Atwood’s Masterpiece Arrives in Kāpiti

YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST! SAYS RALPH McALLISTER

Kaye Clarke, with Margaret Atwood’s latest book at Coastlands Paper Plus

Margaret Atwood ‘s The Testaments was published worldwide on Tuesday last week, I read the 400 pages on Thursday and write to you, dear readers, as Atwood would say, on the morning after, reports Ralph McAllister.

The sequel to her 1985 The Handmaid’s Tale has been a long time coming.
Not that she has been exactly resting in the meantime.

By my count there have been seventeen other novels and much poetry, and many essays since The Handmaid’s Tale.

The sequel to her 1985 The Handmaid’s Tale has been a long time coming.

Not that she has been exactly resting in the meantime.
I would suggest, without equivocation, that The Testaments is her masterpiece.

The opening leads us straight back to Puritan patriarchal Giliad where the fight for survival makes cannibals of us all.

Not quite perhaps, but near enough.

Aunt Lydia shares her secrets with us, as the battles for control of Giliad are fought with increasing doses of fake news,deceit and collaboration.

Not for the faint-hearted

The stories, and there are many, are not for the faint-hearted.

Aunt Lydia dominates after surviving extreme torture as part of her introduction to hierarchical work.

Two young initiates obnoxious Daisy and faithful Agnes share the telling of some of the events, but not so intimately as Lydia.

Most of the men are despicable.

But while the desire for control is endemic it is not simply just male versus female.

Atwood is too clever .

Loyalties are shredded, murders committed and the future remains doubtful.

Sound grim?

Don’t forget the indomitable humour which has always been part of the Atwood arsenal.
For example:
Lydia describes herself having ” a sack-of-potatoes body”

Note the hyphens

Or

  ‘.”So kind of you to tell me ” I said.
The muscles of my face were beginning to hurt. Under some conditions smiling is a workout.’

Or
“The Commander stuck his mouth onto my forehead in a chaste kiss,
His lips were unpleasantly warm ; they made a sucking sound as they pulled away.
I pictured a tiny morsel of my brain being sucked through the skin of my forehead into his mouth. A thousand such kisses later and my skull would be emptied of brain.”Or
“The Commander stuck his mouth onto my forehead in a chaste kiss,
His lips were unpleasantly warm ; they made a sucking sound as they pulled away.
I pictured a tiny morsel of my brain being sucked through the skin of my forehead into his mouth. A thousand such kisses later and my skull would be emptied of brain.”

It is very rarely that I devote an entire column to one book but, let me insist, this is a rare and precious novel.

Booker?

Of course.
Even with my failure rate of predictions, The Testaments will surely win and be talked about for just as long as The Handmaid’s Tale.

If you can only afford to buy one book a year, this is it.

So get down to Paper Plus and queue up for Atwood’s masterpiece .

Ralph

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