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Books Editorial

testaments.jpg The Testaments
 

Margaret Atwood, Chatto & Windus

First up: Margaret Atwood’s sequel to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ does not sully the memory of the original. Praise be! It’s set around 15 years after the events of that grimly compelling account, but instead of having Offred act as our guide this time round, Atwood has split the narrative between three very different voices. These include the dreaded enforcer Aunt Lydia; Daisy, a 16-year-old girl being brought up in Canada by members of the Gilead resistance; and Agnes, a Gilead schoolgirl on the cusp of being married off to one of the Commanders. We learn a lot more about Gilead (Pearl Girl missionaries can now be added to the motley collection of Aunts, Eyes and Guardians) and Atwood is very good when she examines the psychological architecture of authoritarian regions (“It’s better to hurl rocks than have them hurled at you” as Aunt Lydia puts it). Thematically, it doesn’t really say anything that the ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ didn’t, but in a world where governments of various hues are still trying to control both women’s behaviour and their bodies, these things are worth saying again.