While walking by a bookstore, I caught sight of The Testaments’ cover through the window. Intrigued, I went in and bought a copy. I would have preferred a paperback, but only hardcovers were available.
In the following days, I carried the book with me, reading it whenever I had time. After all, it was the highly anticipated sequel to the critically acclaimed The Handmaid’s Tale and had won the Booker Prize even before its publication.
Unfortunately, after reading it from cover to cover, I found myself disappointed.
To be fair, it was an engaging read. The book comprises narratives from three women in Gilead: Aunt Lydia, the powerful Aunt we knew from The Handmaid’s Tale; Nicole, a girl who grows up in Canada; and Agnes Jemima, who grows up in Gilead.
Aunt Lydia’s narrative recounts how she became an Aunt in Gilead, secretly working against the regime and documenting her secret plans in a hidden journal. The other two girls’ narratives were written after Gilead’s fall, hence the name Testaments. As the story unfolds, Nicole’s true identity is revealed, making the story’s direction quite clear.
This is where my dissatisfaction begins: from that point on, Aunt Lydia outsmarts all the villains, and a happy ending is achieved all too easily. Isn’t the fight for freedom supposed to be difficult?
At one point, I wondered if Nicole might fail her mission due to carelessness or the tattoo on her arm—in a film, that would be a clear hint at a plot twist, right? But nothing of the sort occurred.
I also hoped that Aunt Vidal might take over or Commander Judd might become suspicious. Alas, neither scenario materialized.
Everything falls within Aunt Lydia’s calculations, and everything goes according to plan. I couldn’t help but wonder—if Aunt Lydia were truly that intelligent, could she not have escaped Gilead long before?
Moreover, the book lacks any scenes that made me pause and ponder, as was often the case while reading The Handmaid’s Tale. It seems to me that all the possible themes were already explored in the first book, making this sequel little more than a response to readers’ desire for closure. As for the Booker Prize? Perhaps the judges were just fans. Who knows?