Dublin bookshop windows bear testament to Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale sequel
Author will visit Dublin in November for the National Concert Hall’s Words+Ideas series
Margaret Atwood reads from her new book at Waterstones in London last night. Photograph: Jemma Crew/PA Wire
Shoppers on Grafton Street today will find themselves face to face with a woman shrouded in the cloak of one of Margaret Atwood’s handmaids, as the real world collides with the fictional in a bookshop window.
This morning saw the official release of The Testaments, the long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, in one of the largest publishing events of the year.
With the book tucked away until this morning, the atmosphere in independent bookshops around Dublin yesterday held something of the excitement of Christmas Eve, despite an earlier leak of the novel in the US due to a shipping error by Amazon.
“We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. Our preparations started months ago, so we’re ready to go from first thing,” said Susan Walsh of Dubray Books, a family-owned business with eight branches across Ireland.
“All of our window displays will be taken over by The Testaments,” she said. “We have a reading in our window in Grafton Street at 12 noon where a girl is actually going to dress up as a handmaid and will be standing in our window reading from the book, so it should be very exciting.
“A book like this catapults the book trade into the public domain. Everybody is talking about the new book the same way they would be talking about a new JK Rowling… I think it’s a day when the public look at what’s going on in their local independent bookshop and hopefully pay them a visit.”
The book’s launch included an exclusive interview with the author in London broadcast live in Irish cinemas. Atwood will also visit Dublin in November for the National Concert Hall’s Words+Ideas series.
Bob Johnston, owner of The Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar, said the book would be an important one for independent sellers “to help see them through the rest of the year.
“The big books of the autumn are always key as we go towards Christmas, and as everybody knows in retail, this kind of season is really what makes shops work, and bookshops in particular.
“Hopefully we’ll have a busy day with this – I think there are a lot of people anxious to get their hands on it, because obviously not everybody gets them leaked by Amazon in the US, so lots of people are supporting local businesses instead.”
Louisa Earls of the city’s oldest independent bookshop, Books Upstairs on D’Olier Street, was also feeling the anticipation. “There’s a good buzz because they sent out all the copies, boxes with big stickers everywhere saying ‘Not to be sold before tomorrow.’
“When the shutters come down tonight we’re going to do a big window display so that when we open tomorrow the window will be full of it,” she said. “It’s a fun thought to think people will be so excited to get their copy that they’ll be coming in first thing.”
She said the pre-order response had been “heartening,” but big launches could be “unpredictable” for smaller bookshops.
“I think that sometimes a book like this gets so much traction in advance that obviously a lot of people do go online,” she said. “We just have to hope that people are keen to support a local business rather than going further afield.”
The Testaments is reviewed on irishtimes.com today and Saturday’s nespaper will include an interview with Atwood in Ticket magazine.