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The Testaments
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Booker Prize for Fiction > 2019 Booker Winner: The Testaments

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message 1: by Antonomasia (last edited Sep 03, 2019 02:27AM) (new)

Antonomasia | 1936 comments Mod
The Testaments (The Handmaid's Tale, #2) by Margaret Atwood

The upcoming sequel to the 1985 dystopian modern classic The Handmaid's Tale, which was recently popularised further via its TV adaptation. Launch events are planned in several countries for its publication on 10th September.

Atwood won the Booker in 2000 with The Blind Assassin. She has been shortlisted on four other occasions: in 1986 for The Handmaid's Tale, in 1989 for Cat's Eye, in 1996 for Alias Grace, and in 2003 for Oryx and Crake.

When the van door slammed on Offred's future at the end of The Handmaid's Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead for her—freedom, prison or death.

Margaret Atwood's sequel picks up the story fifteen years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.


Forthcoming in the UK from Chatto & Windus, and in the US from Nan A. Talese (both imprints of Penguin Random House.)


Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 3957 comments So a book that isn't published until after the shortlist is announced and where the judges had to sign a non disclosure agreement to even be allowed to read it.

A silly and starstruck inclusion on the list of a prize that ought to be accessible to ordinary readers.


message 3: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1134 comments Mod
Paul wrote: "A silly and starstruck inclusion on the list of a prize that ought to be accessible to ordinary readers."

I'll reserve judgement until I've read it. :)


Hugh (bodachliath) | 1945 comments Mod
Just to make the list even more expensive, I might be tempted to reread The Handmaids Tale in preparation, but I read a borrowed copy so don't have it to hand...


message 5: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia | 1936 comments Mod
Handmaids Tale has to be easy to find in libraries and charity shops.


Hugh (bodachliath) | 1945 comments Mod
Antonomasia wrote: "Handmaids Tale has to be easy to find in libraries and charity shops." True, or I could borrow my parents' copy again...


Neil | 1197 comments I need to read The Handmaid’s Tale as I have never generated enough enthusiasm for it yet.

But I do agree with Paul on this one - I don’t see the justification for including an unpublished, unreadable book. Well, I suppose I do because the judges have read it and think it is worth including. But it does seem to remove the prize a step further away from the ordinary, unprivileged read (that’s me and, probably, you).


message 8: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1134 comments Mod
The judges don't control publication dates though.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's probably chosen at least in part to bring attention to the prize rather than attention to the book!


message 9: by Jen (new) - added it

Jen | 71 comments As a Canadian it may be sacrilege to say I wish they hadn't included this. The 'sequel written years later' makes me squirm with discomfort... I wish Handmaid's Tale had been left alone. I'm also put off that the one Canadian entry is not yet out (though as usual, being in Canada there are a number of books on the list not yet released here - though presumably they are in the UK?). It's a missed opportunity for a deserving Canadian author to get some international exposure. (Or an Australian / NZ title, for that matter.)

That's not to say I won't read it - of course I will! But not with high expectations.


message 10: by Hugh (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 1945 comments Mod
Jen wrote: "As a Canadian it may be sacrilege to say I wish they hadn't included this. The 'sequel written years later' makes me squirm with discomfort... I wish Handmaid's Tale had been left alone. I'm also p..."
There are two others that are not out yet here - Rushdie and Levy, but both are more likely to be moved forward.


message 11: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1134 comments Mod
Three of them have not been released here yet, Jen:

The Testaments
Quichotte
The Man Who Saw Everything

Some people in the group have had review copies of the last one.


message 12: by Maddie (new) - added it

Maddie C. (ashelfofonesown) | 111 comments I read The Handmaid's Tale for the first time this year and because it has been so hyped up, especially since the release of the tv series, I was somewhat underwhelmed but even more underwhelmed by the series, which I've been binging and find to take very little from the book. It's a good thing they're separate entities but, as the 'book snob' that I am, I can't help but think "that's not how it is in the book!". I've moved past it, though.

I'm still interested in reading The Testaments when this comes out! But share the same feelings as Jen and Paul.


message 13: by Tom (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom | 88 comments I’ve never read Handmaid’s Tale but I’m current on the show. I guess I should read it before picking this one up. Does anyone know where the show diverges from the book? Is season 1 the book and everything thereafter new material?


message 14: by Emily (last edited Jul 26, 2019 03:20AM) (new)

Emily M | 36 comments Jen wrote: "As a Canadian it may be sacrilege to say I wish they hadn't included this. The 'sequel written years later' makes me squirm with discomfort... I wish Handmaid's Tale had been left alone. I'm also p..."

