Per Ardua Cum Estrus
But among these bloody fingerprints are those made by ourselves, and these can’t be wiped away so easily. Over the years I’ve buried a lot of bones; now I’m inclined to dig them up again-if only for your edification, my unknown reader.— The Ardua Hall Hollograph
Under his Eye, I got to finish the sequel of The Handmaid’s Tale after nights spent in Gilead! For those of you who are not familiar with the fictional universe of the novel, I highly recommend to read the first novel, as it’s an important piece of art in world literature and I’m sure you will not regret to invest time in such an intense book. Indeed, intensity is a word that describes Margaret Atwood’s work and it can have a physical effect on its readers (chills, insomnia and the urge to keep turning and turning the pages). Also, it builds a soundproof bubble around, so no one can bother your read- believe me, I lost track of time, space and my parents for a while.
Coming back to the book itself,the story from The Testaments is told from three different perspectives that intertwine at some point in history: The Ardua Hall Holograph and Witness Testimonies 369 A and 369 B. Each storyteller adds an insight detail to the bigger picture of the society with which we got acquainted in the first novel, Gilead. Now, handmaids are not the focus and June/Offred is not even part of it. There are some hints referring to a handmaid who escaped from Gilead with her child, but we never learn if she was our strong June or not. However, we get to learn more about the life of other women in a society where they are oppressed and ruled by men serving a cruel God: daughters and aunts. This way, we discover that Gilead is in fact a fruit that looks flawless on the outside and is completely rotten inside. Self-destruction is the path to its ruin. Page by page, we see it getting nearer and seeds of disaster are planted everywhere, ready to grow and flourish.
Along the way, every chapter comes with a new surprise and old “friends” make their appearance as well. The story flows nicely and it’s impossible to stop reading sometimes, but there are parts where everything is rushed towards the end. I’m glad it is different from the series, as I couldn’t watch thoroughly because I lost my interest. This book has been like a remedy and a satisfying answer for the fall of Gilead we’ve all been wondering about.
All the bits about life (if we can call it that) in this fictional prison frightened me and gave me chills, even though it’s almost impossible for a society to reach a dystopian totalitarianism like this. It gives you a lot of questions and ideas to take in consideration, it makes you imagine yourself in the situation of those women who lived after imaginary rules created by people who didn’t value them at all or who didn’t even consider them human beings. You start to think of what survival and sacrifice mean, if it’s worth losing your identity (becoming a piece in a huge mad puzzle) or keeping it and how. And if you did, would it matter? For some people, under the right mask, it would.
For those of you who have read the novel, here is a review that contains spoilers. Praised be, I warned you !
Well, I couldn’t hold it in me for long: she is back!
Aunt Lydia is back, not June, and that makes me really happy, as our favorite aunt turned out to be a complex and mysterious character, not just the mean, heartless woman in the series. The brain behind the greatest plans of that system, Aunt Lydia impressed me with her cold blood, toughness, intelligence and wit, but also the power she had gained. She was by far the best character, being followed by Agnes and Nicole, whom I disliked to the end of the book.
I was really curios (and I’m sure I’m not the only one) about how it all started and the role the aunts have played in the making of Gilead. Also, Agnes brings some light in the life of a young girl whose only holy task in the world is to marry and have children-nothing new under the sun after all. The Vidala School, the marriage arrangements, the secret plans and murders- they were all necessary for completing a spherical image of that reality. Agnes’ feelings of despair felt genuine and made me emphasize with her character.
Well, Baby Nicole is alive and grown up. Her story seemed a little childish, especially when she was living with her sister and Becka , because she was younger and hadn’t experienced the rough years in Gilead. I expected her to be part of this novel, but I suspected Agnes to be her sister at the middle, it hadn’t been very obvious. I loved that the three points of view manage to crystallize and form a heartbreaking narrative. The end containing Lydia’s last words were moving, but also intriguing: she will die for being a traitor of Gilead, but was she ever a traitor of her own beliefs?
I believe that the author gave us the sequel we all expected, answered our questions and rose others, touching some profound cords in every reader’s soul.