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Publisher's Summary

WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE
LONGLISTED FOR THE SCOTIABANK GILLER PRIZE
INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER

Margaret Atwood's dystopian masterpiece, The Handmaid's Tale, has become a modern classic - and now she brings the iconic story to a dramatic conclusion in this riveting sequel. 

More than 15 years after the events of The Handmaid's Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results. 

Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets. 

As Atwood unfolds The Testaments, she opens up the innermost workings of Gilead as each woman is forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes. 

"The literary event of the year." (The Guardian

"The international literary event of the season." (Globe and Mail

"It’s terrifying and exhilarating." (Judges of the Booker Prize 2019)

©2019 Margaret Atwood (P)2019 Penguin Random House Canada

What the critics say

“The women of Gilead are more fascinating than ever.” (NPR)

“A fast, immersive narrative that’s as propulsive as it is melodramatic.” (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)

"A chilling invitation no Atwood fan can resist...The Testaments reminds us of the power of truth in the face of evil.” (People

"There may be no novelist better suited to tapping the current era’s anxieties than Margaret Atwood.” (Entertainment Weekly)

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What listeners say about The Testaments

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A more satisfying ending to the Gilead story

Growing up in Canada I had to read The Handmaid's Tale in high school, way back when - and it's not an easy read when you're 16 or so. We had an assignment afterwards to write an additional chapter of the book about what happened next. I wish I could remember what I wrote -- but The Testaments is the author's answer to that same assignment.

Offred of the first book is no longer the narrator, no longer even directly present in the story, which is instead told through the writings of Aunt Lydia and the recorded testimony of two teenage girls, one from Gilead and one from Canada. This gives the book a much different feeling from The Handmaid's Tale, in which we have a much more limited, claustrophobic view as we see everything only from Offred's eyes. In The Testaments we have a much broader view of Gilead now mainly seem from the perspective of the Aunts, which is quite different. Through Aunt Lydia's writing we learn how she came to be in her current position, and we get a much broader view of the workings of Gilead leadership because of her visibility into the Commanders' lives and politics.

Therefore, this isn't as creepy and as terrifying a book as The Handmaid's Tale; it also has a clearly resolved ending, unlike Offred's ambiguous close. It wraps up the bigger story of Gilead in a satisfactory manner, but that also means it will not haunt you as long as its predecessor since there aren't really any unanswered questions left to ponder. So if you're looking for another haunting, thought-provoking narrative with a cliffhanger ending, this isn't the book you're looking for.

However, if you're very attached to Offred, either from the original book or from the Hulu TV series, and want to know more about Gilead society and need a Gilead story with a happy ending (or at least as happy as possible, in Gilead) the you'll enjoy this book a lot. If you enjoy Atwood's writing and were amused by the little jokes in The Handmaid's Tale like "nolite te bastardes carborundorum" then you'll enjoy a lot more in The Testaments also - such as the Aunts' official motto, "Per Ardua Cum Estrus" (likely a play on the Air Force motto "per ardua ad astra"), and the Aunts' admonition against reading and writing, "Pen Is Envy". Also a lot of Canada jokes which made me snicker, being Canadian.

Overall I enjoyed it a lot; I could barely pause the book after starting and finished the entire 13+ hours of it within 2 days. With the current political climate down south, I don't think I really felt up to reading another harrowing Handmaid's Tale style novel of despair, and this was a book I enjoyed reading a lot more, while I can acknowledge it doesn't have the individual impact that its predecessor did. It was a satisfactory wrap up and a little bit of hope in a time that really could use a bit more.

33 people found this helpful

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Brilliant!

I have waited almost 3 decades for answers about The Handmaid’s Tale and this book provides those answers and many more. So abundant are the descriptions of life within Gilead that I feel like it is a place I have visited. I appreciate that the book was divided among several characters and their narrators so we could see a more complete picture of the events taking place. I did not anticipate enjoying Aunt Lydia as one of those characters, but the story could never have unfolded properly without her perspective. The performance of Ann Dowd made the character come to life and I now think of Aunt Lydia in a whole new light.