Also Canadian, and I feel like you. I like Margaret Atwood, and I liked (though didn't love) The Handmaid's Tale (I much preferred Surfacing) but I don't like how the book has been coopted to be a prescient text about this particular moment in time, and Atwood's releasing a sequel feels frankly self-serving.

I can see that people are frustrated about books that haven't been released yet making the list, but I guess this is mostly a problem with the prize rules. Until this year, I had no idea they considered books that weren't yet published.


message 15: by Paul (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 3957 comments Think this is the first time I can recall when a book is under a strict non-disclosure-agreement embargo even post shortlist date - even if anyone had a review copy they wouldn’t be able to talk about it. Including the judges.

Whereas eg the Levy which wasn’t officially published at time of long list, several of us had read and reviewed (was readily available on Netgalley) months ago.

But the rules don’t say anything to prevent it: only the judges need have copies.

Except.... intriguingly a copy of any longlisted book (even if not published) must be sent to the Royal National Institute for the Blind so they can prepare an accessible copy for the visually impaired. Suspect though they will also have to sign an NDA.


message 16: by Jill (new)

Jill P (ninjypants) | 11 comments I’m relieved to see I’m not the only one who hasn’t yet read The Handmaid’s Tale!


message 17: by Ang (new)

Ang | 1134 comments Mod
The Handmaid's Tale has dropped to 99p on the UK Kindle. Interestingly titled:

The Handmaid's Tale (The Handmaid's Tale Book 1)

Which I guess means at least someone at amazon thinks there's going to be a series...


Gumble's Yard | 66 comments I think 2 makes a series albeit 3 (as we know) makes a serial killer!

I hand not watched the TV series but from reviews I have read the first series was almost universally exclaimed but many people feel the series had lost its way in future series. Not sure what that hides for the book albeit I believe the TV series stuck with Offred whereas the second book jumps 15 years forward.

I have just re-read the original book after many years and think it’s as excellent as I remember - in and of itself it would fit very nicely in this year’s longlist.


message 19: by Hugh (last edited Aug 08, 2019 05:52AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 1945 comments Mod
I have a new copy of the Handmaid's Tale and I am considering rereading it immediately before tackling The Testaments.


Karen Michele (klibrary) | 86 comments My husband and I watch the series and we are both still enjoying it. There are still two episodes to air in season 3, which I'm sure has some influence on the publication date of The Testaments. Since Margaret Atwood had an advisory involvement with the series, but no real power over changes that were made (like the present day setting) and the continuations of the original story in seasons 2 & 3, I am glad she has decided to give us her version of a sequel. I'm not arguing, though, that the Booker nod is appropriate.


message 21: by Neil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Neil | 1197 comments I am interested in the discussion about sequels. The view here seems to be disappointment that there is one coming. I have just read The Handmaid's Tale for the first time and, for me, the surprise is that there wasn't a sequel about 30 years ago. The end of that book (the story not the historical notes) is surely the opening chapter of a new book?

Although, I guess if it is framed as discovered later in the future, then you have to take what is discovered and that might not be the full story.


message 22: by Paul (last edited Aug 11, 2019 08:44AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 3957 comments I think though the issue is that if there wasn't a sequel 30 years ago, why one now?

The success of the TV series, meaning that the new book will be potentially bought by millions of people who would not have been vaguely interested had this been published 5 years ago, is no doubt a coincidence. [Not a criticism - the author is fully entitled to cash in on her success]

Although the positive spin would be that when the US Vice President gives the strong impression that he rather regards Gilead as a model regime, a book which was actually regarded as a bit far-fetched 30 years ago looks suddenly prescient.


message 23: by Neil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Neil | 1197 comments Agreed. I think the book cries out for a sequel. The fact that there hasn't been one for 35 years suggests the author didn't intend one, despite setting the scene perfectly.

If you watched Twin Peaks, the ending feels the ending of Swason 2, although that was Lynch's Hail Mary to the gods of TV to get a third series (took a long time!). Here it seems Atwood is set on frustrating readers by teeing up a book she never intended to write. Until now.


Gumble's Yard | 66 comments Yes I really loved the re read.


