Last night, I went to see Margaret Atwood in Conversation with Samira Ahmed – she was actually in London at the National Theatre but the evening was being broadcast to cinemas across the UK, one of which was the MAC (Midlands Arts Cinema, one of my favourite places in Birmingham) so along we went! I saw her speak in Edinburgh with some friends a few years ago, and that time she was talking about her book Hagseed (based on the Shakespeare play The Tempest, and a book I would highly recommend).
I read the Handmaid’s Tale when I was about 12, and it had a very profound impact on me and shaped a lot of my opinions at that age. I haven’t yet read The Testaments, but I do now have a copy so that has instantly moved to the top of my to-read list!
For me, it was the readings from The Testaments that were the highlights – Ann Dowd, Sally Hawkins and Lily James brought the characters to life. Margaret Atwood’s face while they were reading was a delight to behold, as she was very clearly moved by them.
Hearing her speak about the inspiration behind both The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments was interesting, especially when she spoke about her time in Berlin, and when she talked about the climate catastrophe (especially in relation to her MaddAddam trilogy, the first of which, Oryx and Crake, is one of my favourite books ever) it was also very interesting – it wasn’t really that she said anything new, but Atwood has a particular talent for phrasing things in a way that sounds very profound, both in writing and in speaking.
If you didn’t get a chance to see her, I would definitely recommend trying to get along to any other broadcasts, or if it’s released on DVD. But now, to read The Testaments!