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The Testaments

A Novel
Written by: Margaret Atwood
Length: 13 hrs and 18 mins
5 out of 5 stars (1,138 ratings)

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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

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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.

18 of 19 people found this review 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.

5 of 5 people found this review 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"...

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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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!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Perfection

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

3 of 3 people found this review 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!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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somewhat predictable

Of course as a huge fan I was happy to hear more of the story line about Nicole and Hannah but I found the story to be somewhat predictable with no major twists.

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Great Story

I found the story adventurous and I had a much greater understanding of Gilead. Great listen!

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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 of 2 people found this review helpful

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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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  • 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.

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  • Lord Hampton
  • 2019-10-24

I am sorry it’s Finished

I did not buy or read The Handmaid’s Tale until the “hype” about The Testaments became public, so I listened to them back to back. The stories are spectacular, each in their own right, and The Testaments is a “tour de force” in my view. (SPOILER ALERT) I especially miss listening to Aunt Lydia as she plots to bring down the regime that stole her successful life. I was literally on edge the whole time that the escape of Nicole and her sister continued after leaving the Nellie J. Banks. There is a third novel out there Ms. Atwood, if you have the energy.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2019-09-30

disapointing

Ultimately, I listened to the whole thing, but wish I hadn't. I have been a fan of Atwood's, but this was not her best. She sets the stage for an unforgiving world and then expects us to suspend disbelief while the heroines waltz through the patriarchy and get away with it, over and over again.

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  • kim
  • 2019-09-24

A fitting sequel

Picking up the story with three key narrators, the tale keeps the reader in suspense about how events may unfold with a few clever twists

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  • suekitty13
  • 2019-09-21

Everything I ever wanted and more!

When I first heard there was going to be a sequel to "The Handmaid's Tale" I was dangerously excited and pre-ordered immediately. When it came time to actually start this book I hesitated for a few days. I had such sky high expectations that I was concerned "The Testaments" couldn't possibly meet them. Having just finished I can attest that this book fulfilled all my wishes and dreams. There were parts that made me mad as hell, some that brought tears to my eyes, and some that completely surprised me. I never would have imagined the identity of the hero who precipitated the fall of Gilead and it has changed everything I thought I knew from "The Handmaid's Tale." This story was everything I wanted and I am completely satisfied by this addition to the story.

I cannot recommend the audiobook enough. All of the narrators were perfect for their characters, especially Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia. Dowd plays Aunt Lydia so incredibly on the TV show and it was a true joy to hear her voicing the same character in this book.

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  • Richelle Reid
  • 2019-09-17

A Great Sequel

So hard to read a sequel, especially after so many years and so many screen adaptations. I just LOVED the story. I feel that M. A. did just the right amount of alluding to present times. As well, I am very thankful and appreciative of the ending.

It is not easy to re-engage with characters and fictional worlds after so much water under the bridge but I loved the alternate angles we are able to see some characters from as well as more backstory to make things both more clear and more murky.