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1. The Year of the Flood
2. Oryx and Crake
3. The Tent
4. The Blind Assassin: A Novel
5. Alias Grace: A Novel
6. Cat's Eye
7. The Handmaid's Tale (Everyman's
8. Lady Oracle
9. Moral Disorder and Other Stories
10. The Door
11. Selected Poems: 1965-1975
12. Life Before Man
13. Wilderness Tips
14. The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope
15. Surfacing
16. Selected Poems II: 1976 - 1986
17. Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews,
18. Dancing Girls
19. Murder in the Dark: Short Fictions
20. Morning in the Burned House

1. The Year of the Flood
by Margaret Atwood
Paperback: 448 Pages (2010-07-27)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$8.33
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0307455475
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
Set in the visionary future of Atwood’s acclaimed Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood is at once a moving tale of lasting friendship and a landmark work of speculative fiction. In this second book of the MaddAddam trilogy, the long-feared waterless flood has occurred, altering Earth as we know it and obliterating most human life. Among the survivors are Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, who is barricaded inside a luxurious spa. Amid shadowy, corrupt ruling powers and new, gene-spliced life forms, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move, but they can't stay locked away.Amazon.com Review
Book Description
The long-awaited new novel from Margaret Atwood. The Year of the Flood is a dystopic masterpiece and a testament to her visionary power.

The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God's Gardeners--a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life--has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God's Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible.

Have others survived? Ren's bioartist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers, survivors of the mutual-elimination Painball prison? Not to mention the shadowy, corrupt policing force of the ruling powers...

Meanwhile, gene-spliced life forms are proliferating: the lion/lamb blends, the Mo'hair sheep with human hair, the pigs with human brain tissue. As Adam One and his intrepid hemp-clad band make their way through this strange new world, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move. They can't stay locked away...

By turns dark, tender, violent, thoughtful, and uneasily hilarious, The Year of the Flood is Atwood at her most brilliant and inventive.

Margaret Atwood on The Year of the Flood

I’ve never before gone back to a novel and written another novel related to it. Why this time? Partly because so many people asked me what happened right after the end of the 2003 novel, Oryx and Crake. I didn’t actually know, but the questions made me think about it. That was one reason. Another was that the core subject matter has continued to preoccupy me.

When Oryx and Crake came out, it seemed to many like science fiction--way out there, too weird to be possible--but in the three years that passed before I began writing The Year of the Flood, the perceived gap between that supposedly unreal future and the harsh one we might very well live through was narrowing fast. What is happening to our world? What can we do to reverse the damage? How long have we got? And, most importantly--what kind of "we"? In other words, what kind of people might undertake the challenge? Dedicated ones--they’d have to be. And unless you believe our planet is worth saving, why bother?

So the question of inspirational belief entered the picture, and once you have a set of beliefs--as distinct from a body of measurable knowledge--you have a religion. The God’s Gardeners appear briefly in Oryx and Crake, but in The Year of the Flood, they’re central. Like all religions, the Gardeners have their own leader, Adam One. They also have their own honoured saints and martyrs, their special days, their theology. They may look strange and obsessive and even foolish to non-members, but they’re serious about what they profess; as are their predecessors, who are with us today. I’ve found out a great deal about rooftop gardens and urban beekeeping while writing this book!

Another question frequently asked about Oryx and Crake concerned gender. Why was the story told by a man? How would it have been different if the narrator had been a woman? Such questions led me to Ren and Toby, and then to their respective lives, and also to their places of refuge.A high-end sex club and a luxury spa would in fact be quite good locations in which to wait out a pandemic plague: at least you’d have bar snacks, and a lot of clean towels.

In his book, The Art Instinct, Denis Dutton proposes that our interest in narrative is built in--selected during the very long period the human race spent in the Pleistocene--because any species with the ability to tell stories about both past and future would have an evolutionary edge. Will there be a crocodile in the river tomorrow, as there was last year? If so, better not go there. Speculative fictions about the future, like The Year of the Flood, are narratives of that kind. Where will the crocodiles be? How will we avoid them? What are our chances? --Margaret Atwood

(Photo © George Whiteside)

... Read more

Customer Reviews (145)

5-0 out of 5 stars I loved my first Atwood experience!
This was my first Atwood novel. I stumbled across the book on CD at the library and took it on an solo road trip.I have never before read a book of this genre and was skeptical for the first 20 minutes of the reading but then I became hooked.Atwood's writing style was beautiful and her choice of words felt so deliberate and thoughtful, plus I greatly enjoyed the sound of the 3 voices chosen to read the novel (Toby, Ren, and Adam1).I returned home from my road trip before finishing the CDs and found myself desperate to get back in my car to run errands just so I could listen and see what happens next.I enjoyed this so much that I immediately borrowed the book on CD of The Handmaid's Tale from my library and started that today.

4-0 out of 5 stars A euology before the funeral
I wonder if Atwood's was a bit squeamish when writing the sequel to Oryx and Crake. That novel was flawless in every respect. Having been written in 2003 - before Facebook to put it into perspective - O & C foretold a deeply corporate culture devoid of ethics and rife with materialism. It was a unique vision of the near future that echoed into the subconscious long after you were finished.

How do you follow-up to a masterpiece? Year of the Flood is not as good as O & C but it comes damn close. This time the story revolves around a green cult named "God's Gardeners." These people have given up on buying and taken up recycling. If you think the Hare Krishna's are weird in public imagine a bunch of people who only wear hand me downs brought together out of necessity instead of fashion. Instead of XBox their youths learn survival skills.

The title is a bit deceiving - there is no flood of the Noah kind. Rather it's a term used by the Gardeners to denote a time in the near future when humanity will wipe themselves out. Atwood has created a religion here that is somewhere between new age, evangelicalism, and quantum physics. The book itself is separated by short sermons and hymns. Where O & C dealt with characters on the inside of society, the Year of the Flood deals with those on the fringe.

Where the first book was driven by a character study the second is more documentary. It is far less dirty and disturbing as well. However it is still engrossing from start to finish. The poem at the end is a lament for civilization if we don't give up on our egotistical ways.

I can't help wonder, as Atwood ages, if she is indeed writing our eulogy before the funeral. If so it resonates deeply.

Rating (Gouge my eyes out, below average, average, above average, more please)
Above average

Liked: probes at the role of religion at the end of civilization; continuation of the story that started in Oryx & Crake

Disliked: ended with a cliffhanger for the next book; sometimes the religious content is a bit much

3-0 out of 5 stars allright book
i think i should have stuck with oryx and crake after reading the back cover. the year of the flood is a decent book. i just dont like how she is pro god or anti god. i cant tell if what she is saying by each of the chapters religious introductions.
other than that this is a good book. just skip all of the songs and introductions.

3-0 out of 5 stars Doesn't hit the sweet spot
Far be it from me to suggest Margaret Atwood doesn't write well. This is the first of her's that I've read (a late adopter!) and she is clearly a clever and imaginative writer. The book is clearly part of an anthology, so it might be better to start at the beginning. On the other hand, as a standalone novel it suffers (maybe just for me) in plotlines that seem to meander from distant sources before the first pages towards distant resolutions beyond the last pages. The story doesn't really come to a single climax but moves from crisis to resolution again and again. This keeps your interest up, of course, as does her technique of beginning at the end and then moving around a 25 year span to fill in character and plot gaps. Read it over a few days and you won't get lost as she structures the pace and connections brilliantly.

But the reason for my title is my reaction to Atwood's quirky sense of humour. The novel is funny in a way that (for me anyway) undermines itself. The way she creates silly names for products and companies is on the one hand amusing, but also made me not take her story seriously. Maybe that's what she intended? I can see she is satirising many of present-day trends and actions, and it works. But I wanted to leave the present-day and immerse myself in her dystopia more.

3-0 out of 5 stars not on par with "Oryx and Crake"
I liked this book because you find out about what the "pleeblands" are all about (very scary) and it also ties the both books together.

I didn't like the songs in the audio book and ended up fast forwarding through the last few.The songs had little information as far as I was concerned.

I am glad I listened - makes oryx and crake more enjoyable!Oryx and Crake ... Read more

2. Oryx and Crake
by Margaret Atwood
Paperback: 376 Pages (2004-05)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$7.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385721676
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.Amazon.com Review
In Oryx and Crake, a science fiction novel that is more Swift than Heinlein, more cautionary tale than "fictional science" (no flying cars here), Margaret Atwood depicts a near-future world that turns from the merely horrible to the horrific, from a fool's paradise to a bio-wasteland. Snowman (a man once known as Jimmy) sleeps in a tree and just might be the only human left on our devastated planet. He is not entirely alone, however, as he considers himself the shepherd of a group of experimental, human-like creatures called the Children of Crake. As he scavenges and tends to his insect bites, Snowman recalls in flashbacks how the world fell apart.

While the story begins with a rather ponderous set-up of what has become a clichéd landscape of the human endgame, littered with smashed computers and abandoned buildings, it takes on life when Snowman recalls his boyhood meeting with his best friend Crake: "Crake had a thing about him even then.... He generated awe ... in his dark laconic clothing." A dangerous genius, Crake is the book's most intriguing character. Crake and Jimmy live with all the other smart, rich people in the Compounds--gated company towns owned by biotech corporations. (Ordinary folks are kept outside the gates in the chaotic "pleeblands.") Meanwhile, beautiful Oryx, raised as a child prostitute in Southeast Asia, finds her way to the West and meets Crake and Jimmy, setting up an inevitable love triangle. Eventually Crake's experiments in bioengineering cause humanity's shockingly quick demise (with uncanny echoes of SARS, ebola, and mad cow disease), leaving Snowman to try to pick up the pieces. There are a few speed bumps along the way, including some clunky dialogue and heavy-handed symbols such as Snowman's broken watch, but once the bleak narrative gets moving, as Snowman sets out in search of the laboratory that seeded the world's destruction, it clips along at a good pace, with a healthy dose of wry humor. --Mark Frutkin, Amazon.ca ... Read more

Customer Reviews (361)

5-0 out of 5 stars The world of Oryx & Crake is just around the corner
In grade school I can remember teachers glowing over Margaret Atwood. Having never actually read her writing I was sceptical. Her fans in academia gave me the impression her writing was deep, poetic, even inaccessible to the average reader.

I was very wrong.

Oryx and Crake doesn't sit well after your finished. Something has struck a disturbing chord in the soul. What's bothering you isn't the plot or even the characters... but the kind of future Atwood has envisioned. It's hauntingly plausible.

The novel takes place perhaps a generation from our own. Corporations have grown in power to such an extent that there are no longer towns. Instead the most educated and wealthy live in compounds near their job. These gated communities have their own luxury schools, malls, and housing. Instead of a police force they have corporate security. If you don't live in a corporate compound then you live in the "pleeblands" a place filled with drugs, violence, and sadness. So pervasive is the corporation that you won't hear the word "president" or "government" in Oryx and Crake.

I won't reveal anymore but suffice to say Atwood's schizophrenic protagonist is surrounded by ghosts of consumer past. It alternates between the aftermath of such a society and flashbacks that reveal how it came to be.

There is a lot of social commentary. Child pornography is a central theme; something that bored teens look up on the net in an effort to shock themselves. People who distrust corporate society are labeled extremists and hunted down. The weather has become dangerous every single day.

The world of Oryx & Crake is just around the corner. The book is at once engaging, shocking, disgusting, dirty, and even repulsive - in other words perhaps one of the best books you'll ever read.

