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The Handmaid’s Tale

Margaret Atwood is writing a Handmaid’s Tale sequel

The Testaments will be set 15 years after the first feminist dystopian thriller

After hinting at a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale in her recent audiobook adaption for Audible, fans will be pleased to hear that author Margaret Atwood has confirmed that she will return to the world of Gilead, with a book sequel titled The Testaments. It’s to be set 15 years after Offred’s final scene, and is expected to be published in September 2019.

Since The Handmaid’s Tales initial release in 1985, it has sold more than eight million copies around the world. Coinciding with contemporary discussions on women’s rights, abortion rights and sexual harassment, the novel has seen a newfound resurgence in its readership. The success of the 2017 TV series remake – starring Elisabeth Olsen – also brought the novel to the forefront of the pop culture conversation. That year, Atwood remained in the Sunday Times bestseller list for 16 weeks.

Interestingly the recognisable red robe and white bonnet of the handmaidens has since been used as a powerful symbol of female oppression. It was most recently adopted by protesters at demonstrations supporting abortion rights in Argentina, the Isle of Man and Ireland, as well as the September hearings for Brett Kavanaugh. Last year, we spoke to demonstrators who wore robes and bonnets to protest Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, following multiple allegations of assault.

In a note, Atwood wrote: “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.”

Atwood didn’t directly reference the Trump administration as inspiration, but the press release notes that it is “a symbol of the movement against him, standing for female empowerment and resistance in the face of misogyny and the rolling back of women’s rights around the world”.

The original novel ended with Offred being taken away in a van by people who claim to be members of the underground resistance. It hasn’t been made clear whether the sequel will continue with Offred as a narrator. The sequel however will not follow the continued story of the Hulu TV series, which went beyond the original source material. 

The deputy publishing director at Chatto & Windus told the Guardian: “As a society, we’ve never needed Margaret Atwood more…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”

The new book will be the author’s first novel since the Hag-Seed, a Shakespeare-inspired book, in 2016.