The Testaments

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The Testaments
The Testaments (Atwood novel).png
Cover of the first edition
AuthorMargaret Atwood
Audio read byAnn Dowd[1]
Bryce Dallas Howard[1]
Mae Whitman[1]
Derek Jacobi[1]
Tantoo Cardinal[1]
Margaret Atwood[1]
Cover artistNoma Bar / Dutch Uncle
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction, Dystopian fiction
PublisherNan A. Talese / Doubleday
Publication date
September 10, 2019
Media typePrint (Hardcover)
LC ClassPR9199.3.A8
Preceded byThe Handmaid's Tale 

The Testaments is a 2019 novel by Margaret Atwood. It is a sequel to The Handmaid's Tale (1985).[2] The novel's events occur fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid's Tale. The novel is narrated by Aunt Lydia, a character from the previous novel; Agnes, a young woman living in Gilead; and Daisy, a young woman living in Canada.[3]

The novel was joint winner of the 2019 Man Booker Prize, alongside Bernardine Evaristo's novel Girl, Woman, Other.[4]


The novel's key protagonists are Agnes, an orphan adopted by a Gileadean family who is preparing to assume her assigned role as the wife of a commander at the start of the novel; and Daisy, who was smuggled out of Gilead and lives in Toronto with adoptive parents who own a vintage clothing store in the Queen Street West neighborhood. Both Agnes and Daisy are daughters of Offred, the protagonist of The Handmaid's Tale.[5] Both women were raised without any knowledge of their origin or of each other.[3]

The third protagonist, Lydia, was a key antagonist in The Handmaid's Tale. She chronicles her life in an illicit manuscript, including details of her life before Gilead, and how she came to be made an Aunt. She also meditates on the inner workings of Gilead's theonomy, its hypocrisy, and endemic corruption. Lydia's manuscript is later published as The Ardua Hall Holograph, also known as "The Testaments", whose provenance is in question. There is an identical response to Offred's recordings of her experience as a handmaid which were published as "The Handmaid's Tale". Aunt Lydia is portrayed in The Testaments as a woman who accepts that she must do what is necessary to stay alive, but quietly tries to work within the system to pursue a measure of justice and fairness and compassion.

The novel is framed by a lecture read by Professor James Darcy Pieixoto at the 13th Symposium on Gileadean Studies, in 2197. The Handmaid's Tale is framed by Pieixoto's lecture at the Gileadean Symposium in 2195.


Serena Davies of The Daily Telegraph described The Testaments as "a lurid and powerful sequel." She concluded "Atwood has given us a blockbuster of propulsive, almost breathless narrative, stacked with twists and turns worthy of a Gothic novel."[6]

In an interview by Martha Teichner, for CBS News Sunday Morning, Atwood insisted the novel contains "tons of hope— lots and lots of hope" when questioned about the premise.[7] Michiko Kakutani, writing for The New York Times, contrasts Atwood's thesis of writing one's testimony being an "act of hope", against the "the pompous, myopic Gileadean scholars who narrate the satirical epilogues" of both The Handmaid's Tale and The Testaments.[8]

Relationship to television series[edit]

The novel includes some details that were created specifically for the television series, such as the Agnes and Baby Nicole storylines. Because The Testaments is set fifteen years after the original novel, the setting of the television series is several years away from directly portraying events from of the second novel.[citation needed]

Audio book. The book was serialised in 15 quarter-hour episodes by the BBC Radio 4 (Book at Bedtime) in October 2019[citation needed]

Bruce Miller, producer of the television series, has acknowledged the new novel's storyline will be taken into account as the series continues.[9]


External links[edit]