The Handmaid’s Tale, which takes place in a dystopian universe in which women are subjugated to men, has been a classic more or less since it was first published in 1985, with 8 million English-language copies sold globally. But it has acquired new cultural cachet since the election of Donald Trump and the premiere of Hulu’s TV adaptation. Protesters dressed in the red robes of Atwood’s Handmaids — women forced into childbearing slavery — have become a familiar sight outside courtrooms ruling on cases and legislation involving reproductive freedom. The Handmaid’s Tale is a cultural icon, and it’s become more urgent over the past few years than ever before.
“I have published Margaret Atwood’s work since 1976 — her poetry, fiction and nonfiction,” says publisher Nan A. Talese in a statement. “A manuscript from her is always a reason for joy. She writes wonderfully and has a mind like a steel trap. This new book is no exception.”
The sequel, titled The Testaments, takes place three years after Offred’s final scene in The Handmaid’s Tale and is narrated by three female characters. Atwood has not revealed whether the sequel will deal at all with the frame narrative that emerges in the epilogue of the original novel, in which we learn that Offred’s tale is being studied at an academic conference decades after the fall of the theocratic dictatorship of Gilead. She has said, however, that the new sequel will have no connection to Hulu’s TV show.
The Testaments is scheduled to come out on September 10, 2019, with an announced first printing of 500,000 copies.
“Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book,” says Atwood in a statement released by her publishers. “Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.”