Over thirty years after the release of her groundbreaking novel The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood has announced her newest project—the sequel nobody expected but everyone wanted. The Testaments is set for publication in September 2019, with an initial release of 500,000 copies and a hardcover price of $27.95. Given that The Handmaid’s Tale has sold over 8 million copies, it would seem history isn’t the only thing that Atwood’s going to make ($$$). Here’s what else we know so far.
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Atwood has revealed that The Testaments is set fifteen years after the events of the original story, and she’s also confirmed that three female narrators will guide readers through the frightening and frighteningly relevant world of Gilead. It’s important to note that there is no connection between the novel and the new TV series, meaning that any onscreen world-building in Gilead may not reflect the story Atwood tells. She describes her source of inspiration:
Dear 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.
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Critics are thrilled for the new release, with Knopf Doubleday Editor-in-Chief Sonny Mehta calling Atwood’s work “timely” and “legendary.” And she’s correct—in addition to her astounding prose, Atwood’s biting feminist commentary and deep understanding of cultural factors have kept the book in print for decades. In today’s political context (think #MeToo), Atwood’s work is especially relevant. Notoriously, The Handmaid’s Tale returned to the bestseller list immediately after Donald Trump assumed the presidency due to fears surrounding the administration’s possible impact on women’s rights. Atwood has commented on its universality:
When it first came out it was viewed as being far-fetched; however, when I wrote it I was making sure I wasn’t putting anything into it that human beings had not already done somewhere at some time.
The novel may be timeless—but given the political climate, it’s about time.
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