Thirty four years. That was the time gap between the publication of Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" and its sequel "The Testaments". Between the contents of the two novels there is another time gap. Fifteen years.
And as we are thinking about time gaps - the space between me finishing "The Handmaid's Tale" and starting to read "The Testaments" was just one week.
"The Testaments", like the earlier novel, is set in the strange patriarchal nation state of Gilead. Women serve different functions. Some are Aunts, some are Marthas, some are Wives and selected younger women are Handmaids - designated for procreation. Gilead draws its structural guidance from "The Bible" but interpretations are puritanical and lacking in basic humanity.
It is never clear how big Gilead is nor how many people live there. It is located somewhere in New England and relations with nearby Canada are strained. It is extremely difficult to get in and out of Gilead though missionaries called Pearl Girls are sometimes seen on the streets of Toronto seeking new recruits.
The novel unfolds through broken testimonies that are delivered by three residents of Gilead. I found this device awkward at times because it was not always clear who was speaking - Aunt Lydia, Agnes (aka Aunt Victoria) or Nicole (aka Daisy, aka Jade). In my opinion, that could have been helpfully spelt out in the chapter headings.
What we are looking at in this novel is the beginning of the end of Gilead. Its moral certainties are eroding. Like "The Handmaid's Tale", the end section concerns an academic symposium held long after Gilead has been buried in history. Once again I found this bolted on post script odd and somewhat unnecessary. It was a distraction from the main body of the text.
I enjoyed "The Testaments" and wanted to turn each of its four hundred pages. I finished it while sitting in Silver Clint up at Redmires Reservoirs yesterday afternoon. There were quite a lot of other people up there - because of the schools half term and COVID Tier 3 travel restrictions.
In an afterword, Margaret Atwood referred to some of the places in which she had been to write the novel - including a trans-Canadian train brought to a halt by a landslide. It's funny to think of where writers write and where readers read. We are rarely stuck in the same location throughout.
Finally, here's a choice quote from Aunt Lydia in "The Testaments" to give you a flavour of the writing:
The only Atwood I can ever recall reading was The Blind Assassin which doubtless languished on my loft shelves with so much of my reading history. I can recall almost nothing about it. Oddly I recall that it had a striking (for me) cover with a woman on it which I would probably recognise but can't describe.ReplyDelete
Subscribe to "The Yorkshire Pudding Memory Booster Course". Only £233 for a jar of scientifically produced memory pills endorsed by Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards: "I couldn't even remember my name, let alone any books I had ever read until I went on the Yorkshire Pudding course. Now I can remember everything. It's brilliant!"Delete
That final paragraph seems quite apt for the current state of our world.ReplyDelete
I hadn't thought of that JayCee but I just re-read that extract and you are right.Delete
Could not bat good.
She did not like cricket
So she became a poet.
You should mail that to her via her website. Margaret will be so impressed!Delete
I'm a poet and I know it!Delete
Here's a boat so row it!Delete
I am glad you enjoyed your birthday gift book. You brought up an interesting thought. Where do writers write and where do readers read? I imagine most have their favorite places for both. If I am in the middle of a very good book you will find me reading it where ever I might be at the time!ReplyDelete
Surely, not in a rest room Bonnie!Delete
I did not like either of those books. Well, let us say I didn't like the story told. Usually, it is the other way round. Usually, when I don't finish a book it is because, even tho I started it for the story it told, I put it down forever when it seemed like it was written by a fourth grader! These I finished because the writing was masterful and that thrilled me.ReplyDelete
Someone said this morning that your part of England is being so restricted due to the increase in the virus that by next week, you probably will not be able to look at yourself in a mirror! Thought that might give you a chuckle.
As I am so ugly, I never look in mirrors any way! Our beloved Prime Minister has just announced a full national lockdown from next Thursday. Perhaps President Biden will have to do the same once The Fake President has slunk away from The White House.Delete
I haven't read "The Testaments" yet, but I did enjoy "The Handmaid's Tale." (Well, not ENJOY, but you know what I mean.) Now that I've watched the TV show I haven't been as eager to continue with the books, but from the excerpt you shared about Aunt Lydia, it sounds like the book plot doesn't track with the TV show (at least not so far).ReplyDelete
I can see how Margaret Atwood developed as a writer in the intervening thirty five years. To me "The Testaments" was better.Delete
There are bits of Attwood thaT I really like There's lots of wisdom in the last three sentences. Then Attwood takes off somewhere and loses me.ReplyDelete
These are the only two books by Margaret Atwood that I have ever read but the experience was generally positive. She is a damned good writer.Delete
An interesting thought, where readers read and writers write. My favourite reading place is my bed, where I have a really good reading lamp; more important than ever, thanks to my poor eyes. A lot of my reading happens on trains, but it is never quite the relaxed reading I can indulge in at home, as I am constantly on alert about possible delays and alternative connections.ReplyDelete
Oh, and there is my yellow armchair, usually my lunch break reading place for my weekly paper.
I read the Handmaid's Tale many, many years ago. I have no desire to see the series based on it or to read the sequel. I respect Atwood greatly but something in her writing, or perhaps it's just her subject matter, feels like razor blades to me. Perhaps I just can't handle the truth.ReplyDelete
Hi all, I have seen comments from people who have already received a loan from Anderson Loan Finance. I really thought it was a scam and applied for a loan based on their recommendations because I really needed a loan. A few days ago, I confirmed on my personal bank account the amount of $12,000.00 USD that I had requested for a personal loan with a rental percentage of 2%. This is really good news that I am satisfied with and I advise anyone who needs a real loan and is sure to repay the loan to contact them by e-mail.ReplyDelete
They can lend you a loan!
Please contact Mr. Anderson Ray
Phone: +1 315-329-6320
Office address @ (68 Fremont Ave Penrose CO, 81240).