Handmaid’s: “No mother is ever, completely, a child’s idea of what a mother should be, and I suppose it works the other way around as well.” [In Offred’s imprisonment, she has ample opportunity to consider the ways in which she disappointed her mother’s idea of a daughter, of the ways in which she disappointed her daughter’s idea of what Offred/June should have been.]
Testaments: “Right then she was only a torn-up picture. She was an absence, a gap inside me.” [In much the same way, another character in this new narrative struggles to understand what it means to be a daughter without a direct experience of mothering, with the constant awareness of a space where that experience might have been.]
In both The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments, the stories of women who came before and women who would come after are lost and reclaimed, recorded and reconsidered.
In the hands of another writer, this could have less to do with perspective, beyond the obvious (that each character has her own truth). In Atwood’s hands, the narrative is meticulously constructed so that the relationship between what can be known and what must be known is appropriately complex.
And we, as readers, are wholly engaged, because we are in a unique position, having only these two volumes of archival material to study: we know things that the characters might have known (but could/did not) and we can assemble an enviable understanding across time and space.