Rating (Gouge my eyes out, below average, average, above average, more please)
More please

Liked: realistic future that no one has thought of before, shocking content, the character of Snowman, well structured and planned out

Disliked: nothing

5-0 out of 5 stars Simply Amazing
Synopsis: Margaret Atwood's dystopian tale, Oryx and Crake, is narrated by Snowman, a man known in the not too distant past as Jimmy. Jimmy is living in a post-apocalyptic world where he seems to be the only survivor except for the "Children of Crake" - the genetically engineered people that survived the world-wide plague with Jimmy. The novel juxtaposes Jimmy's past, when he is still Jimmy, with his future as Snowman, and all the difficulties that both encompass.

Review: I read Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale when I was an undergrad. As much as I adored that novel, I was always intimidated by Atwood's other works. I would finger them delicately in bookstores and stalk the reviews online, but I would never buy one or even check a copy out of the library. A week ago I decided to get over myself and I picked up this book. I am in no way sorry.

To begin with, Atwood's use of language is superb. She deftly crafts scenes that come alive through her detailed descriptions.

While normally not a fan of science fiction, I enjoyed the story Atwood was telling. Jimmy/Snowman is a fascinating character. He was so human, in a novel that is exploring genetic engineering or everything from plants to people, that one could not help but become entangled in his tale, and have sympathy for him, even when some of his actions weren't sympathetic.

Bottom line, I couldn't put this novel down. Atwood is a genius and I cannot wait to explore her other novels.

5-0 out of 5 stars A prediction of our future? Perhaps....
What a terrifying tale of the future that Margaret Atwood has envisioned for humanity. The story of Oryx and Crake is actually the story of Snowman, whose real name is Jimmy, and is the narrator of this post-Orwellian nightmare. I was not aware that this is the first book in a series, called the MaddAddam Trilogy, until after I had begun reading it, but I will most definitely continue with the other two books.
Snowman is narrating this tale as one of the very few humans left alive. Some ravaging disease, something engineered by man and has Ebola-like tendencies to reduce its victims to a liquified, bloody mess, has eliminated everyone, at least as far as Snowman knows. He is not sure whether there are any other humans like him left, but there are the Children of Crake living nearby, or Crakers as Snowman calls them, humanoid beings engineered by Crake, who was a "frenemy" of Jimmy's before the plague.
The flashbacks of life before, told from Jimmy's perspective, narrate a world divided into areas of science, known as Compounds, whose inhabitants are those brainiacs who engineer all of modern medicine and who live isolated, perfect lives away from the rest of humanity (Jimmy's first home is in the compound HealthWyzer). Everyone else lives in the "pleeblands" (LOVE that term!), areas where life is not much different than the here and now that we enjoy. Jimmy and Crake live in one such compound growing up, and there they enjoy a sheltered existence. Eventually they both go away to colleges and Crake becomes a scientist at the most wealthy and well-known compound, RejoovenEsense, while Jimmy is a low-earning copy writer for AnooYoo.
The main story narrates Jimmy's so-called life after the plague, and mainly shows his struggle to remain sane as he is alone on earth, even though he is not technically alone.
This story is one of the most creatively written stories I have ever read. Ms. Atwood's ability to build upon reality and successfully weave her fantasy is refreshing. One of my favorite aspects of the novel were the various animals that she had the scientists invent. Pigoons, for instance, are quite prominent in the tale. A pigoon is a genetically-modified pig that is used to grow transplant organs, but Jimmy suspects that they are used for food as well, which brings up an interesting canibalistic overtone. This very clearly reminded me of another terrific book, Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. That had a similar theme and was also quite a nightmarish tale, but very different from this one. One main difference is Ms. Atwood's ability to inject humor into such a dark story. It is, of course, dark humor, but unlikely all the same.
To some extent, this story reminded me of The Stand by Stephen King. The Stand was more focused on the aftermath, rather than building the world which spawned the before. I am wondering if the other two books will focus more on the after. It did seem that the main question that arises from the reader (how humanity got wiped out) was indeed answered, but the after story line, that of Snowman rather than Jimmy, was left unanswered.
If you like a good, cautionary tale, one with a lot of imagination and quite a bit of social commentary mixed in, I would highly recommend this book. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the MaddAddam series.

2-0 out of 5 stars Oh what could have been....
This book had so much potential as Atwood is a very good writer.My main problem with the book was that her near future America could never be even close to true.The characters sit around and watch child pornography, bestiality, torture, suicides, and murders for fun as teenagers.This is a common practice in this America of Atwood's and is considered normal.Can anyone see this ever happening?No way because she ignores all morality, and thus religion, which is a major influence in the world whether the author wants it to be or not.I am not a holy roller, I don't go to church, but I can't see how in a very short time the world would be completely without any religion or morality.This lack of morality or religion happens without a war, plague, alien invasion, etc... it just happened.The characters are pretty much completely unlikeable and so is the country and the world.Please no one give Atwood the bomb because she will use it.lol, I'm joking kind of....

4-0 out of 5 stars great read
an interesting and thoughtful read about a dystopian and not so distant future.orwell fans should love it. ... Read more

3. The Tent
by Margaret Atwood
Paperback: 176 Pages (2007-05-08)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$6.60
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1400097010
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Editorial Review

Product Description
A delightfully pointed m?lange of fictional pieces from one of the world’s most acclaimed and incisive authors, The Tent is a sparkling addition to Margaret Atwood’s always masterful work.Here Atwood pushes form once again, with meditations on warlords, pet heaven, and aging homemakers. She gives a sly pep talk to the ambitious young; writes about the disconcerting experience of looking at old photos of ourselves; and examines the boons and banes of orphanhood. Accompanied by her own playful illustrations, Atwood’s droll humor and keen insight make each piece full of clarity and grace. Prescient and personal, delectable and tart, The Tent reflects one of our wittiest authors at her best. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (11)

5-0 out of 5 stars Kudos to Atwood!
Margaret Atwood is a literary writer from Toronto, Canada.I must now read more of her fiction."The Tent" is a collection of short & short short prose selections.Some are full-fledged stories.Some are just brief vignettes.
This slim volume would be a perfect fit for the Coffee-to-Go Series by Coffee House Press.Most of the entries are perfectly timed to be read during a coffee break or a toilet sit down break.This is how I read this book & how I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Atwood's writing is often terse.To the point.It is stripped-to-the-bone writing.It is prose from a poet.It is descriptive writing with few adjectives.It is emotive writing with little time for long drawn out emotions.It is often humorous.It is often filled with biting humor.It is loaded with sarcasm & satire ready to explode in the face of its intended target.It is populated with animals who reject the names Adam gave them.Voices become personified & greedy.An immortal injustice collector has the tale of Hamlet stolen from his bag of stories.These creations & so many others populate these pages.
Kudos to Atwood.

5-0 out of 5 stars Perfect at what it is
This work is entitled "The Tent."It is a container for a lot of things that are only loosely related.And, yes, it's a little uneven.But what else would it be?It's not a novel or a set of short stories.It seems to be designed as a loose, jangly collection of shorter and longer vignettes.If you want short stories, read short stories.On the other hand, if you are in the mood for some startling, interesting, thought-provoking creations of Margaret Atwood's mind, in chunks and longer passages of her appealing, readable prose, read this.

4-0 out of 5 stars thoughtful and funny
Margaret Atwood's writing is often satirical and yet gives hope. How does she do it? She is often hilarious, yet brings a new view on a lot of issues that exist in this world. Girl Power.

4-0 out of 5 stars Mixed bag, well written
It seems all that have reviewed this book so far are Atwood fans (which I guess is typical given the fact that one generally reviews things one likes).I'm not sure I would put myself in that camp (This is only the second book by Atwood that I've read), but I do admire her abilities as a writer: her use of language; her oddly apt comparisons; her strong, direct style.Therein, this book does not disappoint.In fact, in some of the earlier pieces I was left admiring Atwood's writing more than what she wrote.And that, in a nutshell, is the fault I find with the collection.It is (as many have already observed) a bit uneven.

"The Tent" is a collection of vignettes divided into three "books" (Book II being the strongest section, as many have already commented).The vignettes discuss a wide range of topics from social injustice to God to the changing roles of motherhood to the craft of writing.I would have liked a bit more cohesion to tie the collection together; they seemed a bit too disparate for my liking.Granted, it IS a collection, and "collection" implies difference, but that's just my preference.

The stories that worked for me:"Life Stories" and "Voice" (two vignettes about the need to write)."Orphan Stories" and "Salome was a Dancer" (two vignettes about the conflicting feelings Society has towards victims)."Take Charge" was interesting by essentially telling the same event but in five different time periods (past, present, future)."Post-Colonial" and "Heritage House" (two vignettes about what is remembered in history and whose history is remembered)."Faster" and "Eating the Birds" (two very short pieces about unchecked avarice and its cost).

A good (not great) collection of literary sketches.Save yourself some money and buy the paperback (instead of the hardcover)

4-0 out of 5 stars Wonderful collection of short stories
Margaret Atwood has reached iconic status. Best known for her novels, including A Handmaid's Tale and The Blind Assassin, which won the Booker Prize in 2000, she has an acerbic wit, pointedly criticizes society, and has again and again pushed the boundaries of subject matter and literary form. In her new collection of stories, The Tent, Atwood again attacks the reigning order, and in 30 very short pieces turns literature, history and expectations on their heads.

The first thing that strikes the reader is a question of form. Are these pieces poetry? Short swatches of memory? Flash fiction? A little bit of each of these, and more. Within this freedom of form, Atwood is able to explore everything from life stories ("The livers of the lives in question had their chances, most of which they blew") to a re-writing of the Chicken Little story, where someone finally puts the annoying bird "out of his misery."

Although sometimes uneven, the collection has some gems that make it well worth reading. The book is divided into three sections, and section two seems the strongest, offering up "Plots for Exotics," where a character learns he doesn't have what it takes to be a main character, and "Bring Back Mom: An Invocation," in which the description of the bread-baking, gingham-aproned stay-at-home mom manages to simultaneously make a feminist statement and create a guilty nostalgia in the reader.

Atwood has been writing for more than 35 years, and after that long of pushing against expectations, it has ironically become expected that she would do so. As writing has been her life in many senses, it is not surprising that Atwood turns her brutal gaze on that as well. These stories, especially, feel as if Atwood, as writer, is the narrator. In one story, she decides to "encourage the young." In another she lists three of the novels she won't write soon. And in another she says: "I was given a voice. That's what people said about me. I cultivated my voice, because it would be a shame to waste such a gift." Indeed.

Armchair Interviews says: Margaret Atwood did not disappoint! ... Read more

4. The Blind Assassin: A Novel
by Margaret Atwood
Paperback: 521 Pages (2001-08-28)
list price: US$15.00 -- used & new: US$1.98
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385720955
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France | Japan
Editorial Review

Product Description
The Blind Assassin opens with these simple, resonant words: "Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge." They are spoken by Iris, whose terse account of her sister's death in 1945 is followed by an inquest report proclaiming the death accidental. But just as the reader expects to settle into Laura's story, Atwood introduces a novel-within-a-novel. Entitled The Blind Assassin, it is a science fiction story told by two unnamed lovers who meet in dingy backstreet rooms. When we return to Iris, it is through a 1947 newspaper article announcing the discovery of a sailboat carrying the dead body of her husband, a distinguished industrialist. Brilliantly weaving together such seemingly disparate elements, Atwood creates a world of astonishing vision and unforgettable impact.
Amazon.com Review
The Blind Assassin is a tale of two sisters, one of whom dies underambiguous circumstances in the opening pages. The survivor, Iris ChaseGriffen, initially seems a little cold-blooded about this death in thefamily. But as Margaret Atwood's most ambitious work unfolds--a trickyprocess, in fact, with several nested narratives and even an entirenovel-within-a-novel--we're reminded of just how complicated the familialgame of hide-and-seek can be:

What had she been thinking of as the car sailed off the bridge, then hungsuspended in the afternoon sunlight, glinting like a dragonfly, for thatone instant of held breath before the plummet? Of Alex, of Richard, of badfaith, of our father and his wreckage; of God, perhaps, and her fatal,triangular bargain.
Meanwhile, Atwood immediately launches into an excerpt from Laura Chase'snovel, The Blind Assassin, posthumously published in 1947. In thisdouble-decker concoction, a wealthy woman dabbles in blue-collar passion,even as her lover regales her with a series of science-fictional parables.Complicated? You bet. But the author puts all this variegation to good use,taking expert measure of our capacity for self-delusion and complicity, notto mention desolation. Almost everybody in her sprawling narrative managesto--or prefers to--overlook what's in plain sight. And memory isn't much ofa salve either, as Iris points out: "Nothing is more difficult than tounderstand the dead, I've found; but nothing is more dangerous than toignore them." Yet Atwood never succumbs to postmodern cynicism, or modishcontempt for her characters. On the contrary, she's capable of greattenderness, and as we immerse ourselves in Iris's spliced-in memoir, it'sclear that this buttoned-up socialite has been anything but blind to thechaos surrounding her. --Darya Silver ... Read more

Customer Reviews (409)

5-0 out of 5 stars Complex
If you are looking for a book that is as intense as it is complex this is the book that you have been looking for!

