Margaret Atwood's 'The Testaments' launches in London with handmaids and Pearl Girls

Actors dressed as characters from the new Margaret Atwood novel, The Testaments at the Piccadilly branch of Waterstones as they promote an audience with the author ahead of the midnight release of the new book.

(CNN)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.