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Fans buzzing as follow-up to Atwood's Handmaid's Tale hits the shelves in Northern Ireland

Margaret Atwood at the British Library in London at the launch of her new book: The Testaments, a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood at the British Library in London at the launch of her new book: The Testaments, a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale

By Christopher Leebody

Fans of The Handmaid's Tale have been flocking to bookshops around the UK to pick up Margaret Atwood's eagerly-awaited follow-up, which was launched on Tuesday.

Fans have been waiting for 34 years to get their hands on the sequel The Testaments, which comes on the back of the critically-acclaimed 2017 TV adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale, now in its third series.

Readers in Belfast were "desperate" to get their hands on it at Waterstone's throughout the day, according to store manager Emma Southon.

They included a girl who had spent the morning waiting outside the store in order to secure the first copy.

Surrounded by lunchtime shoppers picking up their copy, Ms Southon said: "People are desperate to get their hands on it because it had so much coverage overnight.

"The first person through the door this morning won a signed copy.

"She was delighted because she had been waiting outside for a little while to get her hands on it and was late to college so she could come and pick it up," she said.

Ms Southon said that while the queue outside the Fountain Street bookstore was modest, there were more people than usual waiting for the doors to open at 9am, and the buzz around the launch grew during the day.

"We have sold a lot of copies this morning. Everyone is talking about it. It is great for us because it's nice to have people talking about a book," she added.

Confirming that she would be reading the novel herself when she got the chance, Ms Southon praised Atwood's ability to "appeal to people who just want a really good story".

The book is shortlisted for this year's Booker Prize, requiring an "extraordinarily complex" process of non-disclosure agreements so that the judging panel could read it before publication.

Atwood (79) previously won the prize for The Blind Assassin in 2000.

The author made an appearance at Waterstones in Piccadilly, central London yesterday, where she wowed fans by reading from The Testaments, which is set around 15 years after the original.

Shortly before midnight, the Candian-born author began speaking to the crowd of around 400, including posing for photos and hugging staff members.

Dressed in costumes from the show and holding placards reading, "Free the woman of Gilead", the crowd counted down from 10 as the clock struck midnight and the new book was revealed.

Set in the republic of Gilead, the dystopia centres around three women who share their experiences as its toxic power structure starts to rot from within.

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