4-0 out of 5 stars Family Agonies
This is a classic novel within a novel.The "within novel" is supposedly an unpublished work by the late Laura Chase, younger sister to Iris Chase Griffen, who acts as narrator of this mysterious and poignant multi-leveled tale of the relationship of the two sisters.Laura dies when the automobile she is driving crashes off a bridge.Is it suicide or an accident? Margaret Atwood's tale is a very sensitively written and intiguing mirroring of the events of the twentieth century, covering the issues of labor unrest, both world wars, and the great depression of the 1930s.Included are battles within and without the family related to the early death of the sisters' mother, their businessman father, Laura's Marxist friend, Alex Thomas, the wise and warm-hearted nanny, Reenie, and antagonism with Iris's husband, the acquisitive and errant husband, Richard Griffen, and his overbearing and snooty sister, Winifred.The latter is involved in child custody issues with Iris and Laura.The book also questions the anti-establishment Laura's mental and emotional behavior.Ms. Atwood also examines the interweaving of women's dependence on and independence from men.This all makes for a thoroughly involving and complicated drama/mystery.We also discover that there much to learn about the dead than what is obvious on the surface.

5-0 out of 5 stars Sad, original, and mezmorizing.
It's hard to describe The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood, in a way not to spoil it. I can say it involves the story of Isis, and the tragic death of her sister Laura which is described in the very first chapter. After that it goes back and fourth in alternation sections: one being a book Laura wrote before her death; and the other being Isis telling the story of her life, the life of her ancestors up through to her in her older age, focusing on her the periods of her youth just after the first World War up until the end of the second World War. It feels a little odd, this structure, at first, but soon it becomes a rich, fascinating, original story that's never dull even when describing seemingly mundane things. A page turner and a very smart one indeed.

It's not a perfect book. It's great at vividly describing events and situations, but less successful at relating emotion. I think that's on purpose because Isis is someone who does not express feelings easily. Interestingly many tragic events in the book are glossed over and it's the smaller events before and after the tragedies that are the focus. I appreciate the way this is different from most other novels, but at the same time it leaves me hanging and saying "that was it?" Also I saw one of the twists towards the end of the book coming from miles away. I think this was a bit purposeful as well, but it was almost a little too obvious for me.

That said Margaret Atwood has written a fantastic book, richly crafted in its characters, and told as a story structure unlike any other book I've read, certainly in recent years. It's a sad story, but not a depressing one. The ending, despite being somewhat predictable, is satisfying. I will remember this book for its originality and quality of writing, more so than for itseffect on me personally. It belongs in the pantheon of great novels, just not in the masterpieces.

5-0 out of 5 stars wonderful
Perfect? Yes. This book captured me. It was beautiful. When it ended, I closed the cover and sighed. It was horribly deppressing and wonderfly magnificent.

4-0 out of 5 stars Bought by accident.... and thankful
Old woman reminisces about her youth, weaving together narratives of her past and present, and her dead sister. The title comes from a fantasy story two star-crossed characters tell each other to pass the time.

I had never read Margaret Atwood, but I knew she wrote things that might appeal to me. I bought this thinking it might be a mystery or fantasy novel. Wrong. It was absolutely nothing I expected, and I probably wouldn't have bought it if you gave me the above paragraph as a description. It sounds like a chick book, and really, it mostly is. Not at all my cup of tea.

That said, I'm exceptionally glad I did buy and read it. The transitions are seamless and the narrator's styles changes appropriately. But aside from just admiring good prose, I found that I actually liked and was engaged with the chick-ish story. I found myself saying over and over again, "I can't believe I like this." It's one of the most unusual and most enjoyable books I've read in a while. I've bought a few more of her books as a result, and I feel comfortable recommending this to others.

As a side note, the blind assassin story itself could make for an interesting novella/novel if ever done. ... Read more

5. Alias Grace: A Novel
by Margaret Atwood
Paperback: 480 Pages (1997-10-13)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$3.49
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385490445
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
In Alias Grace, bestselling author Margaret Atwood has written her most captivating, disturbing, and ultimately satisfying work since The Handmaid's Tale.She takes us back in time and into the life of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the nineteenth century.

Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and Nancy Montgomery, his housekeeper and mistress.Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane.Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders.

Dr. Simon Jordan, an up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness, is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace.He listens to her story while bringing her closer and closer to the day she cannot remember.What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories?Is Grace a female fiend?A bloodthirsty femme fatale?Or is she the victim of circumstances?Amazon.com Review
In 1843, a 16-year-old Canadian housemaid named Grace Marks wastried for the murder of heremployer and his mistress.Thesensationalistic trial made headlines throughout the world, and thejury delivered a guilty verdict.Yet opinion remained fiercelydivided about Marks--was she a spurned woman who had taken out herrage on two innocent victims, or was she an unwilling victim herself,caught up in a crime she was too young to understand?Such doubtspersuaded the judges to commute her sentence to life imprisonment, andMarks spent the next 30 years in an assortment of jails and asylums,where she was often exhibited as a star attraction.In AliasGrace, Margaret Atwood reconstructs Marks's story in fictionalform. Her portraits of 19th-century prison and asylum life arechilling in their detail.The author also introduces Dr. SimonJordan, who listens to the prisoner's tale with a mixture of sympathyand disbelief.In his effort to uncover the truth, Jordan uses thetools of the then rudimentary science of psychology.But the lastword belongs to the book's narrator--Grace herself. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (176)

4-0 out of 5 stars Margaret Atwood always pleases
This was a good read - I always enjoy Atwood's novels, but this one (based on true events) was especially pleasing to me - largely because it allowed the story to unfold in ways that left me open to draw on my own thoughts on the subject as I was reading.Atwood never force-feeds ideas - she allows the flower to open in its own way and we are allowed to admire every stage of the process.. Atwood's use of words and her enunciation is, as always, perfect.Part of the joy of any Atwood novel is the opportunity to roll and wallow in the written word, the quirky turn-of-phrase and the beauty of new ideas expressed with delightful good humor.In the end, I am coated in this (like a pig in mud) and happy to be so satisfied.

3-0 out of 5 stars Reading with Tequila
Alias Grace is a fictionalized view of the life of Grace Marks, a renowned Canadian murderess.She's a remarkably unsympathetic character. At no point in the story can the reader truly get a handle of who she really is.

I felt that Margaret Atwood could have taken a bit more liberty with Grace's guilt or innocence. In historical fiction accuracy matters, but when no facts point to the truth we rely on the author to fill in the blanks. The trouble with Alias Grace is that the reader never knows if Grace is really a murderer or a victim. Grace is an unreliable narrator, giving many different versions of the events throughout the book. She also admits that she lies to the doctor interviewing her while she relates past events. The ultimate resolution to the question is surprising, but the validity of this answer comes into question almost immediately and we never get a firm answer as to the truth. Did Grace help murder her employer and his mistress or was she really a victim lucky enough to survive? We're left to wonder and I found this rather unsatisfying.

The story is told through Grace's first person voice, Dr. Jordan in a third person view, and letters between various parties. There is a distinct variation between the book's present time and memories and documentation of past events. The book is well structured and easy to follow, despite the shifts in the time line.

Alias Grace is well written and at times intensely interesting, but more often hard to relate to or become invested in. It's a pretty slow read with some heavy material and wording. Those with avid interest in historical fiction involving murderers who don't need definitive answers will absolutely love this book, but it may be too open-ended for the average reader to bother getting into.

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book
I had never read a novel by Margaret Atwood before I read Alias Grace.This book was extremely well written and interesting from start to finish.That is saying a lot as it is a long book.Her use of historical fact to frame the story in worked perfectly, and all her characters were complex and believable.She does a great job of subtly making social and gender commentary while telling an intriguing tale.

5-0 out of 5 stars excellent
I stumbled on Margaret Atwood by accident and what a find. This is not the tpye of book I usually read. She keeps you in suspense and I had a hard time putting this one done.

4-0 out of 5 stars Beautiful crafted.
The beauty of Alias Grace lies not within the plot, which is mysterious and based on a true story, nor within the voices of the characters, but within the artistry that Atwood has demonstrated as the true craft of a writer. The ability to take a story and turn it into something more, create a world based on ours, where the characters step from the page.

Atwood based Alias Grace on a true story. The celebrated murderess, young Grace Marks, was a real person in Canada in 1843. She was arrested, along with a man named James McDermott, accused of murdering their employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his pregnant housekeeper-mistress Nancy Montgomery. Grace told three different versions of the murder throughout the trial and was sentenced to life in prison, while McDermott hung. In the novel, Doctor Simon Jordan makes it his mission to lead Grace through her life leading up the day of the murders. The question remains: was Grace telling the truth in any of her questionable versions? Did she knowingly participate in the deaths of two innocents and one unborn child? Why can't she seem to remember the events, but remember dressing in the dead woman's clothing and escaping to the States?

Margaret Atwood's novel is based on historical documentation and news articles which are prevalent throughout the book and serve to ground the novel, but they also uplift the story into a living tale. No one knew for certain if Grace was an innocent bystander, or a devilish accomplice. Petitions for her release are routinely submitted and rejected. The power of this novel is that I want Atwood's version to be the real thing, but that means I question Grace's motives; is she really as naive as she seems? I am still not sure what I want of her. I want her to be innocent, but I want her to be guilty. I want her to escape with Jeremiah the Peddler, but live happily ever after with a husband and normal life. I want Mary Whitney to live, but I want her to have never lived.

Alias Grace is a dark, intriguing, and haunting mystery which stays with us after the last page and for that I must give it 4 stars. I encourage you to read it, and formulate your own thoughts on Grace Marks.
... Read more

6. Cat's Eye
by Margaret Atwood
Paperback: 480 Pages (1998-01-20)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$5.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385491026
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Returning to the city of her youth for a retrospective of her art, controversial painter Elaine Risley is engulfed by vivid images of the past. Strongest of all is the figure of Cordelia, leader of the trio of girls who initiated her into the fierce politics of childhood and its secret world of friendship, longing, and betrayal. Elaine must come to terms with her own identity as a daughter, a lover, an artist, and a woman-but above all, she must seek release from Cordelia's haunting memory. Disturbing, hilarious, and compassionate, Cat's Eye is a breathtaking contemporary novel of a woman grappling with the tangled knot of her life. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (123)

4-0 out of 5 stars SAD........
"If I were to see Cordelia again, what would I tell her about myself?The truth, or whatever would make me look good."

