epiphany_maria (epiphany_maria) wrote,

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Book Review: The Testaments

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

This long awaited sequel sees the puritan theocracy is about to fall. 'The Handmaid's Tale' left hanging the fates of Luke, Offred, Nick, Moira, Serena Joy and Janine. This book reveals some of their fates. The fact cod was extinct isn't mentioned nor are all the STDs. The internet exists in this sequel.

This sequel reveals how Gilead's extremist ideology and moral indifference was brought down. The original was doom-laden, toxic and compelling. 'The Handmaid's Tale' had terrifying intensity and nightmarish clasustrophobia. This is told through 3 testimonies. One of them is Aunt Lydia who shows what can be done through sheer force of will.

Another is by a young woman who grew up in Gilead and another is by a girl who grew up in Canada and learns she was born in Gilead. The identity of those 2 young women and their connection to Offred is no real suprise. This seems more commerical than its literary predecessor.

This is very good with a fearsome credibility. There is rebellion in the Gilead regime against the right order of things. The Commanders iron grip on power begins to slip. The Commanders have done immeasurable damage with impressive savagery and young women who've grown up with the regime don't even know it is cruel.

Despite Gilead's high moral tone, the role of a Wife is not sacrosant. Many Wives can be got rid of. And despite religion being its unifying purpose, nobody ever goes to church. Gilead is not an easy place to be. We see how Aunt Lydia became a commanding presence and earned her fearsome reputation and how she is unrepentant.

We see how a generation of girls who grew up under Gilead view marriage, Handmaids, husbands and fathers. No Commander seems well-intentioned. What do Commanders do? It's still not clear. Wives and daughters can be outsiders in their own homes despite desperate eagerness to please unpleasable men. Gilead is historically damaging, full of petty retaliatory feuds and cold amusement.

Tensions run high as Gilead fades into history. What does that mean for the women and children rasied in servility? There is hidden vitriolic fury and rational judgment. It's a generational catastrophe and a malignant culture. People are unreasonable and we see how a commander sought to obtain Aunt Lydia's loyalty through transformative force.

Women are grimly determined to bring down Gilead. Acts in Gilead are not the most sane or plausible. There is the ever present threat of violence in this dystopian autocracy. Things can get expositional admid the frightening prescience and monstrous influence of Commanders who bode no good.

There are dark impulses, social disintergration and a profound commitment to fortuitous events. What about the fancily named cars? Gilead gets converts, as Pearl Girls are sent out to bring home converts. The converts must have an idealistic notion of Gilead. The people of Gilead are afraid of the outside world and live in fear of their rulers. Parts of the US remain unconquered. This is a sad wistful account of a terrible terrible place.

Women who fail to know their place in Gilead or do what they're told or show due deference will be met with grave consequences and affronted superiority. This book and its predessor have continued relevance. There are true believers who have unflinching commitment. Gilead has endless suspicion and soul crushing servitude and a dark emotional legacy and ideological misuse.

What'll be the consequences of the fall of Gilead and children realising that the people in whose care they'd been entrusted aren't their parents and do not always wish them well and that they live in a system undermining their ability to make the right choices? This has terrifying significance and can eschew nuance. In the final chapter, the Gilead scholars don't know Offred is the mother of the sisters? What became of the Colonies?

Best Lines:

“Moulded in an age before Gilead,”

“The collapse of Gilead.”

“Civil strife and chaos.”

“Vanishingly rare.”

“Much of the past sinks into the ocean of time to be drowned forever;”

“Bent on destroying any records that might conflict with their own.”

“World was emptying itself of menaing.”

“Achieve goals known only to themselves.”

“She'd lasted a compatatively long time for a Judd Wife.”

“I wonder what Judd had been putting in her soup.”

“Door-opening is a Martha's job.”

“There was screaming, there was kicking, there was biting, there was blood everywhere.”

“Newly arrived from a degenerate culture.”

“But many of us would rather not be who we are.”

“You could trigger a denunciation, even for something so minor.”

“War of Manhatten.”

“Defy those set in Divine Authority over her.”

“Many of our most respected younger Wives, who are the biological progency of Handmaids.”

“Moral criminal.”

“I detect the symptoms of an imminent purge:”

“A girl your age would never travel unaccompanied.”

“She'd discovered him and turned him in, as was her duty.”


Tags: book review, handmaids tale

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