Good news, Handmaid fans! Margaret Atwood just announced she will deliver a sequel to her dystopian classic, The Handmaid’s Tale, next year.
To be titled The Testaments (Random House), Atwood promises readers, “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.” (Gilead, for those few souls who might not know, refers to the repressive Puritan-like regime that takes over the United States after a revolution.)
Published in 1985, The Handmaid’s Tale was also inspired by world events. In the early 1980s, AIDS was spreading, there was famine in Ethiopia, the Equal Rights Amendment fell short of ratification and the ozone layer frayed over Antarctica. In the novel, there is ecological devastation, suppression of women’s rights, forced surrogate motherhood, a religious military dictatorship and a toxic patriarchy. One can only imagine what kind of social dysfunction Atwood will create based on more recent events.
Set 15 years after the close of The Handmaid’s Tale, the new book will be the stories of three female narrators, and will be published in September 2019 by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday.
The Hulu TV series based on The Handmaid’s Tale ran for 23 episodes over two seasons, ending in July. Critics gave both seasons rave reviews; Sarah Cullen in the Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies called it “an almost unparalleled triumph for television.” The series collected six Emmy Awards, and it’s been renewed for a third season.
Both The Handmaid’s Tale and the second season of the television series ends with various characters possibly escaping the oppressive totalitarian society, possibly heading to the Colonies, a polluted, radioactive area with a low life expectancy but fewer state controls. We’ll all have to wait, but what happens next is sure to be revealed in The Testaments.
In the 33 years since it was published, The Handmaid’s Tale has never gone out of print; during the past two years, buoyed by the popularity of the TV series, it spent 88 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
In 1987, the book won the Arthur C. Clark Award for science fiction. (Atwood considered The Handmaid’s Tale speculative fiction, and explained the difference saying science fiction is writing about things that haven’t happened yet, and speculative fiction concerns things that already have; most of her dozens of other books are not in these genres.)
The book was nominated for Nebula and Prometheus awards, also honoring sci-fi; nominated for a Booker Prize, and in Canada, won the Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction.
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ABOUT MARGARET ATWOOD:
Margaret Atwood, whose work has been published in over thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, her novels include Cat’s Eye, shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; and her most recent, Oryx and Crake, shortlisted for the 2003 Booker Prize. She lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.