This novel started off at a fast pace and kept me glued to the pages.Elaine is the victim of the bullying of a group of three girls who are considered her friends.Although they are supposed to be friends they make Elaine a scapegoat for everthing that happens in the three girls' lives.She is obedient to their punishment, becasue she thinks she really deserves it. But suddenly one day that all changes and we are brought into the the future lives of these young women. Not a bad book but very detailed, and towards the end I was gettinga little weary of it.
Reviewed by Heather Marshall Negahdar (Sugar-Cane- August 21st, 2010)

5-0 out of 5 stars Enough to See By.
Cat's Eye is amazing in it's nuances.Atwood is the queen of creating a story that never peaks, but never quite bottoms out, a steady heart beat the whole way.In Cat's Eye, I felt like I was told a story of the life of a woman, Elaine, who ruminated on all the details of her life without ever becoming insufferable.She describes each person who has touched her life with offhand comments and wit, throwing out quote after memorable quote.Even the characters that are only noticed for a moment, have awesome description, such as "She is post everything.She is what will come after post."
I felt her unspoken heart break as I read through her youth, occasionally transvering back to her middle age, where she had to deal with the subtle frustrations of the pink elephants of double standard that come with being a woman.Atwood is the master of planting little seeds of thought, and crafting an intricate world of reality around her characters.The book ended masterfully, creating and merging Elaine into an actual person, from her youth to her present, in the starlight."There's old light and there's not much of it.But there's enough to see by."

3-0 out of 5 stars brilliant writing, but a little slow and overly descriptive
Ms. Atwood is a tour de force.The give and take bullying in Cat's Eye is so brutal, I almost stopped reading it, except her writing is yet so marvelous, so smart.The other reason I slowed down was because of the over description and the slow pace of the book.For example, there's a scene where our little girl protagonist takes a marble out of her purse and puts it on her bureau and goes out.And I thought, wait, Ms. Atwood, aren't you going to describe where she puts the marble on the bureau so it doesn't roll off and what else is up there and how the light is falling and... you get the picture.It also had a bit too much Christian imagery for my tastes, although the science bits were great.Still, I'm in awe, and highly looking forward to my next Atwood tome.

5-0 out of 5 stars Simply An Incredible Novel
Cat's Eye is one of my favorite novels and it still resonates with me today as much as it did when I first read it. First and foremost, Margaret Atwood is an incredible writer. Her deft handling of and the richness found in her descriptions and narrative is exquisite. Cat's Eye is more than a novel about girl bullies - it transcends that simple description. It is about Elaine, an adult woman, taking an introspective look at her life and the impact her childhood played in her development as well as her feelings of inadequacy and loneliness. But Cat's Eye also covers these same feelings as experienced by Elaine as an adult. Cat's Eye is still one of my favorites. Very Highly Recommended

4-0 out of 5 stars why hasn't this woman won the Nobel Prize?
Cat's Eye is a beautiful and insightful treatment of not only the relationship among girls and young women, but how those relationships may, or may not, evolve and impact a life.This is subject matter I don't often encounter in fiction, so kudos for being the 'Mary Cassatt' of this tiny genre.Like life, the plot can amble in its later stages, however without losing thematic power.

The conclusion is a little overwritten, but nonetheless powerful.

This should be recommended reading for high school students everywhere. ... Read more

7. The Handmaid's Tale (Everyman's Library)
by Margaret Atwood
Hardcover: 392 Pages (2006-10-17)
list price: US$25.00 -- used & new: US$14.20
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0307264602
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)

A gripping vision of our society radically overturned by a theocratic revolution, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid's Tale has become one of the most powerful and most widely read novels of our time.

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Now she navigates the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules.

Like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Handmaid's Tale has endured not only as a literary landmark but as a warning of a possible future that is still chillingly relevant. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (635)

5-0 out of 5 stars Amazing read.
The Handsmaid's tale takes on what could happen to women is a dystopian society.

Without giving it all away, it's a story told from Offred, a "handmaid" whose only role is to bear children for Fred and his wife.
It's written in a very matter of fact way with hardly any emotion.
Her acceptance of her position gives the reader, or at least me, a terrifying view of what losing hope is all about.
The moments where she remembers the time before reveals her pain and explains how this new society evolved.

It's an incredible reminder of the precious freedoms we have in the west, and an all to real image, of how quick we can lose them.

4-0 out of 5 stars An important political statement...
Especially with what's going on with the Taliban. Reading it will ensure that you never take your freedom lightly again.

1-0 out of 5 stars The Handmaid's Tale
I bought the audio book for my wife since she loved the book. She was very disappointed in this abridged edition. It is mainly sound effects and dramatization, not what was expected.

2-0 out of 5 stars I Really Wanted To Like This Novel...
It really pains me when I read a book that is hailed as a classic many times over but for some reason or another it just doesn't click at all with me. This is the case with The Handmaid's Tale, which is unfortunate because I was very much looking forward to reading this book. I really really wanted to like this book but I can't force what isn't there for me.

The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopian novel set in Gilead, which is formally part of the USA. Most of this book is told in the first person perspective by a character named Offred. Offred is a handmaid, which means her sole purpose in this society is to produce children for her commander (whose name is Fred, Of Fred, you see). Because of the fallout from a nuclear war most women are unable to have children, but Offred is thought to be fertile so during times when she is most fertile she is more or less forced to have passionate-free sex with the commander for the sole purpose of having babies(since his wife is unable to do such). Other women play their role as well. "Aunts" keep watch on the Handmaids and are allowed to read and write (unlike the Handmaids), "Wives" are the highest level caste, whom are married to high ranked men. "Marthas" are older, infertile women and "Econowives" are women who are married to lower ranked men. For men there are commanders, who are high ranking men, "Eyes" who are like the police and "Angels" who fight the wars. Only babies who are deemed as "keepers" are kept, "unbabies" vanish to somewhere unknown. There are other elements such as the Wall where people are hung-up dead for all to see, if they violate the laws of Gilead.

What we have is an excellent setup for a good novel but unfortunately there are some serious issues with this book.

First, this novel is really disjointed. The novel often bounces between present-time and Offreds past, but the transitions aren't smooth. This novel is written in a stream of concious style and it just doesn't work for me. Because it bounces around all over the place it can be a bit confusing at times which draws me away from the story.

Next, the prose is just bad. I understand what Attwood was trying to do here, she's trying to make the character sound more real, but it often feels boring and the areas that are supposed to feel emotional just fall flat. It doesn't have that organic feel to it like, say, 'We' by Yevgenny Zamyatin, which is also written in the POV of the protagonist. Attwood often times tries to sound poetic but to me it comes off as just plain cheesy. She'll often write a cheesy poetic line, followed by a word or two which is supposed to feel impactful but it just doesn't to me. Or she'll write repetitive lines to try and build on the impact, but again it falls flat for me, for example -

"The Commander is the head of the household. The house is what he holds. To have and told hold, till death do us part. The hold of a ship. Hollow."


"What I feel towards them is blankess. What I feel is that I must not feel. What I feel is partly relief, because none of these men is Luke. Luke wasn't a doctor. Isn't."

Or lines like -

"Moira had power now, she'd been set loose, she'd set herself loose. She was now a loose woman."

This type of prose is strung throughout the book (in fact I just fumbled through a few random pages to find these for this review, there are way worse). I was constantly drawn out of the story because of the cringe-inducing prose.

The characters are also a bit flat. Offred is *slightly* three dimensional but most other characters are stuck in two dimensions. A good dystopia needs characters that really pop out of the page to succeed in pulling at my heart-strings.

Finally, the ending fell flat. There is virtually no resolution. It seems like Attwood was going for an ending which would spark conversation (and for many people I'm sure it does) but I really don't like books where there is no resolution, you have no idea what happens to the protagonist.

So, unfortunately this book just didn't work for me. It's hard for me to say I don't recommend reading it. Perhaps it's me and I'm just missing something. So, even though I give it a pessimistic 2.5 (rounded down to 2) I'd still say to check it out because so many people love this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Review of The Handmaid's Tale
The place is Gilead.Religious fundamentalists are now in charge, but no fundamentalists like I've grown up knowing.Gone are the freedoms that women take for granted; their way of dress, owning a checking account and property, having a say over how their body is treated.Instead they are now placed into roles, the wives, the Marthas, the Handmaids.

This story revolves around Rachel, Jacob and Bilhah from Genesis.The use of Bilhah by Rachel and Jacob to give them children.But instead of being in ancient times it is now the future.

So many reviewers have pointed out that this is very similar to the treatment of women in other countries.It's a true observation and this book does a chilling job of putting the reader in one of those womens shoes.

As I read I could hear the voice of Offred in my mind.I could hear resignation, sorrow and a lack of hope.I could hear disbelief as she spoke of memories that were so distant from what she is living now that they seem unreal.I could hear frustration as she struggled to understand why rules and traditions were being changed.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this book.I thought it might be too graphic, that I wouldn't be able to handle it.Atwood deals with the subject, as I'm learning she always does, with a respectful hand, laying the facts out without making them personal.It's that sense of detachment that struck home for me the most.I felt angry and scared while reading, my emotions making up for the seeming lack of emotion shown by Offred.

This is my second Margaret Atwood book.I'm hooked.Both this and The Robber's Bride have shown incredible character development and eye-opening scenarios to me.

What a disturbing, fascinating book this is. ... Read more

8. Lady Oracle
by Margaret Atwood
Paperback: 352 Pages (1998-04-13)
list price: US$15.95 -- used & new: US$9.40
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385491085
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Product Description
Joan Foster is the bored wife of a myopic ban-the-bomber.She takes off overnight as Canada's new superpoet, pens lurid gothics on the sly, attracts a blackmailing reporter, skids cheerfully in and out of menacing plots, hair-raising traps, and passionate trysts, and lands dead and well in Terremoto, Italy.In this remarkable, poetic, and magical novel, Margaret Atwood proves yet again why she is considered to be one of the most important and accomplished writers of our time. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (24)

3-0 out of 5 stars enjoyable
This is my first experience reading this author.I enjoyed the book but certainly disappointed with the ending.I needed more but felt I was "cut off".

5-0 out of 5 stars A fun read from a fantastic author!
She is one of my favorite authors! Everything of hers that I have read is intriguing and thought-provoking. This book, from 1976, is no exception. I liked the story of this writer, who couldn't identify with her characters, who lived so many different lives, that the only way to straighten everything out was to fake her own death. It felt original and new - and not just for a book that is over thirty years old. I really liked it - though I was a bit disappointed that she seemed to have "fallen in love" again by the end... but even that mild disappointment isn't enough to distract from how much I loved the book as a whole. This book did remind me a bit of a few others - like the others had taken elements from this one, particularly in the body-image and the main characters' overweight childhood. Wally Lamb's _She's Come Undone_ is the first example of one of those books that came to mind.

4-0 out of 5 stars Good, but not her best.
Lady Oracle / 0-553-37781-7

Like many of Atwood's characters, the main character of Lady Oracle suffers from an unhappy childhood, this time at the hands of a neurotic mother who frequently berates her daughter for failing to live up to her expectations. The result is a fractured personality - perhaps not quite multiple personalities, but at least many different personas that have to be juggled regularly, and with increasing difficulty. This fractured woman struggles with her relationships and her jobs, and how they affect her identity. Does her success at writing fluffy romance novels make her a less serious, worthwhile human being? Does her success at writing deep, meaningful, feminist poetry make her a less valuable spouse to her husband? Her romances are shallow, and she seems to seek out men that will define her in contrast to themselves. She allows others to define her because, increasingly, she cannot define herself. As the novel winds down, we venture tentatively into the Atwood meme of insanity - are the things related to us, the reader, merely a product of a deranged mind on the part of the main character? We do not know.

