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December 06th, 2021

the testaments spotlight pageELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


Some time ago, I got the chance to finally read Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and ended up really liking it. Not too long after I read it, I discovered there was a sequel, “The Testaments,” that came out in 2019, and I finally got the chance to read it recently after borrowing it from the library. The events of “The Testaments” take place 15 years after the events of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and  is narrated by Aunt Lydia, (a character from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Agnes, a young woman living in Gilead and the daughter of a prominent Commander, and Daisy, a young woman living in Canada who opposes Gilead and all it stands for.

One of the first things I noticed about the book is how modern the writing style is. The dialogue from all of the characters reads like how people actually talk, profanity and all (though there’s not too much of that), and it’s actually somewhat refreshing reading something in that style. Also with the writing style, I liked how each of the three main characters have their own distinctive voices and how the reader gets the chance to really know what they’re thinking. While I definitely enjoyed reading the progression of the bond between Agnes and Daisy, the most interesting parts of the book (for me) were the chapters dedicated to Aunt Lydia and how she’s working behind the scenes of everything and also how she became the frightening figure from “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The only minor quibble I have with this aspect of the book is I wish the transitions between the chapters could have been slightly smoother – for me, each of the chapters ended rather abruptly and there wasn’t really much chance for a smooth transition to the next part of the story. 

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Throughout the story, I also liked the level of character development seen with everyone. Agnes starts to realize she has her own power and agency and decides to start using it to live her life as she chooses, Daisy (though stubborn to begin with) only becomes more determined to succeed in helping bring down Gilead after they’re proven responsible for her parents’ murders, and Aunt Lydia helps bring everything together, kind of like an anchor. Among all of that, I particularly liked Agnes’ evolution as she begins to question the life she’s lived so far as she learns more, and how realistic that evolution is. Instead of using the cliché where the change is practically immediate, Agnes’ evolution is actually realistically gradual, and reasons are actually given for why her beliefs are changing. I really  liked reading how each of the characters changed and evolved throughout the story, and all of that was written very well. I also especially enjoyed Daisy’s parts – she is an absolute firecracker and her bluntness about her beliefs definitely kept the story interesting. 

Something else I noticed was how even though “The Testaments” is a sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale” and features some overlapping characters, you don’t necessarily need to have read “The Handmaid’s Tale” beforehand. “The Testaments” functions very well as a standalone story, and it’s a very good continuation of the story of the happenings in Gilead. 

The pacing of the novel is also very well done, and the story doesn’t take very long to get from one point to the next. There’s no wasted time with extra details or anything like that, and you’re pretty much thrown into the story’s action, much like Daisy a short ways into the story. The book is slightly less than 450 pages, and it’s a very easy read to get through in the span of a weekend if you make the time. 

The story itself also has a lot of heart and genuine emotions portrayed throughout. There’s humor, seriousness, anger and frustration and even some love expressed throughout the story, and it’s all expressed realistically and well. Atwood does a great job of writing how each of the characters react to the situations that happen in the story, and I enjoyed seeing the depth of emotion put into the story.

Overall, I enjoyed reading “The Testaments” and I feel like it was a worthy sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The story is very well written and has great pacing throughout, and the chapters focusing on each of the three main characters are enjoyable to read. The three main characters also have great evolution and development throughout the story’s run, and each of them has the chance to shine in the spotlight. If you’re a fan of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” there’s a good chance you’ll like “The Testaments,” which I would give a solid ‘A’ grade. 

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