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The Testaments – A Review

I bought The Testaments with my audible credit. Audible is free for 30 days and then £7.99 a month afterwards, for which you get one credit which can be used against any book of your choice, no matter what the cost. This post will contain affiliate links to both Audible and Waterstones which is my bookshop of choice.

The Testaments

Author: Margaret Atwood Publisher: Vintage Publishing
ISBN: 9781784742324
Number of pages: 432
Weight: 667 g
Dimensions: 240 x 162 x 39 mm

The Blurb

Launched to widespread acclaim at our flagship Piccadilly shop, Margaret Atwood’s Booker-winning sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale is undoubtedly the story for our times.

Picking up ten years after its predecessor’s tantalisingly open-ended conclusion, The Testaments provides a new window into Atwood’s dystopian world, as seen through the eyes of three women of Gilead: a girl brought up within its confines, another on the run beyond its walls, and a woman at the very heart of the regime’s dark designs with secrets of her own. Each has a unique perspective on the world of Gilead and each will be crucial in deciding its fate.

Effortlessly combining a piercing critique of gender, oppression and authoritarianism with the whip-smart pace of the purest literary thriller, The Testaments is devastating in its immediacy whilst remaining a timeless piece of faultless storytelling.

The Testaments on Audible

Narrated by: Ann Dowd, Bryce Dallas Howard, Mae Whitman, Derek Jacobi, Tantoo Cardinal, Margaret Atwood

Length: 13 hrs and 18 : Fiction, Literary

I enjoyed the recording as each main characters story had a different narrator which I think always makes a listening more enticing. You get to know more of the person in the story rather than reading it all in one voice. Each character is brought to life.

My Verdict on The Testaments

I will confess that the first time I read The prequel to The Testaments, The Handmaid’s Tale was only last year. So I didn’t have so long a wait as many for the sequel. I have not seen the television series although from those who I have spoken too have said it was good.

After listening to The Testaments I was left with a few questions which were kindly answered by friends, but more about that later.

I did actually enjoy The Testaments in it’s own right although it was very different to the Handmaid’s Tale. The story was less of the fear of what may become of the the future and more of an adventure tale. The feel of the whole story was very different.

Margaret Atwood claimed she set out to answer questions she’d been asked about The Handmaid’s Tale but although it does give some insight into how Gilead came about, it doesn’t really answer much. I think it could even be read on it’s own, without having read the Handmaid’s Tale. Although, you’d probably be confused as to what the actual role of a handmaid was.

The Daughter’s Tales

The story revolves around the daughter’s of Offred, the main character in the Handmaid’s Tale and this is where my questions began. In the book we see Offred being carted off in a van by ‘Mayday’ with her future unknown and only the notion that she was pregnant. We already know that she had an older daughter but she had no idea what had happened to her.

Apparently in the television series it takes the story a little further and her baby is born before she escapes.

I became confused as to why they made such a big fuss about Offred’s baby when in the book she had not even been sure of her pregnancy or the parentage of the baby.

In the Testaments this baby is now a teen being brought up by adoptive parents and is sent back into Gilead on a mission to bring the regime down.

Offred’s older child is in Gilead being raised by adoptive parents, and when her mother dies her step mother wants her to be married off. She decides that she wants to become an aunt instead. The aunts are Gilead’s version of nuns.

The two children meet, not knowing they have the same birth mother but end up helping each other.

I think a lot of my confusion in the plot came from The Testaments relying on it’s readers having watched the television series which I felt was disappointing. Friends who had watched the television series where able to answer some questions for me.

Final Thoughts

I did really enjoy listening to The Testaments on Audible. I feel that if I’d had a physical copy I’d have a spent a lot more time trying to tie things in with the two books. I’m still not sure if that would have been wasted time. So, although I enjoyed the story I felt it had a very different feel to the first book and it left a lot more questions than answers.

You can buy a hard copy of the book from Waterstones for £17.99 Paperback version will be released soon.

Or you can listen on Audible for 1 credit or £31.99

Audible is free for the first 30 days and then £7.99 per month afterwards which gives you one credit.

Have you read The Testaments?

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The Binding – Bridget Collins, book review

The Binding, book cover
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: The Borough Press (10 Jan. 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0008272115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0008272111
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 3.9 x 22.7 cm

You can buy this gorgeous hardback copy of the Binding on Amazon for just £8.53 Also available in paperback, kindle edition and Audible My links are affiliate links which will cost you no more to click through and purchase but may earn me some pennies.

I listened to The Binding on Audible narrated by Karl Prekopp.

The Blurb for The Binding

Imagine you could erase your grief.
Imagine you could forget your pain.
Imagine you could hide a secret.
Forever.

Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a letter arrives summoning him to begin an apprenticeship. He will work for a Bookbinder, a vocation that arouses fear, superstition and prejudice – but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

He will learn to hand-craft beautiful volumes, and within each he will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, he can help. If there’s something you need to erase, he can assist. Your past will be stored safely in a book and you will never remember your secret, however terrible.

In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, row upon row of books – and memories – are meticulously stored and recorded.

Then one day Emmett makes an astonishing discovery: one of them has his name on it.

THE BINDING is an unforgettable, magical novel: a boundary-defying love story and a unique literary event.

My Verdict on The Binding

As I already stated, I listened to this book on Audible, but I’m a little envious of the beautiful cover and I may even be tempted to buy a hardback version. It’s quite a long book a whole fifteen and a half hours on Audible. But, I couldn’t stop listening. The narrator was gentle and lent himself perfectly to the story, but I have to admit, he did also send me to sleep a couple of times and I had to rewind.

The story itself is like nothing I’ve read before, it’s a world that is so like this one but more historical, but it’s a world were books are more like drugs than reading material. There are novels which are made up stories, but most books are peoples memories, stored away in pages. Some sell their memories for others to read. Others pay to have their memories removed. But once those memories are bound into books they no longer belong to the original owner.

