Margaret Atwood is writing a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, set 15 years after Offred's ambiguous final scene in the acclaimed 1985-published novel.
Slated for publication in September 2019, The Testaments promises to be a "global publishing event" as it continues Atwood's story 15 years on from the moment Offred steps into the Eyes' car "into the darkness, within; or else the light". According to Atwood, it was inspired both by fans' questions about Gilead and "the world we've been living in".
Vintage will publish under its Chatto & Windus imprint on 10th September, priced £20, after Becky Hardie, deputy publishing director of Chatto & Windus, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights, excluding Canada, from Karolina Sutton at Curtis Brown.
The Testaments will be published simultaneously by Penguin Random House across the English-speaking world, by Chatto & Windus/VINTAGE in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India, as well as in the UK; by McClelland & Stewart in Canada; and by Nan A. Talese/Knopf Doubleday in the US. The cover design is still in development and will be released at a later date.
Atwood said: "Dear Readers: Everything you've ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we've been living in."
Hardie said: "As a society, we’ve never needed Margaret Atwood more. The moment the van door slams on Offred’s future at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale is one of the most brilliantly ambiguous endings in literature. I cannot wait to find out what’s been going on in Atwood’s Gilead – and what that might tell us about our own times."
The news follows a marked rise in popularity of the book following Donald Trump's 2016 election as well as on the heels of the Emmy Award-winning TV series, starring Elisabeth Moss and Joseph Fiennes, that aired in the UK on Channel 4, pushing sales up a whopping 670% year-on-year. Through Nielsen BookScan, it has now sold 886,019 copies across all editions (including academic editions) while the 2017 TV tie-in has sold 188,804. Meanwhile, according to Vintage, eight million copies have been sold globally in the English language.
Richard Cable, managing director of Vintage, said: "Very few novels manage to speak to new generations of readers around the world in the way in which The Handmaid’s Tale clearly does. Publication of The Testaments is going to be the kind of global publishing event we don’t see very often, and we are all hugely excited at the prospect of bringing Margaret Atwood’s new book to her millions of readers."
First published in 1985 by Vintage imprint Jonathan Cape, The Handmaid’s Tale was shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize and is an A-level curriculum text in the UK.
While a third series of "The Handmaid's Tale" is currently in production, Vintage confirmed The Testaments is not connected to the television adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale.