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Booker Prize 2019 Shortlist: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood



This is the 6th book that Atwood has had shortlisted for the Booker Prize in its various incarnations.

I don’t think anyone was surprised that this made the shortlist but how do we feel now that we have actually read it…

Synopsis from Booker Prize website: More than fifteen 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

Book Worm’s Thoughts: This is a hard book to review without giving spoilers what I can say is that it is a blend of the original book and the TV show. I personally feel that the beauty of the original book was that Offred was an unknown woman captured in time she had no past and no future with this book you lose that.

I liked the older woman’s narrative the most as this showed the role of women in Gilead and tackled the behind the scenes politics and blackmail, it also highlighted a practical consideration that I hadn’t thought about before. While I enjoyed the other 2 narratives I felt they would have been better if like the original book they had been “every women” instead of specific characters.

The historical notes at the end of the book still rock as they did in the original.

Why this could win: This is the literary event of the year there are literally thousands of readers and viewers who are invested in what happens in Gilead and how the repressive regime is bought down.

Why it might not win: For the reasons above, this book doesn’t need the extra kudos it has that in spades already. Personally I feel it dilutes the beauty of the original work. The judges will probably go for a lesser known author and book.

Anita’s Thoughts:  I’m still in the midst of this one (at the 50% mark), but I’m not going to lie; this book is everything I would want a sequel to be.   And I haven’t seen the television show at all, so that hasn’t influenced me.  5 stars for enjoyment.  Honestly, I will not cry one tear if it wins even though it isn’t my first choice for the prize.

Why this could win: It’s a sequel to a true classic – – accessible, clever, and completely engaging to boot.

Why it might not win:  It really isn’t the literary masterwork that the Handsmaid’s Tale was/is, and if that is the bar, it’s too high.  It has mass appeal to fans and has a bestseller feel to it.  Not the usual for a Booker prize winner.

Nicole’s Thoughts:  The Handmaid’s Tale has become such a huge part of pop culture (and women’s nightmares.)  The book was fantastic, and the television show elevated it even further.  Atwood NAILED it.

We know it well, and as exciting as it was to know The Testaments was coming, the book just couldn’t live up to the hype.  We’re numb.   It was great that Atwood wanted to give a gift to her fans, but there really are no surprises left.    I know know if she was trying to be stealthy with the reveal, but I guessed the outcome in the first chapters.

To boil it down – Atwood deserves to be revered and lauded for The Handmaid’s Tale.  The Testaments is more like fanfic.  I enjoyed it well enough, but it made no impact on me and I don’t think it deserves a spot on the Booker list.

Why this could win:  Belated acknowledgement of The Handmaid’s Tale

Why it might not win:  Just not good enough.

Tracy’s Thoughts: Over the years I’ve had a love hate relationship with Margaret Atwood’s books. My favorite is The Handmaid’s Tale, and to say that I was highly anticipating this book is an understatement.

It was a bit of a letdown. Don’t get me wrong- I did enjoy it. I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads. I was riveted by the story and the pace. I enjoyed the Aunt’s narration and her determination.

But the two girls were pretty bland, and the story seemed more geared toward continuing the TV show than following up the book. Since I haven’t seen the show, I was lost at times. It honestly felt like fan fiction, if it’s possible for a book written by Margaret Atwood to be fan fiction of Margaret Atwood’s book.

Why this could win:   It’s Margaret Atwood. It’s timely and has the feels.

Why it might not win: This was a good story, but I feel it didn’t deserve to be shortlisted. It seemed to be a continuance of the TV show, rather than The Handmaid’s Tale.

Susie’s Thoughts: It’s no surprise that I had high hopes for this novel. I pre-ordered my copy and started reading it on the day it was published. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more excited to get a book into my hot little hands. I also don’t know if I’ve ever been more disappointed in a book. The Testaments was NOT what I was hoping for in any way, shape, or form. Atwood’s departure from the style of The Handmaid’s Tale could have worked if it was done with her usual skill, but to me it was like I was reading something written by a YA author, and not a great one at that. The plot was so obvious that I guessed what was going to happen straight away.  Where The Handmaid’s Tale was wonderfully ambiguous and full of nuance, The Testaments bashed me across the head with how obvious it was. The Handmaid’s Tale was incredibly powerful and moving, and The Testaments had the potential to make a statement about the role of misogyny in our current world. Unfortunately, for me it was a fail.

Why this could win: I honestly can’t find a reason why this would win, but I wouldn’t have put it in the shortlist let alone the longlist, so Murphy’s Law is that it will win!

Why it might not win: The Booker Prize is for literary fiction, and to me The Testaments doesn’t fall into that genre, so I don’t think it should take the prize.

Lisa’s Thoughts:  When I first started reading, I felt three things. First, it is so easy to read, it just pulls you along, and you don’t want to put it down. Second, I was afraid to keep reading, because I was afraid of what horrible things might happen. Third, I also didn’t want to read too fast because I did not want it to be over. It’s pretty amazing an author can create this sort of tension. Alas, the tension did not last, and the story lost some of its urgency and became more predictable over time.

Why this could win: Because it is Margaret Atwood, and the current political situation has these scary resonances with Gilead.

Why it might not win: It’s not ground-breaking in the way that The Handmaid’s Tale was. It is a sequel. The world has already been created.



3 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’ve been dithering about whether to read this because I’m seeing such mixed reactions from people who have. You haven’t made it any easier for me! I was given a copy free today when I popped into the library so I somehow feel obliged to read it though your comment “I feel it dilutes the beauty of the original work. ” is exactly why I am so nervous

    Liked by 1 person

    September 27, 2019
  2. I enjoyed it but mostly I enjoyed learning about Aunt Lydia!

    Liked by 2 people

    September 28, 2019
  3. pbtanita #

    I finished, and ended up at four stars overall. The beginning of the book was more intriguing then the end where it became more predictable. It doesn’t feel very Bookerish, but I still really enjoyed reading it. The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the most amazing classics, and I’m not sure anything could quite live up to it . . .but I found this book a creative and entertaining followup.

    Liked by 1 person

    September 28, 2019

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