In a message posted on Twitter, Atwood wrote: "Yes indeed to those who asked: I'm writing a sequel to The #HandmaidsTale. #TheTestaments is set 15 years after Offred's final scene and is narrated by three female characters. It will be published in Sept 2019."
Above the message is a video, which says: "Everything you've ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we've been living in."
The Handmaid's Tale, which was published in 1985, is set in the near future in the fictional Republic of Gilead, a theocratic state, which has overthrown the United States government but which is beset by low birth-rates.
As a result, fertile women – or “two-legged wombs” – are effectively enslaved and required to bear children for wealthy couples. These women, known as Handmaids, are closely monitored by a secret police force and are, for the most part, forbidden from leaving the house.
The novel explores the oppression of women within a patriarchy and asks what impact this has on our society.
“Anyone who wants power will try to manipulate you by appealing to your desires and fears, and sometimes your best instincts," says Atwood. "Women must be a little cautious about that kind of appeal to them. What are we being asked to give up?”