Karen Michele (klibrary) | 86 comments I've ordered The Testaments and I'm looking forward to reading it because, in general, I love Atwood's work. I was able to see her in person once in Seattle and enjoyed hearing her. I'm not sure, though, that this huge event in movie theaters is going to succeed. At least, I just checked my local theater and would have been the first person to buy tickets at $15 each (but didn't purchase any). I think they may be overdoing the hype to the detriment of what the reading experience will be. I do think it would be weird if it didn't make the shortlist at this point.


Gumble's Yard | 66 comments My small local cinema in Reigate is around 33-50% sold I think


message 27: by Ella (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 331 comments I feel like this one HAS to make the shortlist b/c otherwise it just seems like a huge gamble for her and her publishers to allow it to be longlisted/submitted at all. Am I insane? Does that make sense? I just keep imagining the awful feeling of her publishers listening to the announcement while The Wall gets the shortlist and Atwood doesn't...


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 176 comments I happened to look at the GR page for this book and don't know what to make of all the twentysomethings (most of the pictures look like 12 year olds but it seems my ability to estimate age has degenerated so that everyone under 28 looks 12) that are gushing about how excited they are that this book is coming. But I too think it will be on the shortlist.


Gumble's Yard | 66 comments Lengthy Guardian profile of Atwood

https://www.theguardian.com/books/201...

Including lengthy quotes from Calder and Winterson.


WndyJW | 1093 comments I reread The Handmaids Tale last year and was surprised at how short it is. The first time I read it was 30 yrs ago in college.

I think if it was not for Atwood’s statement in the foreword that her one rule in writing the book was that she would not include anything that hadn’t actually happened at some time in history I would not have been as affected by it as I was. Knowing that handmaids and concubines and slavery are historical facts and reading this book during a reinvigorated assault on women’s rights in the U.S. was a bit terrifying.


message 31: by Paul (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 3957 comments A review of the book:

https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/755868...

embargo cracking?


Debra (debrapatek) | 45 comments Interesting. So, no June?


message 33: by Paul (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 3957 comments Is June the person that people think is Offred but Atwood says isn't (or at least she hadn't necessarily meant that)?

Aunt Lydia turning out to be less of a fan of the system than we thought sounds fun


message 34: by Neil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Neil | 1197 comments Offred is named as June in the TV series.


message 35: by Paul (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 3957 comments My copy of Handmaid's Tale (produced for the TV series) says:

Why do we never learn the real name of the central character, I have often been asked. Because, I reply, so many people throughout history have had their names changed or have simply disappeared from view. Some have deduced that Offred’s real name is June, since, of all the names whispered among the Handmaids in the gymnasium/ dormitory, June is the only one that never appears again. That was not my original thought, but it fits, so readers are welcome to it if they wish.


message 36: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 605 comments I'm looking forward to it more now.


Debra (debrapatek) | 45 comments I had forgotten that Atwood doesn't explicitly name Offred in the book. However, readers assumed Offred was June because of a scene toward the end of the book when the handmaid's whispered their real names to one another. With the exception of "June", all of the names were linked to specific characters in the book, so some readers assumed that Offred was June.


message 38: by Neil (new) - rated it 2 stars

Neil | 1197 comments Offered says "My name is June" as the dramatic ending to Episode 1 of Series 1 on the TV. There it seems to be a statement of defiance.


message 39: by Paul (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 3957 comments I am intrigued that the Booker judges today said they could say nothing about the book - but the US seems under a different embargo

Another:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...


message 40: by Paul (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 3957 comments “Only dead people are allowed to have statues, but I have been given one while still alive. Already I am petrified.”

Aunt Lydia


Gumble's Yard | 66 comments Seems like the most repeated speculation - that the cover meant the book was about Marthas - was wrong.

I have to say the hype is working on me. Can’t wait for Tuesday - not least to see if Waterstones have reserved me their 1 per shop signed copy as they promised


Gumble's Yard | 66 comments And another. What happened to the embargo and big reveal on Monday. This is making the shortlist comments today look a bit silly.

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/ew.com...


message 44: by Ella (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 331 comments WndyJW wrote: "I think if it was not for Atwood’s statement in the foreword that her one rule in writing the book was that she would not include anything that hadn’t actually happened at some time in history I would not have been as affected by it as I was. Knowing that handmaids and concubines and slavery are historical facts and reading this book during a reinvigorated assault on women’s rights in the U.S. was a bit terrifying. "

This is chilling. And honestly Offred was her name b/c -- well, we still do this. "Mrs. John Smith was at tea with the Junior League..." Until very recently many married women used that form of their names - which was not their names at all.

