The Testaments

New Margaret Atwood now on sale. Anyone already got a copy? I’m thinking of buying it today. I remember reading The Handmaids Tale when I was an A level student and found it terrifying and now here we are. 

One of the reviews quoted a line from it: history doesn’t repeat itself but it rhymes. Quite prophetic. Maybe Bojo and Trump should get themselves a copy super quick. 

Can Trump actually read though?

I will definitely be getting a copy of this.

You think the UK and US are like Gilead!?

You think the UK and US are like Gilead!?

The women fighting for their reproductive rights in the US and Northern Ireland have evidently passed you by...

Err, no, they haven't.  That does not make it like Gilead.

No, it makes it like how Gilead is supposed to have started.

You think something like Gilead happens all at once? Or through the slow drip, drip, drip of removal of reproductive rights, the closure of health clinics, the restrictions on access to medical help...all of which are happening in the US right now.

Well if it's any consolation, if it goes that way I'll be one of the protestors hiding my little girls in a shed and being gunned down in the street.

By that time it's likely too late. Why not be alert to the risk of starting down that path, rather than accuse people drawing the parallel as being alarmist?

This argument that "[insert real or fictional dystopia] started with [initial step] therefore if [initial step] happens, then it's as bad as [real or fictional dystopia], shows intent to arrive at [real or fictional dystopia] or is inevitably going to lead to [real or fictional dystopia]" is extremely sketchy, particularly where the dystopia in question is fictional.

I think that one of the most effective things about the Handmaid's Tale is the way it's made clear that before Gilead the world was more or less as we know it now. It's not supposed to be a parallel world, it's supposed to be this world. It's supposed to make us think that we are one environmental disaster or one political coup away from our world changing beyond recognition.

In terms of women's rights specifically, we have a tendency to think there is only progress and not regression. But when you see what is happening with women's reproductive rights in America, or the difference between women's lives in Afghanistan in the mid to late 20th century, compared to what it was like under the Taliban, that's not always the case.

And although in the UK (Northern Ireland aside) we are not doing too badly with regard to women's rights, we are currently undergoing a lesson in how democracy can be exploited and misused. How technology and propaganda can be used to convince people that they want things which are not in their own interests, and to vote for people who actively wish them harm. How the fact that we don't have a codified constitution is enabling Boris Johnson and his cronies to test our democracy and our rule of law and parliamentary sovereignty to their limits. There has even been talk of martial law being imposed in the event of a no deal Brexit. Obviously I hope we never come anywhere close to that, but these are all reasons to be extra specially freaked out by the Handmaid's Tale right now. It does hit rather close to home at the moment. We cannot reassure ourselves by thinking, "that would never happen here".

(Incidentally, I think that is why the Handmaid's Tale made very little impression on me when I originally read it, in about 2000. It was just a simpler time.)

Being aware of the danger and pointing it out is not the same as saying "as bad as" or "inevitably going to lead to."

I am thanks, that's why I always vote for people I think are least likely to hold/promote/facilitate those values.  I just think "now here we are" was an unhelpful over-statement.

PP, was there a reason why you missed off my third thing? Is it because that's what people are doing? 

Anyway, campaigning against things and arguing for why they are intrinsically bad is far more useful and effective than making some spurious argument that it could lead to a dystopian vision you read about in a fictional book. The latter also breeds a hysteria that is not conducive to constructive rational argument.

I read HT in the 80s - I intend to re-read it and then read the Testaments.  Atwood is a brilliant writer and I have read most of her novels.   

Part of what makes something "intrinsically bad" is what it could lead to. If some have the foresight and intelligence to see the dangers and can create a vision that makes it concrete and that vision resonates with people then, well, that's the power of art and literature.

Bought it on pre order and devoured it last night after work. It’s a quick read. 

Great novel, Atwood is a fantastic writer. It’s not as compelling as THT though, partly because it is more of a heroic novel and also I think because now we have the tv series as a reference and it has started a lot of the world building that Atwood does as well as being, in my view, visually too gorgeous

IIRC the premise of Handmaid's Tale is that there has been a catastrophic decline in fertility for an unclear reason. This seems to be skipped over a little in the televised version.

So? We don't need a catastrophic decline in fertility in order for women's reproductive rights to be taken away or democracy to be overthrown.

No, we don't, but the world of the novel isn't really just like our own. It's a minor point.

The chilling thing about THT is that Atwood only includes things that had happened somewhere at sometime in real life. So although it’s not like our world it’s an amalgam of lots of oppressive things that have been done round the world at various points in history. 

I find Atwood mostly quite boring

have you read alias grace? totally boring

so I probably won't read this one (although HT was not boring but maybe that was a lucky one-off)


"particularly where the dystopia in question is fictional."

in response to this, what Toronto said 

human beings are innately awful

I don't find it chilling so much as quotidian

did you know Ed Gein kept a box of nine vulvas in his living room?

learnt this from a podcast yesterday

Struggling through Alias Grace atm Clergham. Bit of a slog. I liked the Oryx and Crake trilogy though

It's like yes yes male gaze, medicine, patriarchy, the law, insanity, unrecognised domestic drudgery I GET IT just skip to the murders pls