Book review: The Testaments: A Novel by Margaret Atwood

I listen to The Testaments: a novel by Margaret Atwood while cat-walking at dawn. A long, red leash connects Buddy, my ‘cow cat,’ from his harness to the knot around my waist.

Overlaying the narrators, I hear the scolding of squirrels, the warbling conversations of magpies, and Buddy’s chattering reply. I also contribute to this cacophony, ejaculating groans of annoyance and sighs of acceptance. 

I’m conflicted by this book. 

The Testaments is the long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. Margaret Atwood is a Canadian icon. Even writing this review, I thought, “How dare I? Who am I to review her work?” 

My name is Anna, and I’m a reader. That’s reason enough. To deal with her implied, untouchable status, I refer to her as ‘Madge.’ I have no idea if she has a nickname. She seems too serious to be nickname-able, and for that reason, I give her one. I have to believe that everyday people can write great books. Madge feels more like a real person than Margaret.

I’m conflicted by this book because The Testaments reads like a Young Adult (YA) novel.

Before Madge’s trolls come after me, let me explain.

As I listened to this book, I found myself double-checking the bookseller’s description. Nope, it’s clearly not marketed as YA. I can accept dialogue that reflects the age of a young character. And I understand that young characters may not grasp what’s happening as quickly as an adult character, but the ‘slow-walk’ toward character realizations made me wonder. A few times I startled my cat and the magpies with a loud, “are you kidding me,” and even once shouted out the answer to Daisy’s question like a common TV game-show audience member. 

But after I finished the book, I felt at peace. I decided that for all the groans I uttered at the squirrels, it’s possible that this book isn’t meant for me. Maybe it’s meant for younger readers. Maybe they need to hear the wake-up call that if they’re not careful, they could find themselves in a world that is even more controlling than it is now. Losing your rights can happen slowly, bit by bit, until one day, the inconvenience of worrying about it is of more concern than the need to fight. Maybe Madge is trying to reach them before it’s too late.

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