I really love Atwood's writing, and own nearly all of her novels, but I will admit that Lady Oracle is not my favorite. The writing and story are, for me, strangely forgettable - even after re-reading the book recently in order to write this review, I find that much of the book did not leave a lasting impression on me, unlike her other, more recent works. Lady Oracle is an older work, and perhaps that is why it doesn't have the same grip on me. I recommend it, but only after you have read Handmaid's Tale, Robber Bride, and Oryx and Crake.

~ Ana Mardoll

4-0 out of 5 stars all the best of Atwood, except the ending
The first meeting with Joan Foster on the balcony of the pensione in Italy is purposefully misleading - this novel is far from the relaxing report from an Italian vacation. But soon enough, Joan, the main character and narrator, makes sure the reader is shocked and intrigued, pushing them to read on. Joan reveals that she faked her own death and is now in hiding. Why? What led her to this, seemingly desperate, step? Her story starts in childhood and meanders through all the turns of girl's and woman's life. As a child, Joan is fighting with weight and longing for beauty, has a perfectionist, overambitious, always unhappy mother and absent (even when present) father, who appears very boring and apathetic at home, but his life is mysterious and full of secrets. Tormented by her mother, Joan escapes into overeating; she is friendless and shy, the girls at Brownies bully her. Her only friend is her aunt Louisa K. Delacourt, who introduces her to the world of movies and spiritual séances. And thanks to Aunt Lou, Joan is finally motivated to lose weight...

Growing up, Joan manages to get the attention of men, but other women (except Aunt Lou, whose identity Joan uses as her alter ego) remain always her antagonists. She is unstable and her life is a mess, she has many ideas for improvement, but always ends up disappointed with herself and longing to erase the past and start afresh from zero again...She desperately wishes for love (a result of an unhappy childhood...) and so meets a parade of less than perfect men: her first lover, Paul, a Polish political émigré in London, who introduces her to the world of trashy romance novels; Arthur, who she marries, a myopic rebel; and her most romantic love, The Royal Porcupine vel Chuck, who is an artist exhibiting animal carcasses. All of them are disappointing, when seen closely, and so Joan is always unsatisfied. She is not able to perceive her life as full and interesting, always waiting, never stable, never feeling the present as something good - sort of anti - yoga approach.

Atwood is usually labeled as a feminist writer, and I can understand it, although she is, simply, just a very good writer. In her novels, the characters display many traits, fears, thoughts common to many women, which most of the women would not admit having (or would admit only at the session with the psychoanalyst). In "Lady Oracle" like in her other novels, she refers to feminine logic and intuition, making the novel at the same time very chaotic - like the lives of perhaps of too many contemporary women trying to get from their time on Earth as much as possible, squeeze the life as much as it hurts, hoping there is always more. The novel felt at the same time very personal and very general, a remarkable achievement. There are, of course, common Atwood motifs (she repeats herself a bit, it is not yet autoplagiarism, but establishing a firm ground, a safe niche for herself, which she mastered to perfection, in all her novels coming back to the same subject in different configurations: the main protagonist's struggle with her personal image, the books written by her as a parallel reality, the toxic mother-daughter relationship, spiritualism, cruelty of little girls, child molesters...). In "Lady Oracle" the most original is the title and its interpretation in the text - "Lady Oracle" is not only the title of Joan's bestseller, but she appears also in her visions with the candle and automatic writing, and, in the distorted version, can be the medium she meets with Aunt Lou... Reading, I was always thinking about the meaning of the title.

I appreciate the author's obvious eloquence and effortless jiggling of mythical themes (the Persephone comes to mind, when Joan tries her automatic writing), fairy tale images, and historical and social stereotypes. I like her irony and wit, woven into the flawless prose so that nothing looks forced and the story flows naturally (I laughed at the changes in style when the excerpts from Joan's novel appeared). Atwood manages to write lightly about very serious matters, and despite the light language the problems tackled in her novels remain with the reader forever, they do not disappear, but fester, demanding attention, urging to think and analyze. I was a bit disappointed with the ending, which, although very unexpected, appeared rushed, as if the author could not wait for the climax. Therefore, I rate this novel four stars, because Atwood can be better.

4-0 out of 5 stars Classic Atwood - and humorous, too!
"Lady Oracle" started slowly--or maybe I just had trouble engaging with it initially, as I was trying to figure out who exactly the narrator was.But once Joan began recounting and reflecting on her life, I was hooked.Atwood used this device of mixing past and present in "The Robber Bride" and "Cat's Eye" as well, but I actually think it works best here.Joan is quite a character, and meets some remarkable people (remarkable in ways good and bad) throughout the course of her life.These are some of Atwood's best character creations.The antics of Joan and the Royal Porcupine had me laughing out loud.I wish I had some of these people in my own life, if only for the amusement value!

This is maybe Atwood's funniest novel, though as is her style, the humor is subtle and used sparingly.I am a huge fan of her prose and narration; it amazes me that she can effective use "big words" and address "big ideas" while seeming conversational and accessible rather than pompously erudite.(Ahem, Ian McEwan?)

My only criticism of "Lady Oracle" was the ending.I greatly enjoyed Joan's telling of her life story, but her reasons for faking her death and fleeing to Italy were contrived and rather ridiculously melodramatic.Granted, the line between her novels and actual life was beginning to blur, but still, it seemed more like a too-obvious plot device to frame the narrative.And the ending was just marked by futility.Hence, I give the book four rather than five stars.Nonetheless, I highly recommend it for Atwood fans as well as others who enjoy character-driven narrative fiction.This goes on my list of favorite Atwood, along with "Oryx and Crake" and "Alias Grace".
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9. Moral Disorder and Other Stories
by Margaret Atwood
Paperback: 240 Pages (2008-02-12)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$4.90
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385721641
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Margaret Atwood’s latest brilliant collection of short stories follows the life of a single character, seen as a girl growing up the 1930s, a young woman in the 50s and 60s, and, in the present day, half of a couple, no longer young, reflecting on the new state of the world. Each story focuses on the ways relationships transform a character’s life: a woman’s complex love for a married man, the grief upon the death of parents and the joy with the birth of children, the realization of what growing old with someone you love really means. By turns funny, lyrical, incisive, earthy, shocking, and deeply personal, Moral Disorder displays Atwood’s celebrated storytelling gifts and unmistakable style to their best advantage. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (21)

5-0 out of 5 stars Compelling, funny and poignant
Both a collection of short stories and a complete novel in itself, Moral Disorder is a collection of vinaigrettes from the life of Nell, a Canadian woman who, like Atwood, was born in the 1930s. The stories are mixed up in time - the first is set when she is an elderly woman,the last when she is the middle-age carer of her own mother suffering dementia, and in between we get a peek into her love life, houses and relationship she has with her much younger sister.

Compelling, funny and poignant, Margaret Atwood's light touch conceals a much deeper commentary on the universal experiences of many women.

5-0 out of 5 stars Atwood hasn't won the Nobel Prize, not yet.
I find Margaret Atwood to be an extremely versatile writer, and some of her later works--this one included--are almost poetry although they are prose...There are passages I have to read again and again, they are so powerfully written. Just 2.5 pages into the book, she is describing the relationship between a couple:

"Communication hasn't failed us, not yet. 'Not yet' is aspirated, like the 'h' in 'honour'.It's the silent 'not yet'. We don't say it out loud."

Right then I knew she had me; I was hooked.This morning I read a passage where a woman is describing how she feels intimidated by her lover's former marriage:

"It [the marriage] had a certain oversized andphosphorescent splendour about it, like a whale decaying on a beach."

This particular book is a collection of short stories from different periods of the life of a single character.I'm still savoring the book, and I am deeply thankful that Atwood is such a prolific writer. I don't know why she hasn't been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature-perhaps just "not yet"...

P.S. If you like the certain intense way she uses words in this book, you might also enjoy "The Tent".The stories are much shorter and thus less engaging in a sense, but like "Moral Disorder", "The Tent" is another example of literature at the limits of mastery.

4-0 out of 5 stars Pictures of you pictures of me
This is a collection of several stories all about a mother and two daughters from differant decades. Atwood never tells you which time period the essay takes place in exactly,but its pretty obvious from her descriptions what era she is speaking of. It starts out with a couple reading the depressing newspaper, an almost teenage girl whose mom is pregnant and on bed rest in the middle of know where.In this essay she also flashes forward to present sitting in the car with her sister(the baby mom was pregnant with) who is cussing out all the bad drivers that she calls fred.Its ends with her visiting her 90 something mother who is blind, deaf and bedridden and all of her good memories she has of her mom. My favorite essay is about Lillie,her 70 something year old real estate agent who makes terrible cookies but can find anyone a fabulous affordable house.She is the kind of person who you didn't think existed anymore.I wished she was my friend.
From this novel Atwood tells you some of her secrets how she came up with some of her characters.

3-0 out of 5 stars Ultimately, this book is a disappointment
To begin with, I don't understand why this novel is described as a book of short stories. It is a novel with different chapters. I guess you could say any novel is a book of short stories. That was odd to me.

Ultimately, this book is a disappointment. The characters are not likeable, but not unlikable in a sense that they are character studies. They are merely dull people. The main character, Nell, drifts along in a relationship with a very unlikable man, "Tig." He is married to "Oona," has no visible means of support, moves Nell into a dump of a house out in the country, never takes Nell's side in the struggles she has in her life. Nell has a brother, but aside from two or three sentences, he is not in the story, so why did Atwood bother with this character? It is as though she meant to flesh him out, never got around to it, and forgot to delete him from the book. A daughter Tig and Nell had together is mentioned once or twice and never again, too.

There are entire chapters in this book that seem very disconnected from the story, almost like outlines that never got completed. I am referring to "The Other Place," "The Labrador Fiasco," and "The Boys at the Lab." Since the last two chapters mentioned are also the last two chapters in the book, the end of the book is not wrapped up well and leaves you feeling, why did I bother to read this? What was the point? The title of the book does not really tie into the entire work, either, aside from the fact that Nell and Tig lived together out of wedlock. Yawn.

I like to root for or against characters in a work of fiction. I feel this book was very bland. It requires the reader to invest her time and interest, with no ultimate payoff.

5-0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Writing at its Best!
"Atwood is a brilliant writer.Fans of The Handmaid's Tale - one of the best books ever written - will not be disappointed with new collection of Atwood's short stories." ... Read more

10. The Door
by Margaret Atwood, Phoebe Larmore
Paperback: 128 Pages (2009-04-02)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$3.98
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0547237707
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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The Door, Margaret Atwood's first book of poetry since Morning in the Burned House, is a magnificent achievement. Here in paperback for the first time, these fifty lucid, urgent poems range in tone from lyric to ironic to mediative to prophetic, and in subject from the personal to the political, viewed in its broadest sense. They investigate the mysterious writing of poetry itself, as well as the passage of time and our shared sense of mortality. Brave and compassionate, The Door interrogates the certainties that we build our lives on, and reminds us once again of Margaret Atwood's unique accomplishments as one of the finest and most celebrated writers of our time.
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Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Atwood returns to poetry
From the cat in the freezer to dealing with her grief you will want to own this book to read and re-read.

4-0 out of 5 stars UNSENTIMENTAL ELEGIES
Margaret Atwood's THE DOOR could very well have been subtitled UNSENTIMENTAL ELEGIES: the same clear-eyed, sometimes caustic observations that give her novels their energy and force are also everywhere apparent in this strong collection of short poems.

At times intensely personal, Atwood's poems seek to find a common thread of humanity in their narration of such every day tragedies as the death of a beloved cat, or the slow onset of her mother's senility.Always alive to the possibility that suffering can distort our humanity, render us blind and selfish, Atwood shows us that we must learn to be sentimental in only the best and highest sense of that word.

