Margaret Atwood's Sequel To The Handmaid's Tale Has Won The Booker Prize
It used to be the case that, unless it were assigned to you as a course text in high school or uni, it's more than likely that you may have only heard of iconic feminist dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale through the much-talked about TV adaptation it received a couple of years back. Now, Margaret Atwood's tale, in both novel form and the multi-dimensional series that it's spawned, stands as perhaps the most important piece of political literature of recent years.
Thankfully for fans of the book, Atwood, who also played a significant part in bringing the novel's TV adaptation to life, has finally brought its long-awaited sequel into fruition.
“Dear Readers,” wrote Atwood in a press release announcing the book last year. “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.”
This alludes to the novels resurgence in popularity in recent years, largely based upon the release of its TV adaptation coinciding with a number of movements surrounding gender equality, sexual harassment and abortion rights. Demonstrators dressed as the 'Handmaidens' in the story have even protested at different rallies around the world, making the red robe and white headwear portrayed in The Handmaid's Tale a de facto symbol of female oppression.
The book, titled The Testaments, takes place 15 years after the final events of The Handmaid's Tale, and will be narrated by three female characters. The book itself ends with heroine Offred being placed in a van that may deliver her to freedom outside the fictional state of Gilead, however despite the TV show continuing her story in its second season, her fate is left uncertain.
Instead, according to The Washington Post, the novel instead tells its story from the perspective of Aunt Lydia, who cuts a conflicted figure having risen as the "supreme matriarch of this masculine cult. 'I control the women’s side of their enterprise with an iron fist in a leather glove in a woolen mitten,' she says. 'And I keep things orderly: like a harem eunuch.'" ,
“As a society, we’ve never needed Margaret Atwood more,” said Becky Hardie, deputy publishing director at Chatto & Windus. “The moment the van door slams on Offred’s future at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the most brilliantly ambiguous endings in literature. I cannot wait to find out what’s been going on in Atwood’s Gilead – and what that might tell us about our own times.”
This, apparently, isn't something that's escaped Atwood, who according to most reviews has leaned heavily into her story's newfound identity as a signifier of the real-life modern political climate.
It's clearly struck the right chord, as it's already being praised as easily clearing the lofty bar set by her original work. In fact, alongside Bernardine Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other, it's just won the Booker Prize.
The Testaments' shared win marks the third time that the Booker Prize has been split between two recipients. In fact, the rules of the award previously banned awarding joint winners.
However after the judges' deliberation went for more than five hours, the chair announced that they had been unable to pick a single winner from the six books shortlist.
"It is an explicit flouting of the rules and they all understood that," said the prize’s literary director, Gaby Wood, said at a press conference. She repeatedly told the body it had to choose one winner. "It was a rebellious gesture but it was … a generous one."
Booker plans to donate the prize money to Canadian Indigenous charity Indspire.
The Testaments is out now at all major book stores.