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Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale Sequel, The Testaments, Will Take Us Back to Gilead

I'm not sure if this merits a "praise be" joke, though.

Most likely due the renewed interest generated in her work stirred up by the television adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, as well as the results of the 2016 presidential election, Margaret Atwood is finally going back to Gilead. 34 years after the original book was published, Atwood is now working on The Testaments, a new novel set fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale., featuring three of Gilead’s women as narrators this time around.

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On Twitter, Atwood wrote, “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.”

**Spoilers for the The Handmaid’s Tale will follow.**

It’s been a long time since I’ve read The Handmaid’s Tale, but 15 years after the fact seems fairly close to when Gilead itself falls, as detailed in the epilogue of the first novel. The Handmaid’s Tale ends with a fictional epilogue set years and years after the fall of Gilead, where a male professor recounts the problems of authenticating Offred’s story and gives us a brief look into what happened in Gilead following Offred’s final scene.

In the sequel, Atwood could take a more hopeful approach and promise the end of Gilead, rather than just telling stories about what happens under an oppressive rule without the catharsis of rebellion.

One of the characters who could very well be featured in the sequel is Hannah, Offred’s daughter. Fifteen years passing would make her a prime candidate for being one of the protagonists in the new novel, and she would provide a fascinating look at someone who was too young to fully remember a time before Gilead. She would also provide an emotional tie to the first book, as we never knew what happened to her after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale.

My initial reaction to the idea of a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale was disappointment, but the more I think about the potential, the more excited I become. I’d rather get more of Atwood’s take on Gilead than I would the Hulu adaptation’s, which has gone from feminist commentary to a commodification of female pain.

I feel as though Atwood will hopefully be able to cover new ground with the novel and explore Gilead without veering into the show’s realm of all-day torture. The emphasis on three female characters means we might see women in different positions of “power” in Gilead, which could help illuminate different aspects of the society.

The Testaments seems like a better continuation of Offred’s world than the show does, currently. Here’s hoping that no one adapts this into a TV show that burns through the source material and then relies on violence for shock value and trying to get us to feel bad for Serena Joy through an uneven second season.

The Testaments will be published in 2019.

(via BuzzFeed News, image: Hulu)

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Kate Gardner
Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.

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