Margaret Atwood’s much-anticipated new novel The Testaments will be turned into a TV show by Hulu and MGM, it has been revealed. Details for the audiobook have also been revealed featuring Atwood herself, Bryce Dallas Howard, Derek Jacboi and Ann Dowd, who plays Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale TV adaptation.
Bruce Miller, showrunner for the Emmy-winning television adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, is involved in discussions about how to best approach the new material, TIME magazine has reported. It is apparently unclear at this stage what form The Testaments will take — whether it will be folded into the existing Hulu series or developed as a separate show. American media company MGM is also developing the show with Hulu, which is a subscription video on demand service.
Atwood, who appears on the cover of TIME this week, will release the highly anticipated follow-up to her 1985 dystopian novel on Tuesday 10th September published by Chatto & Windus in the UK. The publication will be accompanied by a midnight opening at Waterstones in central London on Monday (9th September), then a press conference with Atwood on Tuesday, followed by an event at the National Theatre.
The new book is set 15 years after final scene of The Handmaid’s Tale, where protagonist Offred boarded a van that would take her to an unknown fate. The first season of the Hulu series, which premiered in April 2017, stuck closely to the original novel but as the show has continued — Hulu has renewed for a fourth season — its writers have had to develop the narrative beyond Atwood’s original story.
More information has also been revealed on The Testaments book itself. It is not told from the perspective of Offred, but instead from those of three other women connected to Gilead: a young woman raised in the oppressive society (369A); a Canadian teen who learns she was actually born there (369B); and Aunt Lydia, a major villain in both the original novel and the show. An extract was published in the Guardian on Wednesday (4th September) featuring the three narratives.
Atwood, who started writing The Testaments before the show premiered, has worked closely with Miller and his team on each season. During a recent interview, Atwood recalled sharing some choice words with Miller when she learned Lydia was going to be stabbed by a vengeful handmaid: “You absolutely cannot kill Aunt Lydia, or I will have your head on a plate,” she told the magazine.
Atwood told TIME: “They can’t keep Offred in Gilead for many more seasons, or a certain amount of wheel spinning will be going on,” she says. “They have to move her along — and I’ve given them lots of ways of how that would happen.”
Miller “is looking forward to the release of The Testaments,” the interview reads, "since his staff has yet to read the closely-guarded book". Miller told the magazine: “We’ve tried to hint at the wider world as much as possible in the show.The Testaments really gives us much wider glimpses into other parts of the world.”
Meanwhile the cast of the audiobook has also been revealed - Dowd, who plays Aunt Lydia in "The Handmaid’s Tale" is one of six people to narrate the audiobook edition of The Testaments, TIME has reported. Bryce Dallas Howard will also appear as Witness 369A, Mae Whitman as 369B while Derek Jacobi and Tantoo Cardinal will read the roles of Professor James Darcy Pieixoto and Professor Maryanne Crescent Moon, the scholars who speak at an annual Gileadean studies conference long after the fall of the Republic in the book’s epilogue. The sixth reader is Atwood herself. It will be released simultaneously with the book on 10th September.
Dowd told TIME that when she received her edition of The Testaments there were a lot of security measures in place to prevent leaks. “I just had a lot of passwords,” she said. “I couldn’t figure it out. I was like look, I need assistance here.” The magazine interviewer Lucy Feldman revealed that when she received a book it was labelled with “a fake title and author name”.
The Bookseller has contacted PRH UK for comment.
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