The Testaments is an outstanding book, and the audio version is perfectly narrated. Thank you Margaret Atwood for returning to this universe to give us another glimpse.

8 people found this helpful

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5 stars for Ann Dowd and cast! Excellent tie in

I read The Handmaid's tale when it came out in the 80s. It's always been a favourite of mine in dystopian fiction.The very first book I ever heard was The Handmaid's tale some years ago. Loved it in audio form too.
I was a fan of the first season, but the show has gone steeply downhill the last 2 seasons, with the exception of some shining stars, one in the form of Aunt Lydia. Love to hate her character, Ann Doyd always knocks it out of the park with her performances. I love Aunt Lydia's TV story, she fascinates me.
So consider me THRILLED that Margaret Atwood decided to reprise both The Handmaid's Tale and to flesh out Aunt Lydia's character in The Testaments. And then to have Ann Doyd narrate her part? 5 stars across the board, just for that!

I'm not going to pick apart or spoil the book, although Aunt Lydia's behavior is surprising in a good way, is all I'll say. This isn't the brilliant literary masterpiece of The Handmaid's Tale, life has changed much since Atwood first put pen to paper for that book. But that's not to say this isn't as brilliant a piece only in a different way. Many of us older Canadians will get the funny/not funny references to "Participaction" commercials of the 70s and 80s on Canadian TV, and quite a few other subtle Canadians.

I enjoyed this book a lot. To me it is a bit too happy ending, I preferred not knowing at the end of The Handmaid's Tale whether Offred survived or not, but that's me. The Testaments is tied up a bit too well but it was enjoyable and really well read by the narrators. Was great to hear Tantoo Cardinal, who I remember from North of Sixty. All the narrators made this a really dynamic audiobook and a great listen.

Buy the book, You will appreciate the double entendre when you hear "PeN is Envy"...

6 people found this helpful

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Brilliant storytelling!

I have not previously read any Margaret Atwood books and discovered what I have been missing. Starting with the Handmaid's Tale, I was completely captivated by the storyline to the point when I finished it, I needed to deep dive into The Testaments.
What a brilliant storyteller Atwood is! I listened to the audiobook version during numerous recent road trips and always eagerly anticipated what was coming next. Brilliant,brilliant, brilliant. Captivating, engaging, and soellbinding.
I can't say enough good things about this Atwood experience. Now I definitely want to discover more Atwood brilliance through her other books. No wonder she has won so many awards!

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Did not want it to end.

No let down to Handmaids Tale. Was nice touch to have the actors in the series read their character. No spoiler here - just buy it you will love it! Just a bummer we had to wait 35 years - but definitely worth the wait!

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excellent follow-up

The actor's portal of Aunt Lydia stole the show here her narration was superb she's also amazing in the TV series too

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Perfection

Completely unpredictable and beautifully written. I listened to it in two sessions - it was spellbinding

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Enthralling

I watched the series on TV and this book continues where season 2 left off. The narration is superb! It's such a treat having a full cast to narrate including the same Aunt Lydia voice as on TV. Thoroughly enjoyable. I like how it's all wrapped up completely in the end.

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Simply riveting

Amazing first time through. Listened back to back with Handmaid’s Tale. My eyes feel WIDE open. What an imagination full of brilliance Atwood has!

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Super!

Presque aussi bon que le premier livre. J'ai adoré l'univers.
J'ai bien aimé aussi que plusieurs femmes donnent leur voix aux différent personnages.

1 person found this helpful

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  • IAN
  • 2019-09-14

Currently

This book, the sequel put it all together quite beautiful. Characters situations and chain of events kept me dedicated to the story. Looking for every opportunity to keep listening. Well done.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2020-07-01

Enjoyed this follow-up to Handmaid’s Tale

Having listened to The Handmaid’s Tale first, I enjoyed filling in some of the mysterious gaps with this tale. A couple of surprise twists!

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  • Clinton M Pelletier
  • 2020-06-04

Its about time

I read the Handmaids tale years ago and it was a great read bit so many loose ends this book tied everything up nicely it was very satisfying

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  • Calliope
  • 2019-12-10

The first 80% is fabulous.....but then it falters

This is almost like 2 different books -- the first 80% is terrific, but somehow it falls in the last 20%, which seems too pat and simple, like a supermarket paperback.

