44. ‘The Testaments’ by Margaret Atwood.

I had been looking forward to reading this so much – and bought it for a holiday read for a little side trip to Bali for Youngest Daughter and I towards the end of my trip home to Australia in January this year. Suffice it to say, that although I was deliberately reading quite slowly for me, a five and a half hour plane ride saw it finished…what a book!

Margaret Atwood is, for me, one of the absolute great authors of our time – Mum and I shared this view, although we did have different opinions about other writers…Mum was a massive Gore Vidal fan – I have yet to find just what she loved so much, although I shall be attempting one of her collection soon!

Sadly, we lost Mum before this book was released, and also before the TV adaptation of its predecessor, the Handmaids Tale, which I know we would have very much enjoyed discussing. The Handmaids Tale was first published in 1985 and was way ahead of its time, gaining massive relevance in recent years with various influences in the USA in particular, including of course the ‘me too’ movement, and the rise of fundamental religion…I do not criticise, just observe.

In this, the sequel, we are listening to the ‘testimony’ of three main characters – Aunt Lydia, and the two daughters of June, or Offred, the central character in Handmaid.

I found Lydia especially fascinating, she is not a character one warms to in Handmaid, and yet in this narration we see her essential humanity too.. Her story really is one of survival of the fittest, and we discover her background, the circumstances and choices she made which resulted in the Aunt Lydia June knows. Brilliant.

As the three testimonies and voices gradually become interwoven, we are treated to yet more of Margaret Atwood utter skill in painting a picture of this dystopian future. Her prose is, as always, clear and concise, and the three womens voices are distinct in their own characters. I was completely unable to put this down until I had finished it, it held me captivated all the way – and unlike Handmaid, although at the end we are again shot forward into the future, and a discussion between historians about Gilead, there are none of the loose ends that were left at the end of Handmaid, the book anyway.

I strongly suggest you read Handmaid, don’t rely on the TV series if you intend to read this. The book is so much better, truly…although I also enjoyed both the TV series, it is different.

And I can’t gift this one, I’m afraid – it was left behind in Australia for Youngest Daughter! Although I am sure once she has read it, she will be happy to gift it forward.

Would love to know what other people thought of this book!