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The Testaments

Series: The Handmaid's Tale, Book 2
Length: 13 hrs and 18 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
5 out of 5 stars (3,721 ratings)

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Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

Winner of the Booker Prize 2019.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood is read by Ann Dowd, Bryce Dallas Howard and Mae Whitman with Derek Jacobi, Tantoo Cardinal and Margaret Atwood.

Margaret Atwood’s dystopian masterpiece, The Handmaid’s Tale, is a modern classic. Now she brings the iconic story to a dramatic conclusion in this riveting sequel.

More than 15 years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.

Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.

As Atwood unfolds The Testaments, she opens up the innermost workings of Gilead as each woman is forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes.

‘Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.' (Margaret Atwood)

©2019 Margaret Atwood (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

"The literary event of the year." (Guardian)

"A savage and beautiful novel, and it speaks to us today, all around the world, with particular conviction and power.... The bar is set particularly high for Atwood and she soars over it." (Peter Florence, Booker Prize Chair of Judges, Guardian)

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Remarkable! Oddly Uplifting

I listened to this audio book in three long sittings because I simply couldn’t stop. Like a train on a track the narrative of this book steams ahead, growing in power and momentum. It is impossible to stop, once started.
I, like many others, found THE HANDMAID’S TALE to be one of the most important books of the C20th & as a professional historian I’ve often dwelt on how the Past & present converge in the story. So I was keen to read the much anticipated sequel - having watched all three seasons of the HULU TV production too I wanted to know if there would be any nod towards the storylines crafted there. There is. Big time.
In many respects THE TESTAMENTS is a world apart from THE HANDMAID’S TALE. It is far less claustrophobic, less ‘bitty’, less surreal. It is also less doomed, less gloomy, less violent. In fact THE TESTAMENTS is oddly, fascinatingly upbeat. It is a paean to the #MeToo movement, an empowering story of fighting the system.
The historian in me was satisfied: I got a good sense of the expansion and crisis of the mature Gileadaean regime and the use of Historical Notes to close the book - echoing THE HANDMAID’S TALE - was very satisfying.
As an audio book, this is a wonderful production. Each of the three protagonists is played well, but a special notice goes to Ann Dowd, reprising her TV role as Aunt Lydia. Her voice has such melody, such an incredible cadence that it was quite hypnotic. Atwood gives Aunt Lydia some very funny, tongue-in-cheek lines; Ann Dowd delivers them to perfection.
I enjoyed this book enormously. I recommend it as a clear classic of our time.

25 of 27 people found this review helpful

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Totally engrossing

I read the novel and then started listening to this wonderful production which has a very short introduction by Margaret Atwood. The voices and pacing is perfect and really helped my understanding of this totally engrossing novel.

Margaret Atwood's sequel to the prescient 'The Handmaid's Tale' opens with one of the new novel's three narrators describing the statue made in her honour. We're not told immediately that it is Aunt Lydia but it becomes clear - her voice is compelling and her importance and power in Gilead is surprising but completely believable. One of the strengths of this novel is that Aunt Lydia isn't a Disney villain - how she came to be who she is in The Testaments gives complexity to her character and motivation. Atwood is exploring the women who are complicit in maintaining Gilead's patriarchy and the subjugation and oppression of other women. It's a fascinating and enthralling route for Atwood to take and once again she captures the zeitgeist - reflecting back to us the myriad ways in which this type of complicity and collaboration happens in our own world. The two other narrators are young - Agnes Jemima, the daughter of a Commander and Daisy, a teenager living in Toronto. It's not spelt out if the young women are related to characters from The Handmaid's Tale. Atwood likes to let readers make up their own minds. Her trust in her readers is yet another of her strengths as, of course, is her writing. This novel speeds along like a thriller and the prose is clarity itself.

I found this novel unputdownable and am sure it will live with me for a good time to come. Margaret Atwood is my favourite writer and I read The Handmaid's Tale when it was published in 1985 and have read all her novels over the years since. I was worried about her revisiting such a masterful work since the continuation of the TV show didn't sit so well with me but Atwood's return to Gilead using the voices of these characters works beautifully to broaden and deepen our understanding of the whole structure and gives some insight into why it might fail.

I was lucky enough to have tickets to see Margaret Atwood at the National Theatre for an exploration of this novel. She speaks as well as she writes.

18 of 20 people found this review helpful

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Couldn't stop listening

Well worth the wait. Margaret Atwood continues to display her brilliant ability to somehow instill a combination of passion, disgust, fear and admiration into the reader. Aunt Lydia's story and character was fascinating and inspiring.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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A slow story

I really should have enjoyed this, love a dystopian story, but it just didn't grip me.