The thing that terrified me in the Handmaid's Tale is how the women are all forced out of work so easily. The men stand around looking guilty and helpless, but they don't, for instance, close down the businesses - they simply let the women leave. And then there's the money. The book was written before everyone was e-banking in one form or another. Your ATM card is now part of your bank account, and this would be SOOOO easy to do if someone powerful wanted to do it. I find it REALLY scary. And all of that is before the hardcore Gilead scenes!


message 45: by Ella (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ella (ellamc) | 331 comments The NYTimes says it so much better than I did, but here is basically what I was trying to say in my babbling the other day:

(Also I cannot wait until this book arrives!)
...the TV series did a brilliant job in Season 1 of translating the novel to the screen, but in generating new story lines for Seasons 2 and 3, the show’s writers have subjected Offred to a wearisome “Groundhog Day” loop of tribulations, including several failed escape attempts, repetitious, soap-opera confrontations with Serena and Aunt Lydia and more and more preposterous situations calling for bad-ass heroics.


I felt like Atwood HAD to write a sequel to wrest her masterpiece back from the Hulu people.


message 46: by Paul (last edited Sep 04, 2019 01:16AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 3957 comments Ella wrote: "I felt like Atwood HAD to write a sequel to wrest her masterpiece back from the Hulu people"

Yes feels that is what she has done (arguably a bit ungrateful as the HULU people will have massively boosted her sales)

Seems what happened embargo wise is that Amazon Prime US (accidentally?) sent out copies yesterday a week early to some people who had pre-ordered.

https://www.reddit.com/r/TheHandmaids...

I guess then the the press thought it was fair game to publish reviews. But they seem to then be competing with each other to give away as much of the plot as they can.

So does anyone here from the US now have a copy?


Gumble's Yard | 66 comments Just published by Sydney Morning Herald with some extracts from me below.

The judges, Booker organisers and Waterstones must be fuming.


https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/...

The highly anticipated follow-up, The Testaments, appears to have escaped the Gilead-style security surrounding its planned worldwide release next Tuesday, sending publishers, publicity teams and the book media into a frenzy.

The novel is one of the biggest releases of the year and has been under lock and key, with even the Booker Prize judges, who added the novel to the award's shortlist yesterday, warned they would be held accountable if their watermarked copy broke the embargo.

But some fans who pre-ordered the book on Amazon were shouting "praise be" on Wednesday as they posted pictures on social media of copies of The Testaments, which appeared in their mail boxes close to a week before the novel's official publication date on September 10.

The apparent early release means that exclusive extracts from The Testaments due to be published in newspapers around the world, including in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, were at the last minute pushed forward to Wednesday evening.

Amazon has been contacted for comment but had not responded to questions at the time of writing. Penguin Random House declined to comment.

Booksellers have had to sign strict embargoes, and when those in Australia receive boxes of the The Testaments in the coming days they will be labelled "do not open" and kept in locked storage rooms. The Washington Post dubbed the novel "one of the most anticipated sequels of the modern age – like Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman flying in on Harry Potter's broom" and reported that key reviewers received preview copies with a false title and author name.

The early release risks scanned versions of The Testaments being uploaded online and it will also fan discontent among booksellers who feel under threat from Amazon. There have been previous high-profile escapes, including some of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.


message 48: by Hugh (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 1945 comments Mod
All of this has left me in the rather odd position of wanting to ignore the early reviews until my own copy arrives - it will be interesting to see if any pre-orders are released before Tuesday.

I started rereading The Handmaid's Tale last night and I am almost halfway through - I was surprised at how much I had forgotten since I first read it 30-odd years ago, but my original impression that it lacks some of the wit and sparkle of some of her other books still stands. It is undeniably an impressively consistent vision - much more so than Oryx and Crake (though O&C has a lot more sly humour).


message 49: by Val (new) - rated it 3 stars

Val | 605 comments 'Penguin Random House declined to comment.'
There isn't much they can say or do after the event. Other booksellers, the Booker judges and reviewers with advance copies kept to the terms of the embargo; Amazon did not.
PRH are a big enough publisher to have an impact on Amazon's sales if they were to stop using them or refuse to send them any copies of new releases until they have been available elsewhere for a month or so, but I think they are unlikely to do that.


message 50: by Tommi (new) - added it

Tommi | 288 comments Somebody’s having a stressful day at work at Amazon today.


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