Sean Meriwether's Reviews > The Testaments

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
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** spoiler alert ** The Handmaid's Tale has long held a special place on my shelf. Atwood's groundbreaking novel drew attention to the hypocrisy and growing power of the religious right and the way in which religion was being perverted to suppress the rights of women. It is harrowing, especially considering how evangelicals have gained power to force their restrictive world view on the United States in the decades since the original publication. I enjoyed the Hulu adaptation of the book and how it grew beyond the novel--up to a point--and I was eager to see how the current environment of escalating restrictions on reproductive freedom, the power of the evangelicals, and the MeToo movement would play into Atwood's heralded return to Gilead.

Spoiler alert, they don't. That is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this novel, which reads like Season 4 of the television series. Atwood picks up plot elements from the series including Baby Nicole and Aunt Lydia's earlier life as a teacher. The pacing is swift and it reads quickly because it is more of a thriller than a social commentary. We don't get much more background about the lives of women in Gilead, and only a bit of history from Aunt Lydia, but we do discover the Commanders preference for marrying underage girls (which happens in real life and could have been a great area for exploration instead of a plot device). We don't explore the nuances of the subjugation of women who are self-policing, because the novel is almost entirely populated with women who find ways to retain control or power despite the circumstances. The "redemption" of Aunt Lydia as the source for May Day feels forced, and the two other narrators are young women who are opposing sides of the same coin, but little is learned from the comparison; they are flat. Whereas the nameless author of the original (known as June in the series), is a complex and flawed human being whom you can identify with, her daughters are archetypes. What felt especially cheap was repeating the ending of the original with these manuscripts being found and taught in a lecture about Gilead. Although I still enjoyed reading Atwood's latest, it won't be joining the original on my shelf.
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Reading Progress

August 12, 2019 – Shelved
August 12, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read
October 31, 2019 – Started Reading
November 11, 2019 – Finished Reading

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