July 10, 2021

From Gerald R. Lucas

The Testaments

I’ve been reading Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments for a few days, and it’s engaging. Like, The Handmaid’s Tale, this novel is epistolary, and has three separate narrators with three separate narratives that appear to be converging. The first narrator is Aunt Lydia, writing in a journal about ten years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale. She details events leading up to her becoming one of the first “Aunts,” and her subsequent relationship to Commander Judd and some of the other powerful Aunts in Ardua Hall. She is educated and political, having been a judge before the coup led to Gilead. I think one of the fascinating aspects of Lydia’s narrative is what they borrowed for the last two seasons of The Handmaid’s Tale TV series. One: she is not a die-hard supporter of Gilead, and this could come out soon as they try to put her out to pasture. They obviously tortured her in the wake of June’s freeing a planeful of children.

Lydia’s always been fascinating, especially played by Anne Dowd. In one scene she is sympathetic and kind, in another she is domineering and cruel. After being stabbed by Emily at the end of the second season, her power and authority begins to slip, and she becomes more desperate to hold on to it.

The other narrators in Testaments are two teenage girls: Agnes, who is the “daughter” of a commander in Gilead, and Daisy, who turns out to be Baby Nicole—another plot point that the TV show borrowed from Atwood, though ot quite in the same way.

I’m about 60% finished with the novel, and these narratives are starting to converge.