The book is written in three parts. The first is a little strange and it’s hard to figure out if you are reading a normal story or some sci-fi novel. Nothing is made perfectly clear, but it’s understandable because the main character has already been to a book binder and had his memories erased. This, in turn, showed that he had the talent to bind himself and was taken on as an apprentice.

The Second part fills in all the missing pieces as the main character finds his book and remembers everything. But as soon as this part of the story is told we are taken back to the place where his book was found and the story is taken over by someone else. Then the two characters work together to find out the truth.

It’s a really interesting concept and shows what lengths people will go to to erase their memoires. It also shows how other people can be manipulated by having their memories erased. It also touches on social differences where the rich pay for memory erasal and for books of other’s memories, and where the poor sell their memories for cash.

It certainly has a philosopical edge as to how much of real life is put into books and how much people crave to read about a different life. It made me think of Jostien Gaarder’s ‘Sophie’s World.’

The main theme of this story though, is not the philosophical stanse, but a coming of age love story. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, it’s very unsual and the love story is not even conventional. Personally though, I enjoyed it thoroughly and would definitely like that hardbound copy for my ‘pretty’ book collection.

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What I’ve been reading in August, Matt Haig.

With the kids around I’ve not been able to read so much. That and the fact that I’ve been a teensy bit distracted by Netflix. I did manage some reading on holiday but not as much as I’d hoped. I thought I’d be spending time sitting on the beach reading, but sadly it wasn’t as hot and sunny as I’d have liked, so we spent more time visiting places than sitting around. Having time to read isn’t good but I have managed to indulge a little in a couple of books by Matt Haig.

Matt Haig

How to stop time, kiss. How to travel in time, read. How to escape time, music. How to feel time, write. How to release time, breathe. Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive.

In May, I read my first my Matt Haig book, The Humans.

I really enjoyed it, it certainly gave you a different perspective on human qualities good and bad. Since reading it I was determined to read more of Matt Haig, I loved his gentle story telling.

The Next Matt Haig book was a little different. I decided to read The Radleys.

The Blurb

Life with the Radleys: Radio 4, dinner parties with the Bishopthorpe neighbours and self-denial. Loads of self-denial. But all hell is about to break loose. When teenage daughter Clara gets attacked on the way home from a party, she and her brother Rowan finally discover why they can’t sleep, can’t eat a Thai salad without fear of asphyxiation and can’t go outside unless they’re smothered in Factor 50.

With a visit from their lethally louche uncle Will and an increasingly suspicious police force, life in Bishopthorpe is about to change. Drastically.

My Review

I’m a big fan of sci-fi and fantasy, which is probably why Matt Haig appeals to me. I’m also a fan of psychology and Matt Haig likes to take his characters apart and look at how they work. This family is a little unusual as they are Vampires. I know that’s a spoiler but you find out pretty soon in the book so it’s not a secret or twist in the plot.

Not only are they vampires, they are vampires trying to fit in with human society and are abstaining from drinking blood. I love that you get little snippets from the abstainers handbook, it took me right back to my Terry Pratchett’s Reformed Vampyre’s Diary from 2003. (I have all of Terry Pratchett’s Diary’s, even the one published after his demise, which is the only one I just couldn’t bring myself to write in.)

Matt Haig is a lovely story teller, he has such a gentle way of getting things across, even horrific things. His depth of character is what draws you in and you learn about the things that make humans human.

Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig

The next book I chose was Reasons to Stay Alive

The Blurb

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO FEEL TRULY ALIVE?

Aged 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. He could see no way to go on living. This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again.

A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is a book about making the most of your time on earth.

“I wrote this book because the oldest clichés remain the truest. Time heals. The bottom of the valley never provides the clearest view. The tunnel does have light at the end of it, even if we haven’t been able to see it . . . Words, just sometimes, really can set you free.”

My Review

First Confession, I’ve not finished reading this yet.

Second Confession, I really don’t normally go for memoirs.

I was keen to know a little more about Matt Haig though and what makes him write the way he does. I am listening to this book on Audible and it’s narrated by Matt himself. Already, I feel I know so much more about him.

Depression is such an awful illness, it’s so much more than just feeling sad. And mixed with anxiety it can be really debilitating and ruin your life. Overcoming depression is a huge achievement and I’m so glad that Matt is sharing his story.

Set in relatively short chapters, some are even just lists, the book is easy to digest…but the words will stay with you much longer.

I know that it’s only my family that keep me here. I know that I’m passive suicidal, personally I don’t care if I live or die. I’ve prepared for my death and I know it’s inevitable. It sounds morbid I know, and I know I battle depression. I wouldn’t commit suicide because of the damage it would cause my family. Sticking around is what I really need to do for them. Seeing them grow up is my greatest wish. I have my reasons to stay alive, but I need to have MY reasons to stay alive too.

This is not a self-help book, it’s a memoir and sometimes it’s pretty dark. But, if you read about someone getting through such an awful illness, you may be able to see your own ‘light at the end of the tunnel. ‘

EDIT: I have finished the book now and I know it’s one I will want to keep to hand. My first impression was that it wasn’t a self help book, but as it progresses it does give you lots of self-help strategies and, obviously, reasons for staying alive.

Final Words

I’m becoming a true fan of Matt Haig, and I may even stalk him a little on Social Media. I’m so glad that I have a few more of his books to digest. I may even go on to his children’s books and share them with my Little Man.

Click the link to see more of Matt Haig Books on Amazon.

 
 Amazon.co.uk Widgets

This post contains affiliate links which will not cost you anything more, but if you do click through and purchase something you will earn me a little money. Thank you x

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