity. It provides answers to thirty-five year old mysteries that were best left unanswered. I am reminded somewhat comically of Jojo Moyes' inability to let go of her Me Before You characters, repeatedly opening up the story after leaving it on an emotional high. Not every "ooh, I wonder what the characters did next?" should be answered. Sometimes not knowing is so much more effective. And that's Moyes. I didn't expect Atwood to indulge in this sentimentality.

The Handmaid's Tale uses one limited perspective to make us think; The Testaments uses three perspectives and an epilogue in the future to colour in all the corners, leaving nothing to the imagination.

I gave this book two stars for Aunt Lydia's perspective. Without her contribution I am honestly not sure I would have pushed through the second half of the book. The rest of the book is told from the perspective of two teenage girls, one living in Canada and the other in Gilead, and the "twists" regarding them are so glaringly obvious that it is actually a bit embarrassing to read the scenes with the dramatic reveals (chapter cliffhanger obviously). The whole infiltration by the resistance thing was straight out of every other dime a dozen dystopia.

I had so hoped this was going to do something new and important. I hoped it was going to impart a new message, perhaps relevant to modern times. I hoped it was going to be smart and thought-provoking. I am disappointed.

Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube
1616 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Testaments.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

November 28, 2018 – Shelved
September 10, 2019 – Started Reading
September 13, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 138 (138 new)


HarryPotterEatsPie Wait is it really your birthday? If so, happy birthday! You're my favorite person on Goodreads because you're truthful, unbiased, and wholesome. Thanks for being such a great person!!! 💕💕


Emily May HarryPotterEatsPie wrote: "Wait is it really your birthday? If so, happy birthday! You're my favorite person on Goodreads because you're truthful, unbiased, and wholesome. Thanks for being such a great person!!! 💕💕"

Yes it is! Thank you so much :)


HarryPotterEatsPie Wow !!!!! She replied!!!!! A legend!!!!! I feel blessed by an angel <3


message 4: by Justine (new) - added it

Justine Oh my, I'm so happy!! :D
And I wish you a happy birthday!! <3


message 5: by Irm (new)

Irm Happy Birthday!! I think you’re the first person I began to follow on Goodreads, I love your reviews! Happy Birthday 🎉🎈


message 6: by Valerie (new) - added it

Valerie Happy Birthday! May your day be filled with wonderful surprises and amazing stories!


message 7: by Christelle (new)

Christelle Happy Birthday Emily!


message 8: by Francesca (new) - added it

Francesca Happy Birthday!! And thank you for all the great reviews!


message 9: by Erica (new)

Erica Happy cake day!


message 10: by Kloe (new) - added it

Kloe Happy birthday !!


message 11: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Alyssa Happy birthday Emily ♥️


message 12: by Elora Mitchell (new)

Elora Mitchell *Sovereign of not finishing books I start* Happy birthday! 🎉


message 13: by Stacey (new)

Stacey Happy birthday !!


message 14: by Silvia (new)

Silvia Turcios Happy Birthday!!! :)


Magali I'm torn on this... I will read it, probably the day it'll be out, but I also like the ending of the Handmaid's Tale. I like that we don't know what happens next. I like that in the book, Offred is never really in the fight, that we only see what she has to live through and not the big fight against Gilead.

In the show, I love that she, little by little, joins the fight an that we follow other characters too. In that way, I feel like it's a great adaptation, it gives more depth to the universe that we only brush in the book. But I love that the book is only about her, about her internal life mostly, about her thoughts. And I thought it was really interesting that she was not really a fighter, not a hero, just a normal person that tried to survive and to understand her new life. And I love the ambivalence of every characters. And I fear that knowing what happens next will change all of that, will make it more a story about the fight against Gilead, more a story with heroes and villains... In a way I don't even want to know if she survived... I don't even want to know her name.


message 16: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Happy birthday!
And thank you for the reviews that you gift to to all of us throughout the year :-)


message 17: by Cheri (new)

Cheri Happy birthday to someone who I admire for her superb writing and commentary of BOOKS!


Miri ♪ Book Dragoness ♪ Happy Birthday! 💖💖


Emily May Magali wrote: "I'm torn on this... I will read it, probably the day it'll be out, but I also like the ending of the Handmaid's Tale. I like that we don't know what happens next. I like that in the book, Offred is..."

This is a very good point. I have actually brought up The Handmaid's Tale in multiple reviews as an example of how to successfully write an ambiguous ending. I think the not knowing always worked really well for this story.

Still, Atwood is a legend and I *hope* she knows what she's doing. If not, I guess we just pretend this never happened :)


Emily May Thank you everyone for the birthday wishes!


message 21: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Happy Birthday. Hope it was fun.


Emily May Laura wrote: "Happy Birthday. Hope it was fun."

Thank you, Laura! It was :) Got to escape for a rare lunch date.


message 23: by SSShafiq (new)

SSShafiq Happy birthday Emily. May you never have to suffer through a bad book in the coming year and may.


message 24: by LeAnne: (last edited Feb 01, 2019 05:44AM) (new) - added it

LeAnne: GeezerMom Is it wrong of me to confess that I bought four red choir robes from Goodwill last fall and that my girlfriends and I are going to host a book-release party? Why am I just now noticing that the sequel is coming out this year?

My favorite sneaky thing in this entire book is that Atwood named the commander Fred. Because Of-Fred reads as OFFRed… these women wanted that red cloak and its role OFF.


