Over three decades after releasing her disturbing dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale — which spawned a 1990 movie adaptation (starring Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall) and the critically acclaimed Hulu series (starring Elizabeth Moss) — author Margaret Atwood is prepping a sequel. Publisher Penguin Random House announced a September 10th, 2019 release date for the book, titled The Testaments, which follows three female narrators 15 years after protagonist Offred’s final scene in the original story.
The Handmaid’s Tale, published in 1985, explores the fictional theocracy of “Gilead” in a post-civil war United States. The immediate location of the book is Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Atwood recently wrote in a New York Times essay that “Back in 1984, the main premise seemed — even to me — fairly outrageous.” Facing widespread infertility, women who can conceive are forced into sexual captivity, becoming “handmaids” to bear children for government leaders. The book has sold eight million English language copies globally.
Moss stars in the Hulu show, which debuted in April 2017; its second season premiered the following April and already extends the narrative beyond the original novel. The series was renewed for a third run of episodes in May. So far, its first two installments have earned 34 Emmy nominations and 11 wins.
The new novel will operate independently of the TV series, but Atwood — a producer on the show, who even makes a cameo in the pilot episode — still teased plenty of relevant intrigue for her latest plot. “Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book,” she said in a statement. “Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.” While Penguin Random House emphasized that The Testaments is “not connected to the television series,” it’s unclear what crossover may exist between the projects.
Atwood has written over 50 books of fiction, poetry, critical essays and graphic novels. Her most recent novel is 2016’s Hag-Seed, a modern-day retelling of William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. Her novel Alias Grace, about a 19th-century murderess, was also recently adapted into a Netflix mini-series.