The story is okay, it is well read but there's something missing that I can't quite put my finger on.



3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Disappointing, unlike the handmaid's tale!

Loved Aunt Lydia's narration, kept me gripped. However found the other voices quite annoying and difficult to relate to their characters. At almost 80 chapters is was a little hard going.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Chilling conclusion that will please the fans.

There is no doubt that Handmaids Take has become the1984 of our time. Arguably the best adaption for television of the book helped renew interest in the book. However, after a faithful telling of the book, the producers wanted more and they continued the story, each camera shot beautifully exected, and a story that had the blessing of Margeret Attwood.

It was perhaps invvitable that she felt she had to wite a sequel, some 35 years after the orriginal. What we have is a logical progression of the story. As the tv series had subtle nods to the book, such as using what appeard to be inappropiate music in a lot epidsdes, reflectin the fact that the orrriginal books were cassete transcripts, Attwood reflects the TV episodes of series 2 and 3.

What we have is a book very differant from the Handmaids Tale, but with plot and stories every bit as intriging. While at times the book appears to have strayed awy from its orriginal concept all is resolved in the end.

I dont suppose MA ever intended to resolve the questions raised in the first boo, howver, she anwers a lot of the mysterie, and in so doing gives us an insight into her thinking behind this book.


This audio book is beautifully read, and Ann Dowds portayal of her television character is just as chilong as it is in the drama.

I was drawn the book because of the television series, which achieved something the aful film adaptation of the 1990s could never do, this is a superb book, and I hope the accolades it is seeking will be bestowed on this masterpiece.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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slightly disappointed

great to get the sequel , although the story line appeared rushed and lacked the integrity of the original. certainly the end was unimaginative. however a good listen.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A stunning sequel to a beloved tale

The inclusion of the voice of The actor who plays Aunt Lydia in the current TV series brought a strong modern connection. As an avid fan/viewer, I enjoyed the fact that Margaret Atwood has woven the end of the tale in such a clever way, so as to still leave plenty of room for the intervening tale to still be told.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant! Couldn’t stop listening .

The Testaments is really compelling and the narrators are all excellent. The book gives a terrifying view into Gilead 30 years after the events in The Handmaid’s tale. I didn’t expect Aunt Lydia as one of the protagonists ,and was torn between horror and fascination at her story. The other characters are equally fascinating. One of the best audio books I’ve listened to.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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amazing

as a lover of the first book, I found this book equal as good. it has lived up to it promise of answering many questions, however I am left with few to which I hope the show will answer. this is a must buy, I have truly enjoyed this book, I finished it with in a day.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Ruth
  • 15-10-19

The more you read the more places you will go!!!!

I loved that they used actors from the series to play the parts- it did set me back! I love Margaret ability yo infiltrate many story lines together, I could see this coming!!!! In saying that I couldn’t put it down - can’t wait for series four!!!! See how much it will align with the testaments!!!!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Joanna
  • 06-10-19

For all of those who want to find out what happens next.

Having recently reread The Handmaid’s Tale to refresh my memories of the story, I was eager to find out what happened next. Although told from different perspectives, the novel was an excellent response to all of my questions. I enjoyed the three points of view, as they complimented each other beautifully and allow readers to see this world from a variety of perspectives. The narrators read beautifully (I could listen to Ann Dowd, in particular, all day) and, although i have yet to watch the series, interesting to note which elements from there have become cannon in the book world. A fantastic performance by all involved and, as ever, beautiful writing by Margaret Atwood.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Tim
  • 21-09-19

worth the wait

worth the wait. As an audio book this is a pure, performance, delight. Buy it now

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • S. Hancox
  • 13-09-19

Best ever sequel to a favourite book.

Have been waiting for this sequel since I first read The Handmaid’s Tale when it came out in the 80s. I was not disappointed. This is a spellbinding book, with wonderful voice performances, especially that of Ann Dowd. I will listen again!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Anthony
  • 29-10-19

Good book!

Really good book.
My only complaint is why Margaret, and I do love you, would you interject the part Numbers is such a profoundly drab way?
Other than that totally worth it!

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  • Jim Brown
  • 19-10-19

Love love loved it!

Well worth the purchase if you've been following the Handmaid's Tale. I had only watched the series on TV and couldn't wait for the next season, so I grabbed the audio book to listen to. It didn't disappoint!

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-10-19

Ok

The beginning part of the book was interesting, but the last chapter were a drag.

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  • Kelly Broomhall
  • 14-09-19

Not bad

Some of the plot seemed contrived and unnecessary but it was still enjoyable. Witnesses A and B have extremely similar voices that I found hard to distinguish between as a non American