100 Books That Defined the Decade
For good, for bad, for ugly.
Margaret Atwood, The Testaments (2019)
As they say, history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.
Essential stats: It was by any measure one of the most anticipated books of the competitive fall season—so much so that Amazon (accidentally? cynically? We can guess) broke the sales embargo a week early to get a jump on independent bookstores. This was not appreciated. But the novel had a recordbreaking first week of official sales—according to Penguin Random House it had the “best day one sales for any Penguin Random House title in 2019” and had sold 125,000 copies after only three days. The Testaments earned Margaret Atwood a rare spot on the cover of TIME, and most recently, it was the joint winner of the 2019 Man Booker Prize, along with Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other.
What was its cultural impact: Well, The Handmaid’s Tale has resurfaced this decade, for various reasons (the Hulu adaptation, a blatant and gleeful misogynist in the White House) and The Testaments is more of a response to that than the cause. But still, I don’t think I can let this book go by without reminding you of this:
And also this:
Would you say that what really makes The Testaments a defining book of this decade is the uneasy sense that it, a needless sequel to a perfect book originally published in 1985, was written not as a piece of art but as a piece of fan service, capitalizing on the popular television adaptation, which makes it basically a piece of Hulu merch masquerading as literature? I mean, not publicly. But the timing is . . . suspicious.
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