Women wearing long silvery dresses and others in red capes and white bonnets set the atmosphere at a bookstore in London for the launch of “The Testaments,” Margaret Atwood’s long-awaited sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
The event Monday night attracted hundreds of fans to the Waterstones in Piccadilly and featured the author herself, who read excerpts from the book before its release at midnight.
“The Testaments” is the follow-up to Atwood’s dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which was published in 1985 and recently adapted for TV in a popular Hulu series starring Elizabeth Moss.
The latest novel is already shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
Emma Thompson, who works for the international women’s rights charity Equality Now, told CNN at the event that Atwood is “the most prescient, dark, yet joyful writers of our time.”
“She holds a mirror up to our society as a warning to what could be. Women’s rights are under attack around the world. I hope ‘The Testaments’ acts as a rallying cry. Each of us can make a difference by making a stand. We need to protect hard-won rights and make sure Gilead remains fiction.”
Rosie Smeaton, 28, who lives in Wanstead, East London, told CNN the tickets to the event were a gift from her boyfriend.
“He knows I’m a massive Atwood fan and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ was the first of her books I ever read. I was 14 at the time, I think, and it was terrifying and compelling. I’ve loved her ever since.”
Smeaton was particularly impressed by actors wearing costumes from characters in the new book, called the Pearl Girls, as well as others wearing the now-classic handmaid’s dress.
“They started walking around us while we were in the queue outside and passing things out to us. First it was the program for the evening and then it was little oranges with ‘The Testaments’ stickers on them (oranges are a theme in the book). And once inside they carried on walking around with their heads down and just creating this brilliant, creepy atmosphere at odd moments,” Smeaton said.
“They stood alongside for the readings, too, and the Pearl Girls escorted Margaret Atwood on and off stage.”
Several fans also attended a panel about Atwood’s legacy with writers such as Jeanette Winterson, Neil Gaiman, Elif Shafak, and Temi Oh.
“They were discussing how shockingly accurate Atwood’s writing has turned out to be and how she’s predicted this regression in women’s rights and reproductive rights all over the world and the slide towards totalitarianism,” Smeaton said.
Another fan attending the event, Sophie Waddy, 27, said she took Tuesday off from work to read the book
“It’s living up to all of my expectations so far!” she told CNN.