Emily May LeAnne wrote: "Is it wrong of me to confess that I bought four red choir robes from Goodwill last fall and that my girlfriends and I are going to host a book-release party? Why am I just now noticing that the seq..."

Haha, that is amazing! I wonder if I can convince my friends to do this...


message 26: by LeAnne: (new) - added it

LeAnne: GeezerMom Emily May wrote: "LeAnne wrote: "Is it wrong of me to confess that I bought four red choir robes from Goodwill last fall and that my girlfriends and I are going to host a book-release party? Why am I just now notici..."

You've got a few months to go trawling through Goodwill... just saying. :)


message 27: by C. (new) - added it

C. THIS is exciting damn news.


message 28: by Kylie (new) - added it

Kylie Do you know if this is the book that goes along with the second season of tv series? I prefer to read books before seeing the series or movie. In Australia we have just finished watching season 3. Seems a little weird to release a book that is behind the series?


message 29: by Shireen (new) - added it

Shireen Hakim Crying. 😭 We've never needed anything more than this.


message 30: by Saba (new) - added it

Saba Gohar waiting for your review!


Kyrstin Jacqueline Gentilcore Me too :)


Tatiana So we ended up in the same place, only I got it there much earlier;)


Emily May Tatiana wrote: "So we ended up in the same place, only I got it there much earlier;)"

I wasn't as bothered by the more YA feel of the teen girls' perspectives as you, which is why I didn't mind it initially. But the one thing I wanted out of this was for it to be worth it, for it to do something new. It's just such an unnecessary book :(


message 34: by Lynn (new) - added it

Lynn The second and third seasons of The Handmaid’s Take aren’t either.


Tatiana I may have been bothered by the teen angle less if I hadn't just read the one just like this book, lol.


Emily May Lynn wrote: "The second and third seasons of The Handmaid’s Take aren’t either."

Agreed. And now we're getting a fourth! Why does no one know when to stop?


message 37: by Kelsey (new)

Kelsey Quick Because, unfortunately, nowadays it’s about money and not the message. Or the art. :(


message 38: by Lyubomira (new) - added it

Lyubomira Nikolova Oh, such a big disappointment to be reading this review. I was hoping The Testinent will be even more gripping and rich than The Handmaid's Tale but it seems like a setback. Will still read it but not even closely excited as I was before :(


Emily May Kelsey wrote: "Because, unfortunately, nowadays it’s about money and not the message. Or the art. :("

I know :( I'm so tired of all the unnecessary sequels, spin-offs and remakes because no one wants to spend the money on attracting new audiences when there's old fanbases to fall back on. I have this rant about movies semi-regularly 😏


message 40: by Ceecee (new)

Ceecee What a disappointment. You’re right there didn’t need to be a sequel. Very honest and fair review.


message 41: by Kelsey (new)

Kelsey Quick Emily May wrote:
I know :( I'm so tired of all the unnecessary sequels, spin-offs and remakes because no one wa..."


Yeah, it really is kind of a let down. Especially when you think of all the potential that is out there, all the fresh ideas, and they aren't given a second glance because no one wants to "take a chance" on it, or they "don't know how to sell it."

Like The Beautiful, for example, is nothing like Twilight... but that cover looks vaguely familiar! hmm


Karen (idleutopia_reads) I haven't read Atwood so I can't in good faith comment on the book but omg I love what you had to say about not every question of I wonder what the character is doing next has to be answered. The ambiguity and how we fill it in is half of the thing that drives us to continue to love those pieces of work. I have found this with Andre Aciman's "Find Me". I hope it's not considered a spoiler but I think that its best to just let some characters rest and leave it up to the collective reader's consciousness to fill in the blanks to their own content. After a certain time, the characters and setting's fate no longer belong to the author. Another one that comes to mind is the epilogue in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Anyways, thank you for sharing this very thoughtful review.


message 43: by Katherine (new)

Katherine Moon I love how you are always saving me money. Thank you!


message 44: by Luke (new)

Luke Reynolds I am unfortunately not surprised about this.


message 45: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa Lindsay I'm sorry you didn't like it. I thought it was brilliant. We don't always agree, but I enjoy your reviews very much.


message 46: by Dylan (new)

Dylan I want to give this review a standing ovation. I haven’t read this book, but I can’t cheer loud enough for these sentiments! It is such a powerful thing as a reader to not know. There are times authors make me feel stupid because I feel I’m being treated like I couldn’t figure anything out or fill in any gaps on my own.


Tracey I totally understand why some people want The Handmaid's Tale to stand on its own and leave the questions it raised unanswered.

I loved every word of The Testaments because I wanted to know everything there was to know about the world and get the answers to those questions which were raised previously. It was a perfect book for me, but I've been warning people that it's not for everyone.


Regina I'm halfway through and have similar thoughts. This is so sad and disappointing. It's strangely easy to read too, nothing of Atwood's insights and imagination that make her other books so great.


Joanna Smith Truthfully I didn't expect it to be as good as The Handmaids Tale tbh but it has been decades since I read it. 🤔


Ivy_Lost_inside_Pages Now I just want to wait till I can pick up it sometimes out of the library. I looked a bit forward to it but with the thought like it always does to me when I hear sequel or prequel or whatever that bitter Taste ...and if it’s like you said then god damn why ...thanks for your review


« previous 1 3
back to top