Altogether THE DOOR is a good solid collection that is perfectly in keeping with Atwood's masterful, often inspired fiction.Recommended.
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11. Selected Poems: 1965-1975
by Margaret Atwood
Paperback: 240 Pages (1987-11-05)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$1.56
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0395404223
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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Celebrated as a major novelist throughout the English-speaking world, Atwood has also written eleven volumes of poetry. Houghton Mifflin is proud to have published SELECTED POEMS, 1965-1975, a volume of selections from Atwood's poetry of that decade. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Margaret Atwood Holds Up A Knife
Margaret Atwood holds up a knife. She flashes it in the light of the reader. She traces it along the flesh, and threatens violence, but she never throws the knife, nor does she inflict a wound. Occasionally a drop will surface, perhaps this is her intent, perhaps it isn't, perhaps it was the reader's pulling of her tool too close. This vacillation between whether or not the cut was meant or merely the idea of the cut is precisely where Atwood' poetry succeeds.

Violence is inherent in the world, it is natural, it can be gruesome, blunt and bloody, or simple, quiet and clean. This is the loom upon which Atwood weaves. In her Selected Poems 1965-1975 we find a tapestry containing all possible combinations of these facets of violence. Throughout we find drowned sons and fires, the blood of animals and humans, menacing, inner and outer warfare, revolts,rebellions. In Departures From The Bush the poem begins after a fire that has `erased' a bush, and the eventual occupation of said bush by animals, the fear involved in that occupation, the bareness of the limbs, the strange glowing eyes of the creatures that have made the burnt bush their home. In The Animals Of That Country there are images of a slain bull, wolves looming in the thick forests and finally a statement on the lack of elegance in death, especially in the deaths of the nameless. There is also the slow violence of withering, and aging into death or history, as inElegy For The Giant Tortoises, and The Death Of The Other Children, both poems evoke the erosion upon a body by life.In all the selections of Circe/Mud Poems. Atwood explores the violent nature of choice, and how the very act of choosing one thing over another leaves the unchosen in a coffin. But again Atwood leaves it to the reader as to whether or not there will be blood "I made no choice, I decided nothing." And to Odysseus "will you hurt me? if you do I will fear you, if you don't I will despise you, to be feared, to be despised, theses are your choices."

If violences are the consonants, then transformations are the vowels. It is these two parts that form the words of Atwood's language. She transforms herself into a mirror repeatedly, as well as a heraldic emblem in the poem of the same title, she also transforms herself into Circe as well as transforming her subjects into Cyclopes and fortresses, and hunters, as well as an entire selection of poems called Songs Of The Transformed in which she gives the reader a first person account of being among other things worms, a siren, a bull, a fox, and pig and an owl that is "the heart of a murdered woman, who took the wrong way home, who was strangled in a vacant lot and not buried, who was shot with care beneath a tree. . ." The first words of each line in the first stanza beginning with `who'.

For Atwood there is always in the poem it seems a consideration of what is not being said,A nod to the universes created by the negative space, what one could do and the nature of that possibility inregard to the possibility that one could, though may not. This seems too to be evident in the subjects she chooses as well, the animals that she is not, the mirror that she could not possibly be, the songs and elegies of those that lie in pauper's graves. There could be, no there is, an entire song, there in the anonymous worms, a rebellion beneath our feet, there is Circe's side to the story there is the reflection's tale to tell. In a literary environment that sometimes seems to reach too far into the viscera, or too far in the other direction it is refreshing to read something that seems to meet itself halfway between the guts and great unknown. For it seems to Atwood that there is no better way to find the self than to become something else and look back at oneself through those eyes, even though those eyes are still irrevocably one's own. This attachment through detachment is a transformation wrought violently between the self and the other. transformation is violent, even if it is not covered in blood and screaming into death beneath the moonlight. Or maybe it is, Atwood begs you to decide, she has flashed us the knife, she has shown us the weapon, it is up to us to decide the rest.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Composition
I first became interested in Ms. Atwood after reading one of her poems from Power Politics in a college text book: you fit into me/ like a hook into an eye/ an open eye/ a fish hook..Selected Poems, 1965-1975 was myfirst purchase of her poetry, and I was not disappointed.This book is anexquisite example of Margaret Atwood's vivid imagery and examination ofhuman relationships.One poem in this collection, titled Against StillLife, compares her relationship with a man to the frustration of not beingable to touch an orange used for a still life painting.The poems cover awide range of emotions, ranging from elaborate and lengthy to simple andbrief.Each poem creates beautiful, lucid images in the mind of thereader.Her usage of biting wit and sarcasm resembles that of Sylvia Plathand Anne Sexton, but does not offend the reader with and excessive usage ofsuicidal energy or feminist rage that tends to pollute the work of theaforementioned poets. Since reading Selected Poems, 1965-1975, I have readmany other volumes of Margaret Atwood's poetry, but none have touched me asdeeply.This is also a great example of Atwood's earlier works, many ofwhich are not available outside of this book, as the original volumes arenow out of print.I would suggest this book for lovers of other Atwoodwriting, including her novels and short stories.This book is a definitiveasset to any collector of her works. ... Read more

12. Life Before Man
by Margaret Atwood
Paperback: 384 Pages (1998-04-13)
list price: US$13.95 -- used & new: US$7.85
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385491107
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Imprisoned by walls of their own construction, here are three people, each in midlife, in midcrisis, forced to make choices--after the rules have changed.Elizabeth, with her controlled sensuality, her suppressed rage, is married to the wrong man.She has just lost her latest lover to suicide.Nate, her gentle, indecisive husband, is planning to leave her for Lesje, a perennial innocent who prefers dinosaurs to men.Hanging over them all is the ghost of Elizabeth's dead lover...and the dizzying threat of three lives careening inevitably toward the same climax. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (25)

2-0 out of 5 stars Didn't get it
The point of this novel is lost on me. Am I not sophisticated enough to understand it? Or is it just pretentiously pointless? I don't know...

At the center of "Life Before Man" is a married couple. Elizabeth is an administrative worker at a historical museum, Nate is an ex-lawyer turned wood toy maker. The two have been together for over 10 years, they have 2 children, but their marriage is a sham. Elizabeth has been through a string of lovers and encourages her husband to do the same - find lovers on the side, but only the type of lovers that guarantees she ultimately has him for herself. The two go on like this for a while, until Elizabeth's latest lover commits suicide. She is depressed and consumed by her own regrets and misery and temporarily fails to see that Nate is in love again. His new flame is Elizabeth's co-worker - Lesja, a young, naive woman, who is more interested in her dinosaur fossils than real people. Lesja and Nate soon become lovers, but Lesja continues living with her boyfriend William. When Elizabeth wakes up from her depressed stupor and finds out that her husband's new lover is a threat to her marriage (Nate is taken by Lesja enough to be willing to move out), she decides to stir things up - not only does she make William her next lover, she also reveals to him that Lesja is cheating on him. A lot of of lukewarm drama follows...

While on the surface "Life Before Man" seems like a moderately interesting tale of an unhappy marriage and cheating, the book is not really as great as this short summary might imply. The characters, while meticulously established and analyzed by Atwood, are hard to relate to and extremely unlikable - Elizabeth, manipulative and greedy, Nate - an indecisive loser, Lesja - an insecure doormat. Their trials and tribulations are not compelling. Their pointless and unhappy lives are uninteresting. The book synopsis promises a dramatic climax, there is none. "Life Before Man" is pretty much a sad, depressing novel about unhappy and unlikable people who do nothing to make their lives better, choosing instead to carry on their miserable existence.

I learned nothing from this book, I felt nothing for the characters. What was the point of this novel?

2-0 out of 5 stars Didn't really get it...
I didn't really "get" this book. I think it just went in too many directions. Everybody was cheating on everybody; Chris had committed suicide, leaving Elizabeth in a state of depression; Nate wanted to leave Elizabeth for Lesje who was trying to leave her boyfriend who eventually assaulted her...
I just didn't get it. I couldn't wait to finish it and move on to a more interesting book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Not What It Seems
Life Before Man / 0-385-49110-7

One of my best memories of this book involves an arrogant young man sneering at me (with regards to the title) about my choice of "feminist literature". He paled and immediately backed off when I calmly informed him that the book centered around the inner workings of a dinosaur museum. I think he learned the inherent dangers of judging a book by its cover!

Indeed, while Atwood is often identified as a feminist writer, she is more accurately in my opinion described as a humanist writer. Of the four main sympathetic actors in this book, two are male, and - in some ways - they are the most sympathetic of all. Atwood excels here in her art of making us see both sides - what seemed cruel and petty to one character was really an act of desperation and pain to another - and we are able to understand, at the same time, why the act was both, without contradiction.

The actors here are a married couple who no longer love each other yet cannot seem to totally break free from one another, and the respective lovers of each. The lovers are most sympathetic, because they suffer without being given the "right" to suffer - after all, a girlfriend can't really be hurt, frustrated, or upset when her boyfriend cancels a date to go see his estranged wife and children, can she? Of course, she can, but she is denied the social outlets to express her "inappropriate" yet completely legitimate pain. Similarly, a boyfriend "shouldn't" be devastated when his girlfriend ends their fling and dutifully returns to her husband and children, and yet that "shouldn't" doesn't stop him from feeling the pain or from suffering loneliness. Quiet pain and desperation are Atwood's forte, and her characters realistically suffer from it.

Like most Atwood stories, there is no magical happy ending here, but there is at least one that leaves room for hope, as we wonder if man has perhaps evolved into a being that can understand the feelings of others, and not just his own.

~ Ana Mardoll

4-0 out of 5 stars Life Before Man Review
Sex, scandal, suicide derives the plot of Life Before Man by Margaret Atwood.The primary focus of the novel is on Elizabeth, Nate and Lesje, who portray his or her life in Toronto, Canada through a narrative perspective.The story starts with the end to the sexy, scandalous affair that Elizabeth shared with Chris, her lover, because her husband, Nate was not been the right man for her after ten years of marriage. The affair ends with Chris committing suicide and Elizabeth shunning the world.Nate and Elizabeth are still continuing to live together for the sake of there children, Janet and Nancy.However, Nate falls in love with a paleontologist named Lesje, who is more interested on dinosaurs then anything else, hence give the title of the novel.With the start of Nate and Lesje's love affair, the boundaries shifts as Nate and Elizabeth separate, creating tension for the children.
Atwood portrays the glum atmosphere through the gray color imagery and while the memorable event is illustrate thought vivant color imagery.Furthermore, diction is used to separate to different style of the characters to insert more personality and difference between the three.Also, Atwood portray the theme of family through all the characters, as it has become a constant struggle for all of the family members to be connected to one another.Atwood is highlighting that even with major disturbance in a character's life, family is an important aspect.
Atwood has beautifully illustrated the struggle in one's life to keep hold of his or her family, while uplifting his/her self-esteem.Life Before Man is intended for high thinking because there are events through out the setting that could baffle the readers from time and time again.The lesson that can be learned for this novel is if life throws you lemons, make the lemons into lemonade and move on with your life.

3-0 out of 5 stars Not Her Best Work
This book is obviously Very Important Literature, because all the characters are stricken with Very Important Literature Ennui.Everybody is unhappy, but nobody does anything, really, to become less unhappy.They mope around for 300+ pages and then are abandoned by the author, who has apparently become bored by them.

It's not that nothing happens in the book.Things do happen - lovers are taken and discarded, a marriage collapses of its own weight, lives end, lives begin - but no one really seems to learn anything from their actions, and one assumes that they are still wandering around in Atwood's dark landscape, a quarter-century after the fact, miserable with their own choices and too enervated to do anything about it.

