This was a second read because it was a reading group selection. My first review is here:
My opinion: I really don’t think this book should have tied for the Booker Prize this year. It’s not THAT good but it’s the sequel. I figure The Handmaid’s Tale, the first book in this series of two, surpassed expectations in becoming an extraordinarlily popular tome, a phenomenon (in its own way) and although it made the Booker Short List back in 1985, it likely should have won the biggie that year. Or so we think 15 years later following a successful movie and television series. But the powers-that-be missed it at the time. Okay fine. But giving Atwood the top prize for the sequel? No, no, no…. in so many ways, no!
The Testaments by Margatet Atwood 2020 / 421 pages read by Derek Jacobi – 15h 18m rating: 8.5 / literary sci-fi (read and listened)
But it’s happened before. For instance, my favorite example is Tim Winton winning the Booker Prize in 1994 for a so-so book called The Riders which is NOT one of his best. He should have won the prize four years earlier, in 1990, for Cloudstreet – a masterpiece of literature and the book he’s famous for – his magum opus, imo.
I totally understand missing a book’s importance within a year of publication, but I do NOT understand giving the prize to that author for a mediocre subsequent book 15 years later! That feels like a consolation prize.
The Testaments is a very good science fiction type book – part ideas, part thriller – set in the future, with some science bits – mostly a social science emphasis. It’s like Atwood’s sci-fi trilogy, the Oryx and Crake books, in some ways. She claims she’s NOT a sci-fi author but that’s malarkey – a different definition of sci-fi.
Atwood truly created a world when she wrote The Handmaid’s Tale. Creating a world is often the most important part of a good sci-fi book. In The Testaments she continues working with that same world by developing a structure in which several characters alternate in the telling of a complex tale. The main characters are kind of flat which is common in sci-fi. They have multiple names and are easily conflated. I think that device used here helps build tension as the reader doesn’t quite know what’s happening to whom or which character knows what.
Read The Handmaid’s Tale first then read The Testaments. And read Girl, Woman Other by Bernardine Evaristo whenever you want – soon. (That’s the book which tied with The Testaments – it’s great.)