By Cassie Ames
“The Testaments” by Margret Atwood is a sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale” which was written in 1985. “The Testaments” takes place 15 years after the ending of the first book. What is really interesting about this sequel is that the viewpoint is told by three different characters in the form of letters. Each of the three characters having drastically different lives makes for a gripping and fantastic continuation of the story of Gilead.
If you have ever watched “The Handmaid’s Tale” series on Hulu, then you will know sooner than others who the three main characters are: They are the same from the book. This caught me off guard because you aren’t even told the main character’s name in the original Handmaid’s Tale. I enjoyed the fact they used characters from the series because I always wanted to know more about those specific characters’ lives, and I felt like the author did just that in the sequel.
While reading, you are not told who those characters are until getting further into the novel. However, you later find out that they are Agnes, Daisy/Nicole, and Aunt Lydia.
I really loved how all three of the characters in this story show immense character and emotional growth throughout. One of the characters I disliked strongly, since I had watched the series prior to reading this, was Aunt Lydia. Her now being in charge of the Aunts and having even more control than before irked me at first glance. By the end of the book, however, I had a kinder and more gentle opinion of her.
I respected the way she was able to turn things around for herself and the people around her. She continued to grow across the entire novel, even at the expense of herself. In fact, she was my favorite character by the end of the book.
Daisy, who you later find out is the ‘infamous’ Baby Nicole that was “kidnapped” from Gilead, now lives in Canada under a false name for her protection. She ends up going back into Gilead during a special mission given to her after the tragic incident involving her ‘adopted’ parents. Her whole life, which was somewhat comfortable, gets completely uprooted and destroyed before her eyes.
I really enjoyed her character, too, because when I first started reading this book, I felt like Daisy/Nicole was a little bit frustrating. Although I feel like she was meant to be this way—the display of her immaturity and youth shows how drastically different from Agnes/Hannah, who is still in Gilead, she is. By the novel’s end, I found respect for Daisy/Nicole and was rooting for her the whole way. She did not disappoint.
I also loved the final main character: Agnes/Hannah. She was originally from the TV series, and I was so thrilled to find out more about her life in Gilead through this book. I was a bit shocked at the fact that she was in training to become an Aunt. However, when you learn why she chose that path, you completely support her in that role. The lesser of two evils, I suppose.
I really liked that you get to learn more about the children of Gilead and their life. Even into their schooling and home life. And—as you can imagine—it was far from perfect. At times, it was even hard for me to read about, but I think it is necessary. I absolutely loved when Daisy and Anges finally met and how their sisterhood and friendship developed from there. It was very natural and sweet to watch.
There’s really only one thing that I would change about this/that I didn’t really enjoy, and that was the fact that we didn’t really learn a lot about Hannah and Nicole’s mother. She remained unnamed as she did in the first novel, and I wish there was more time devoted to why things ended up the way that they did, or why she wasn’t even known to them until the end of the book. I assumed that this character was June from the series because there are so many reasons why she would be. But I do like that she went unnamed, still. I can understand why the time was so brief with this character because I feel like she didn’t want her to be the focus this time and that I can respect.
I would recommend this book to everyone, along with the first book, because I feel like it is a MUST-read. The stories are beautiful and gripping. Your emotions go everywhere but in a really fabulous way—from emotional, to angry, to laughing. I know I had a really hard time even putting my book down and would read it any second I had the chance to!