Atwood serves her astounding skills poorly here.She continues to draw interior and exterior landscapes with breathtaking precision and folds time inward upon itself like origami, until that which was one-dimensional and flat becomes crenellated, complicated, and contorted into unexpected and graceful forms.But all this authorial sleight-of-hand cannot hide the fact that these characters are ... boring.Their petty adulteries are banal.Their wounds are virtually all self-inflicted, and Atwood never really gives the reader any hook upon which to hang an emotional involvement.

Atwood has done far superior work, and the reader who wants a sense of what she is about would be much better advised to seek out "The Handmaid's Tale" or "Catseye" or "The Blind Assassin". ... Read more

13. Wilderness Tips
by Margaret Atwood
Paperback: 240 Pages (1998-03-16)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$3.99
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385491115
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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In each of these tales Margaret Atwood deftly illuminates the single instant that shapes a whole life: in a few brief pages we watch as characters progress from the vulnerabilities of adolescence through the passions of youth into the precarious complexities of middle age.By superimposing the past on the present, Atwood paints interior landscapes shaped by time, regret, and life's lost chances, endowing even the banal with a sense of mystery.Richly layered and disturbing, poignant at times and scathingly witty at others, the stories in Wilderness Tips take us into the strange and secret places of the heart and inform the familiar world in which we live with truths that cut to the bone.

Margaret Atwood is the author of over twenty-five books, including fiction, poetry, and essays.Among her most recent works are the bestselling novels Alias Grace and The Robber Bride and the collections Wilderness Tips and Good Bones and Simple Murders.She lives in Toronto.
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Customer Reviews (13)

4-0 out of 5 stars At once poignant and deeply disturbing.
In Wilderness Tips, Margaret Atwood writes ten short stories that are at once poignant and deeply disturbing. Each story illustrates one moment in a person's life that changes them forever. They grow from young and idealistic to old and bitter in the space of a few pages and all of the stories ended up being dark in one way or another. They all carried themes of loss, missed opportunities, mistakes, dead ends and sad realizations.

They all took place in Canada, with some containing native Canadians and some transplanted from England or Europe. They almost all featured promiscuity and sexual affairs, often as the norm, and they all had one hard earned life lesson to impart. The tales spanned the decades from "the war years" of World War II up until the late eighties and early nineties and all of the changes that took place in that time. The women's movement took special prominence in these stories as they described the changes they in particular experience over that span of sixty years of human history, especially the changing face of womanhood and feminism.

Of the stories that struck me the most there was "True Trash", illuminating the difference between the "dot dot dot" of romance in the war years and the sexually explicit romance of modern day. "Hairball" was also a disturbing look at the changing face of womanhood and what women have had to give up in order to get ahead. "Death by Landscape" was one of the more horrifying stories about a camping trip gone horribly wrong and the insight, or perhaps just blind stabbing hope, it left one of the campers with. "The Age of Lead" was especially poignant because it wasn't until long after this book was published that the bpa-lining in plastic containers was discovered to be bad and that was just more of the same of the over arching theme in this story, making this one incredibly relevant to modern day.

While the themes may have been dark all of these stories had an inner kernel of truth that both you and the characters cannot escape. Time goes by fast, change happens, choices have to be made but it is ultimately you that has to live with the consequences.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Atwood
Wilderness Tips / 0-553-56046-8

This collection of short stories by Atwood includes the following:

- True Trash
- Hairball
- Isis in Darkness
- The Bog Man
- Death by Landscape
- Uncles
- The Age of Lead
- Weight
- Wilderness Tips
- Hack Wednesday

These are some of Atwood's best short stories. Most all of them delve into the dynamic of timidity, even when deeply hidden beneath the surface. Her characters range the gamut from cutting fashion queen to impoverished teenagers to cosmopolitan journalist, with external attitudes and personalities to match, yet each character struggles internally with feelings of doubt, timidity, and fears of worthlessness. This common thread skillfully unites these otherwise unrelated stories into a single theme that Atwood pounds at, over and over: How do you convince yourself that you have worth when those most important to you treat you otherwise?

~ Ana Mardoll

2-0 out of 5 stars Repetitive, pale, disappointing
Ugh. I've read a lot of Margaret Atwood over the years and have a great deal of respect for her, but this one is almost unreadable. My feeling is that it's essentially the same story disguised and retold until you're sick of it. And it's not even a very interesting story: the main character experiences a vague, late-middle-aged regret for grand ambitions unfulfilled, coupled with either diffuse guilt for having, in youth, failed a friend, or an unfocused resignation over having been misused at some point in life, generally romantically. I had to give it a score slightly higher than the lowest, only because it's Margaret Atwood and even at her worst she's far better than hacks like Dan Brown.

5-0 out of 5 stars Wilderness Gems
I have read many of Atwood's novels and one compilation of her short stories, "Dancing Girls," and I am convinced that she is one of the most accomplished authors writing today.I understand the comments of those reviewers who believe that Atwood's strength is the novel, and not the short story, since she excels in the psychological interplay of characters, which usually requires more time to develop than a short story will allow.However, the stories in "Wilderness Tips" are all fully realized and memorable, and when one compares them to the stories in "Dancing Girls," one immediately realizes how far she has come.Her writing here is darkly comic, witty, profound, and remarkable.She captures in each story that fleeting moment in time when someone's life has changed unalterably.

3-0 out of 5 stars Well written, poignant stories
I am not a fan of the short story genre; in fact, the only reason I picked up this book is because I am such an enormous fan of Margaret Atwood's. The mere fact that this collection held my attention well enough for me to complete it is in itself a major feat.

As usual, Atwood focuses on all aspects of female experience: love, relationships, sex, power. She's a gifted wordsmith who has an uncanny ability to get to the heart of matters and create imagery - both physical and emotional - that resonates with readers. Although the description of the ovarian cyst in Hairball (probably my favorite story in the collection. Although I did love Uncles, and Death by Landscape) was morbid and graphic, but it was gratuitous - Atwood was clearly making a point, and I don't know that she could have made it any other way. Atwood's usual flair for creating characters that were multidimensional and realistic was at work in most of the stories.

There were a few stories - notably The Bog Man - that I didn't particularly enjoy. As well, some of the themes did get repetitive. In the end, as someone who isn't a big fan of short stories, a part of me wishes that Atwood had taken a few of the wonderful characters she created in the books' best stories and created a full length novel, or, even better, a few full length novels. If, however, you are a fan of the short story genre, you will likely enjoy this book even more so than I, in which case I'd highly reccommend you read it. ... Read more

14. The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus (Myths, The)
by Margaret Atwood
Paperback: 224 Pages (2006-09-14)
list price: US$13.00 -- used & new: US$6.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1841957984
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Margaret Atwood returns with a shrewd, funny, and insightful retelling of the myth of Odysseus from the point of view of Penelope.Describing her own remarkable vision, the author writes in the foreword, “I’ve chosen to give the telling of the story to Penelope and to the twelve hanged maids. The maids form a chanting and singing Chorus, which focuses on two questions that must pose themselves after any close reading of the Odyssey: What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to? The story as told in the Odyssey doesn’t hold water: there are too many inconsistencies. I’ve always been haunted by the hanged maids and, in The Penelopiad, so is Penelope herself.” One of the high points of literary fiction in 2005, this critically acclaimed story found a vast audience and is finally available in paperback.
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Customer Reviews (29)

5-0 out of 5 stars This is a delightfully funny book
The story of the famous Odysseus and his ten year battle at Troy to help rescue the absconding/kidnapped Helen and his ten year voyage home is told by a man, Homer, in his Iliad and Odyssey; so who in the world would expect to get the true facts about his faithful wife Penelope. The entire world knows that during his twenty-year absence Odysseus' wife Penelope kept herself from her many suitors, men who were besieging her palace to marry her so that they could get their hands on her wealth, not her, men who Odysseus killed together with his wife's twelve maids by hanging. But Homer, apparently uninterested in female matters, gives us no clue why Penelope was so faithful or why Odysseus felt the need to kill the twelve maids. Now along comes Margaret Atwood and reveals all in a hilarious fashion.

We learn what a liar Odysseus was, that his chest was barrel shape but his legs were abnormally short, that Penelope was not that beautiful, but the two of them were pretty smart, at least they thought so. We learn that Helen had a need to flirt. If no human was present she would flirt with an animal or a bed post or a tree, for she was the most beautiful woman in the world, or so she believed. In fact she told this to so many people so many times that they believed it as well.

We learn whether Odysseus really battled supernatural monsters, was loved by a goddess who turned his men into pigs, whether the sea god Poseidon actually had it in for our hero; did he really visit the land of the dead. Were these simply artful depictions of visits to various bars, whorehouses, and similar establishments? These are facts that intelligent readers want to know. All of this is told to us by Penelope herself, after she is dead, while she is down below; and surely she would not lie, not any more. She also reveals what happens to people after death, again something most people want to know, and she knows because she is there, so what better witness could we ask for.

We learn as well whether Penelope really remained faithful for twenty years, from age 15 to 35, how she was at fault for Odysseus killing her twelve maidens, whether they were raped, seduced, or were just looking for fun, about the trial of Odysseus for the murder of the maidens, and how they hounded him as he tried to escape them by becoming alive again, time after time, in disguises.

5-0 out of 5 stars Bold and irreverent, sly and droll...

I remember, after reading the Odysseus myth, of being quite singularly impressed with the wife - but no more than that. Penelope was depicted as the quintessential faithful, quietly steadfast mate while the husband `struggled' to come back home. She was a vital character in the story, but her voice seemed to have still been largely ignored.

Atwood, however, twists the story around in "The Penelopiad". Penelope's character is made to have a silently sarcastic wit, able to pierce through the shenanigans surrounding the legend that was her husband and his famous journey back home. Her views on the Greek gods and other divinities were quite impertinent as to be mocking. (She, of course, admits to being able to make fun of them *now* as she's...well...dead.)

She also paints Helen in an altogether unsavory light. Their faintly barbed remarks against each other were quite enjoyable to read.

There's a contemporary spin, as well, in this story. Her existence as a `bodiless' entity after death `down there' is spared from monotony whenever there's an attempt (often idiotic) by the living to contact the dead - from the ancient rites of offering animal blood to call upon the souls in Hades to the more `new age' practice of crystal globes and tarot. In a way, her depiction of `life' after death is made to appear less than intolerable than most. And the `judicial court' scene near the end reinforces the contemporaneity of the narrative.

The more emotional part of this story, however, is her anguish in the deaths Odysseus dealt to her 12 maids, who were originally depicted as disloyal and in collusion with the `suitors' who pestered Penelope. She lays down the truth behind the actions of these 12 young girls and, in so doing, places the Odyssey myth in shaky grounds.

All in all, Atwood presents an entertaining story from the point of view of one of the more underrated heroines from the legends of old. With lots of attitude, told in an engaging voice, "The Penelopiad" is a refreshing read.

2-0 out of 5 stars Derivative and Shallow
If I had never read anything by the enormously original Dorothy Parker or seen Woody Allen's "Mighty Aphrodite," I may have been impressed with this book. But I was not impressed. It had the all snarky tone with absolutely none of the side-splitting humor or heartbreaking depth of emotion I so adore in Dorothy Parker and Woody Allen's works.

I appreceiate the idea of Atwood's re-telling the myth from Penelope's point of view, as well as her attempt to go the feminist, moral route...but it was executed in an obvious, silly, and derivative way.

If you want a light book to read at the beach, this will do...I have heard her other novels could be modern classics, so I am reluctant to criticize Atwood as a writer on the whole until I read more of her work. I am, however, disappointed that I didn't choose one of her novels as my introduction to Atwood over this title.

