I won’t say I was overly excited about reading this book. I’ll just say that I preordered it three months ago and when it finally arrived last week, I tried to finish the book I was reading as fast as I could (I still had time to write a review for it though) so I could immerse myself in the revolting and repugnant world of the Gilead.
My largest fear: that all my efforts will prove futile, and Gilead will last for a thousand years. Most of the time, that is what it feels like here, far away from the war, in the still heart of the tornado. So peaceful, the streets; so tranquil, so orderly; yet underneath the deceptively placid surfaces, a tremor, like that near a high voltage power line. We’re stretched thin, all of us; we vibrate; we quiver, we’re always on the alert. Reign of terror, they used to say, but terror does not exactly reign. Instead it paralyzes. Hence the unnatural quiet.
As expected, the writer did answer to most of the questions that readers kept asking after the first book: what happened to Offred? how did the Gilead find its end? We know this now. The book’s definitely added to the storyline in quantity, but did it do anything else?
For me, The Testaments was nothing more than a young adult fiction book. It felt like that. In A Handmaid’s Tale, nobody really cared about the action (or at least I didn’t), because there were more important things at stake. The message itself mattered more than anything else and this is what I love in Atwood’s books. However, here the conspiracy and the thrill of the escape where the main focuses. Apart from some secondary characters working for the Mayday (about whom we don’t find out anything of importance), nobody in The Testaments is really driven by a belief in freedom. Not even Aunt Lydia, whose controversial attitude towards everything that’s going on (is she trying to destroy the Gilead only because she knows she might lose her power?) makes her seemingly noble actions not very inspiring.
Yes, I’m disappointed in this book, but I don’t think there’s something wrong with it. There was something wrong with my expectations of it. I wanted a manifesto, and I got just a book with a story and a plot and characters. I wanted this book to make me shout Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, but it just made me whisper it.
But there are some parts in it that are manifesto material. Feminism is still at the base of this book but it doesn’t make it to the reader as much as I’d expected it.
What my father was doing in there was said to be very important – the important things that men did, too important for females to meddle with because they had smaller brains that were incapable of thinking large thoughts, according to aunt Vidala, who taught us Religion. It would be like trying to teach a cat to crochet, said Aunt Estée, who taught us Crafts, and that would make us laugh, because how ridiculous! Cats didn’t even have fingers!
So men had something in their heads that was like fingers, only a sort of fingers girls did not have. And that explained everything, said Aunt Vidala, and we will have no more questions about it. Her mouth clicked shut, locking in the other words that might have been said. I knew there must be other words, for even the notion about the cats did not seem right. Cats did not want to crochet. And we were not cats.
What I really appreciated about this book was that it talked about more specific problems in our culture. In A Handmaid’s Tale, it’s been talked about equality and freedom in general, but The Testaments raises the issue of (sexual) abuse and of the lack of sexual education or a poorly taught sexual education that causes more damage than it helps.
Women are only one of the commodities – I hesitate to call them commodities, but when money is in the picture, such they are (…).
Women are not commodities (anymore), but do they still get treated as if they were?