Disappointed by the Testaments

Walking by a bookstore I saw the cover of the testaments from outside of the window. I walked into the bookstore and bought one – I would rather have a paperback copy but there was only hardcovers available.


In the following days I kept the book with me and read it when I had time. This is the much-anticipated sequel of the highly praised the handmaid’s tale after all. And it actually got the Booker’s award even before its publishing!


Well, after reading it from cover to cover, I must say I’m disappointed.


(Spoilers ahead!)


In all fairness, it was a good read. The book consists of narratives from 3 women from Gilead. Aunt Lydia, the powerful aunt we knew from the handmaid’s tale; Nicole, a girl grows up in Canada, and Agnes Jemima who grows up in Gilead.


For Aunt Lydia, the narrative recounts how she became an Aunt in Gilead and how she secretly works against it. All written in a secrete journal while she was carrying out her secrete plan in Gilead.


For the other 2 girls, the narratives were written down after Gilead was no more, thus the name testaments. The story gradually built up as you follow through the first few chapters. Once Nicole’s true identity was revealed, it is rather clear where the story leads to.


And that is also where my dissatisfaction starts: from there on, all bad guys were outsmarted by Aunt Lydia, and a happy ending was attained very easily. Isn’t that too good to be true? Isn’t the fight for liberty supposed to be hard?


At one point, I was thinking maybe Nicole will fail her mission, either because of her carelessness, or because of the tattoo on her arm – in a movie, that would be a clear hint to a plot twist, right? But no, nothing like that happened, till the end.


I was also hoping maybe at some point Aunt Vidala may take over, or maybe Command Judd may sense something suspicious. But nothing like that happened either, till the end.


Everything is within Aunt Lydia’s calculation; everything was carried out as planned. I couldn’t help wondering, if Aunt Lydia was that smart, maybe she could have easily escaped Gilead long before?


Plot aside, I didn’t find any scene that forced me to pause and ponder, this looks so familiar, so realistic yet so unreal, as was often the case while I was reading the handmaid’s tale. Seems to me, all the possible themes were already explored in the handmaid’s tale. This sequel is just a response to readers to make the story complete. The Booker’s award? Maybe the judges are just fans, who knows.