But.....the large majority of this book is wonderfully created and written, and beautifully performed. In particular, Ann Dowd does a great job, as she does performing Aunt Lydia on the TV series as well.

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  • Tayliegh Lopez
  • 2019-11-11

fiction has some truth of reality

the end summary by the ms. atwood hits so close as to the undercurrant of american social change.

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  • LW
  • 2021-03-26

How much can one author say in one book?

This was an amazing book. There is so much in it, it's hard to know where to start. I am in awe of Margaret Atwood's ability to weave a story with so many elements together.

Here are some of the themes or elements that stood out to me:
- Strong comment about gender roles, and especially women's rights.
- Theme of freedom of choice and democracy, and how fragile it could be for us. How easy it is to take for granted.
- Reinforcement about the power of reading and writing to change people's lives for the better
- Exploration of what a dictatorship or oppressive regime could mean for the people living in it. This was a favorite quote from the book:
"What good is it to throw yourself in front of a steamroller out of moral principles and then be crushed flat like a sock emptied of its foot? Better to fade into the crowd, the piously praising, unctuous, hate-mongering crowd. Better to hurl rocks than to have them hurled at you. Or better for your chances of staying alive."
- How power works, and how bullies use it in their favour.
- So many delicious allusions to fairytales like Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and even Frozen. Also biblical allusions. Atwood sometimes reverses the fairytales to make a point, and uses biblical content to underscore how sometimes religion can be used poorly.
- And if you want some real fun, do a little research about the names of the characters. Margaret Atwood has some real zingers in there, as far as added meaning and insight into the story.

The story is told from the perspective of three female narrators. The actors that were selected from this audible recording were fantastic. I loved Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia; she portrays her intelligence, wit and seriousness with such accuracy I almost forgot I was listening to an actor. Bryce Dallas Howard portrays the innocence and gentleness of Agnes so well; although Howard is an adult, it is easy to believe Agnes is a 13 / 14 year old girl. Mae Whitman... I loved her in the TV series Parenthood and thought she did such a great job of portraying the sassy yet caring Daisy. So so so good!

Although each narrator's account was so good, I was especially taken with the account of Aunt Lydia. In the Handmaid's Tale it is so easy to dislike her. In The Testaments we get to know her much better. We learn her history and what made her into the person she has become. The additional information, which totally shifted my view of this character, reminded me of a of a longstanding personal commitment to try to give people the benefit of the doubt, even when it is hard. To understand that people are usually just trying to do their best. I think Atwood did this on purpose. In a day and age of social media, easy scrolling, angry comments online, cancel culture, etc. it is easy to assume your first impression of someone, or their motivations, is correct. But we are all fallable, and it is becoming increasingly more evident to me, that what we really need more than being right is understanding and compassion. I was happy to be reminded of this after reading through Aunt Lydia in this novel.

So much to think about in this book. I liked it immensely.



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  • Shyamala
  • 2020-05-05

A great sequel

It is difficult to keep a book to the same high standard as its predecessor but Margaret Atwood has done it! I could not put it down.

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  • Jerry
  • 2020-01-11

Great, mostly

Satisfying conclusion to the Gilead story, except for the final chapter. The windbag academic is funny, and gives a good perspective on a crazy society, but he sucks the energy out of the story. You go from a full gallop to lazing in the grass, looking at your belly button.

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  • Yevgen Yasynskyy
  • 2019-12-11

Great Part 2 story of the Handmaid's Tale.

I was waiting for the Margaret's version of the Handmaid's Tale continuation and she did not disappointed. Well written story of Gilliad resistance and "baby Nicole". Thank you, Margaret.

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  • Brighid
  • 2019-11-10

Excellent

Everything I hoped it would be. This book gives closure to a story that deeply disturbed me. The recent American events march along to the steady drumbeat paralleling this dystopian future. I can hear the heavy steps of the zealots and extremists lining up to make this book a reality.