The book was launched on Monday at the central London branch of Waterstones at midnight at an event hosted by publisher Vintage Books.
Amazon had enraged US booksellers last week after it emerged that it shipped out some pre-ordered books—The Guardian put the number at around 800—early, breaking a strict embargo. This was followed by major media outlets publishing their reviews and other stories earlier than planned. While the controversy affected the excitement over the release of what is arguably 2019′s biggest book, it doesn’t seem to have dampened fan enthusiasm.
People queued up outside the the Piccadilly branch of Waterstones ahead of the launch to see Atwood and buy the book.
The bookstore made cupcakes in honour of the book.
And Atwood herself launched the book at midnight, surrounded by women in the distinctive red Handmaid’s outfits.
Asked if The Testaments was a dystopia, she said: “A dystopia is an imagined society that we assume is worse than the one we live in ... Is The Handmaid’s Tale plus The Testaments a dystopian world? Let us hope so,” Reuters quoted.
(Want to read about feminist utopias? We have you covered.)
The book’s release has been a major event in the publishing world, with bookstores and prize bodies marking the launch with tweets and events.
The Testaments sees Atwood pick up the story from her 1985 best-selling book The Handmaid’s Tale, an account of a totalitarian future in which a theocratic state forces fertile women into sexual servitude to repopulate a world facing environmental disaster.
“As time moved on ... instead of moving further away from Gilead, we started moving towards it - particularly in the United States,” Atwood told a press conference in London.
The first novel has been adapted into a successful TV show, with the outfits of the handmaidens becoming a protest symbol in the fight for women’s reproductive freedom in the US.
The book has mostly had glowing reviews until now.
And fans who’ve got a copy already are ecstatic.
The Testaments has already been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, with judges’ chairman Peter Florence calling it “a savage and beautiful novel that speaks to us today with conviction and power.”
Even the prize’s judges hadn’t been spared the effort of maintaining the secrecy over the book: the Booker’s organiser signed a nondisclosure agreement on behalf of all the judges, reported The New York Times, and even the book that was kept on the table while the shortlist was being announced was a dummy copy.