PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE, $28.95
by Margaret Atwood
Fans of “The Handmaid’s Tale” will not be disappointed in the long-awaited release of its sequel, set in the dystopian otherworld of Gilead. “The Testaments” takes place 15 years after the conclusion of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a timely, and some might say prophetic, novel. In a patriarchal society, Gilead females are indoctrinated into an ideology of religious extremism, which includes using handmaids to populate society.
Told partly from the POV of the ruthless Aunt Lydia, we learn of her life prior to the founding of the regime. She describes a horrific account at a stadium where she and other educated women were taken during a moral cleansing, reminiscent of the Holocaust’s Vel’ d’Hiv Roundup.
The book opens with a quote from the 1876 novel, “Daniel Deronda”: “Every woman is supposed to have the same set of motives, or else to be a monster.” This tongue-in-cheek reference is noteworthy because it was penned by Mary Anne Evans, known by her pseudonym, George Eliot; the irony isn’t lost on me.
“The Testaments” may well be a reflection of the ideologies which define us. Prophetess or not, Atwood forces us to rethink our integrity as a society.
– Review by Beverly Allen Custer