The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

It has been many years since I read The Handmaid’s Tale. I did not list it in my books read in the early aughts but I remember reading it and Alias Grace at some point in high school.

As a Canadian, I think I read it for school. I could barely remember the ending but I remember liking the writing enough. I had to remind myself and read a synopsis of it before I started this book. I have not seen the tv show but I read more about it after I finished this novel.

I have read only a handful of Atwood’s works and sometimes, I’ve struggled to feel for her characters. I remember thinking The Handmaid’s Tale was well written but I didn’t find there was enough character work. I had a similar feeling for Alias Grace, and I think that book was excellently written too. However, I found Grace was fascinating. I tend to avoid adaptations of Atwood’s work because her subject matter is often bleak and I don’t love her books enough to invest in to an adaptation.

When I started The Testaments, I was reminded of all these things. I did not find myself that interested in the three narrators in the beginning. Over time, I became engrossed. I felt this was the most engaging of Atwood’s work in a long time. This book is more like a TV thriller than her other books. Even with its internal monologues, there is a lot more plot than the first book. It’s a larger book but it did feel slightly pulpier. I managed to finished this book in one Sunday.

I began to slowly feel invested in almost all the main characters such as Lydia, Becka, and Agnes. Daisy was quite annoying at times. I guess it can be blamed on upbringing and her adolescence, but she seemed too much like a stereotypical bratty teenager. I found the writing for Agnes and Becka so much more compelling when they were preteens. Daisy served as their foil but it was not realistic how tactless and ungrateful Daisy could be at times.

The Aunt Lydia character was fascinating. I’ve read Atwood was inspired by the TV’s Ann Down version of Aunt Lydia. This did interest me slightly because it would take a very talented actor to portray such a complex amoral woman. The psychological aspect of Lydia reminded me of how Atwood wrote Alias Grace.

I think there is literary debate if this is Atwood’s best written work and if it deserved the joint Booker in 2019. I can see why it is controversial because it feels a bit less literary than her other works, but I actually like this. As I get older, I appreciate being taken more of a ride and having less bleak or ambiguous endings . Maybe this is why I do not read as many Pulitizer or Booker prize winners like I did in university. This book is still written well especially with respect to the characters. I had a good time.

Read January 12, 2020.

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