4-0 out of 5 stars The Maids Made the Story
Margaret Atwood is just the best.Every book I've read by her I've loved - and this one is no exception...but it wasn't because of the unfleshed-out, stoic, emotionless Penelope, it was because of Atwood's artful use of the 12 Maids.Each Chorus featuring the Maids was amusing and chilling all at once.This is an excellent bit of wordsmithing and a pleasure to read.

2-0 out of 5 stars So-so
This is my first Margaret Atwood book and I hope it is not indicative of the writing she normally produces. I've heard many great things about this author and the story just doesn't live up to the hype.

"The Penelopiad" starts out nicely - a rather interesting albeit superficial retelling of various myths about Penelope, famous Odysseus' wife. The story is told from Penelope's point of view and attempts to modernize the image of a meek and ever-faithful and honest wife we know from Greek mythology. The book is also aimed to address the injustice of slaying of Penelope's 12 maids who are accused of consorting with Penelope's unwelcome suitors.

The majority of the book recounts widely known myths and this part is entertaining enough. Atwood's Penelope is if not likeable at least engaging character. She is smart and adaptable, but at the same time snarky, jealous and uncaring (mostly of her female servants), she is envious of her cousin Helen and blames her for all her misfortunes. However when the narrative finally approaches the center issue of the book - examination of the reasons for slaying of Penelope's maids, the book takes a strange if not awful turn. We are presented with a bizarre explanation (something about Penelope being a matriarchal goddess and her maids her faithful cult followers or some such nonsense) followed by a pointless mock trial of Odysseus. What starts as a fair retelling of well-known myths, becomes, as Atwood rather astutely calls it herself, a "feminist claptrap."

From what I know about Atwood, she is one of those writers with a strong feminist agenda, which I am fine with. I just didn't expect it to be so in your face. I'll give her books another try, hopefully they are better. ... Read more

15. Surfacing
by Margaret Atwood
Paperback: 208 Pages (1998-03-16)
list price: US$14.00 -- used & new: US$7.27
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385491050
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Part detective novel, part psychological thriller, Surfacing is the story of a talented woman artist who goes in search of her missing father on a remote island in northern Quebec.  Setting out with her lover and another young couple, she soon finds herself captivated by the isolated setting, where a marriage begins to fall apart, violence and death lurk just beneath the surface, and sex becomes a catalyst for conflict and dangerous choices.  Surfacing is a work permeated with an aura of suspense, complex with layered meanings, and written in brilliant, diamond-sharp prose.  Here is a rich mine of ideas from an extraordinary writer about contemporary life and nature, families and marriage, and about women fragmented...and becoming whole. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (59)

4-0 out of 5 stars A fascinating story of subjectivity and self, burdened by heavy-handed symbolism. Moderately recommended
When her father disappears, the protagonist of Surfacing returns to his remote lakehouse in a search which leads not to her father--but into the wilds of the land and her own past. One of Atwood's earliest novels, Surface's plot is deceptively simple and its themes complex. The real world events of the book are sparse and straightforward, but complexity lies in the protagonist's past and her mental state. Her flawed communication, false memories, and lies make her the consummate unreliable narrator; that her journey of self-discovery is also a decent into madness only complicates and confuses her story. The twists and instability may catch the reader off-guard, but following that intriguing, nuanced, subjective path is also the book's delight: it is a quiet, thoughtful process heavy with metaphor and symbolism, a journey of understanding and of self.

Unfortunately, the end of the book takes a sudden turn as the protagonist plummets into and then skyrockets out of madness. Although introduced with subtlety and grace, her madness comes to feel more symbolic than realistic--and in a book already awash with symbolism, this sudden exaggeration is too much: the loss of subtlety makes the ending feel hurried and almost clunky, and the loss of realism strips the book down to bare symbolism which hangs heavy without the support of a more realistic plot. Or perhaps Surfacing wasn't the Atwood novel for me, and those themes didn't have enough personal appeal to justify their heavy-handedness. If this is the case then I don't much mind: there are already many Atwood novels which I love without reservation, and that this one doesn't meet their high standard is hardly an insult. In the end, I give Surfacing a moderate recommendation: it's a fascinating story of unreliability, self, and mind, but I can't overlook its flaws.

3-0 out of 5 stars Strange and different
STRANGE....easiest way to describe it.

The nameless character goes back to her childhood home on a remote island looking for her father....she brings all kinds of emotions and "hangups" with her.

She spends little over a week with her boyfriend and another couple...they all start getting on each other's nerves.When it is time to leave, the nameless heroine hides and doesn't go with them....even stranger things happen when she is there alone.

While there with her friends, she is constantly worrying that her widowed father will return and be enraged that there are people in his home.She finds things from her childhood while in the house and things that make her think about feelings and obligations.

She seems to be looking for answers about her life then and now.

It has excellent character descriptions and descriptions of feelings.....it takes a few pages to get you interested, and it is a deep, thoughtful book with a lot more "underneath" that comes out - must be why it is called surfacing?

4-0 out of 5 stars Fluctuations in Progress
While certainly not my favorite Atwood tale (that title goes to The Handmaid's Tale, this was a wonderfully beautiful, dark story of a woman trying to figure out who she is and why.How X is able to delve into her past, figuring out why she has become who she is, with little attachment to relationships is a story that most women have experienced, on at least some level.No, not every woman is faced with the pain that X has had to face, or the desire to simply leave everything behind, but I would bet that in each of our lives, we have had a need to become a detective to figure out our own life.

This is a novel that needs to be read on various levels.An understanding that it is an exploration of X's mind and memories - and how they affect her current situations, along with being an exploration of X's current life and her needs to become someone knew, defined by herself as opposed to all those around her, is necessary to getting anything out of the work.It is not a straight time-line story, nor is any of our lives.We all fluctuate between the present and the past, trying to figure out how the past has impacted our present.

Atwood does an admirable job of writing this process out, in my opinion.

5-0 out of 5 stars Don't miss it!
This is Atwood at her best. Enthralling from the very beginning is deep and funny. Interesting characters and good plot. Not to be forgotten.

5-0 out of 5 stars Dare To Dip Below The Surface

Many people will recognize Margaret Atwood as the author of The Handmaid's tale.This book is quite different, in fact, except for the author being one and the same, there is nothing else that ties these two together.

Surfacing is the story of a woman's search of self as she searches for signs of her father on her family's island home.Is he dead? Has he simply faded away in the untamed wilderness? She must know... but it isn't just him she is looking for, it is a way to connect to him and to herself. She returns to the remote island she grew up on accompanied by two friends who are strangers and her lover and Atwood does a beautiful job of showcasing the difference between the "city" and the "country", the `civilized' versus the `uncivilized.The distance between the two is closer than you might expect, and when she at last taps into the wild, the reader cannot help but be lost in the woods as well.

This book is not for the faint of heart... this is not a book that can travel to the beach in a summer bag next to the sunscreen and the bottles of water.This is a book that cries out to be read in near silence, preferably near a serene lake. Not to say that you could read it anywhere... just that it begs for the completeness of your attention.

The characters are sometimes difficult to connect to, but the beauty of the description and the stillness of the action cannot be glossed over.Like a deep long dip in silent black water after the harshness of a day spent in direct sunlight, this novel will pull you under its spell and leave you transfixed, hypnotized by the desire of the heroine and craving your own wild pats... an animalistic desire for the uncivilized that lurks under the surface in each and every one of us.

... Read more

16. Selected Poems II: 1976 - 1986 (Vol 2)
by Margaret Atwood
Paperback: 160 Pages (1987-11-05)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$1.35
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0395454069
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Celebrated as a major novelist throughout the English-speaking world, Atwood has also written eleven volumes of poetry. Houghton Mifflin is proud to have published SELECTED POEMS, 1965-1975, a volume of selections from Atwood's poetry of that decade. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars A Mixed Bag
I picked this book up randomly, being a fan of her novels but not familiarwith her complete body of work.I find that her short stories are moresatisfying and expressive than her poems, although one of my favorite poemsof all time is in this collection.Still, it is a mixed bag overall; somepoems are gems and some are absolutely ignorable. ... Read more

17. Writing with Intent: Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose--1983-2005
by Margaret Atwood
Hardcover: 464 Pages (2005-02-25)
list price: US$26.00 -- used & new: US$7.84
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Asin: B00127QDHY
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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From one of the world’s most passionately engaged literary citizens comes Writing with Intent, the largest collection to date of Margaret Atwood’s nonfiction, ranging from 1983 to 2005. Composed of autobiographical essays, cultural commentary, book reviews, and introductory pieces written for great works of literature, this is the award-winning author's first book-length nonfiction publication in twenty years. Arranged chronologically, these writings display the development of Atwood’s worldview as the world around her changes.

Included are the Booker Prize–winning author’s reviews of books by John Updike, Italo Calvino, Toni Morrison, and others, as well as essays in which she remembers herself reading Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse at age nineteen, and discusses the influence of George Orwell’s 1984 on the writing of The Handmaid’s Tale. Atwood’s New York Times Book Review piece that helped make Orhan Pamuk’s Snow a bestseller can be found here, as well as a look back on a family trip to Afghanistan just before the Soviet invasion, and her "Letter to America," written after September 11, 2001. The insightful and memorable pieces in this book serve as a testament to Atwood’s career, reminding readers why she is one of the most esteemed writers of our time. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (5)

5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent: Her Ideas on WritingExpanded
Writing With Intent from 2005 is an excellent book that I highly recommend. There are a few words of caution, however. Atwood has written a number of non-fiction works including the famous "Negotiating With The Dead" to name but one. She has another book from 2004 called "Moving Targets" which is sold in what appears to be a different market. So, if you have read or own that 2004 book, you can probably skip the present book. I did not compare them word for word but they are very similar.

Okay, now back to this present book. It is a series of essays on many topics including her own writing experiences plus what she thinks of other books and other authors. It is an impressive display of humor and knowledge of other books. She shows the reader her deep insight into how writers think and what other authors are trying to say, or their voice.

As one example, she links Orwell's writing to her own work "A Handmaid's Tale" and shows why and where she got her ideas and inspiration.

Another author, and one who I do not really like personally, is Toni Morrison. She gives the reader many reasons to like Morrison, and maybe I will have a second look at "Beloved" which I read and did not like, or more accurately was not too excited about.

Overall, this is a humbling experience and most will be awed by her knowledge and personality. It reminds the reader of Virginia Woolf's "Common Reader" books, but not as broad as Woolf, but with more personal stories and a bit longer than Woolf's two books combined.

I cannot say enough good things about this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars great short stories and book reviews
Ms Atwood is at top of her game in this collection. Amust read for her many fans!

5-0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, sharp, witty
Atwood's collected essays in this book range from book reviews to discussions about writing futuristic dystopias and a defense of the villainess. I highly recommend this for Atwood fans who want to know more about the author and for any writer insterested in pushing the boundaries of genre, feminism, and writing courageously. Worth the price of admission just to read the story of her first ever book signing - in a store's Mens' Underwear department.

3-0 out of 5 stars Varied Styles of Writing by Atwood.
I would call Margaret Atwood a well-rounded writer in all its genres.She is a Canadian writer, winner of many awards. This new volume includes essays, reviews, and personal prose; her earlier collection such as this, was the 1982 SECOND WORDS.

Writing with intent includes different styles, purpose and motivation, character and plot development, process of historical fiction and writing on political topics.Her review of Bill McKibben's ENOUGH: STAYING HUMAN IN AN ENGINEERED AGE, dwells on tenetic alteration (cloning), nanotechnology, cybernetics and cryogenics."Eternal life has only been humanity's great dream since the moment we became conscious."The pursuit of happiness is what human dreams are made of.If we were all the same, there would be no need to read Shakespeare or Dante.There would be knowledge, but no wisdom."We should leave well enough alone," he avers.

The review she did of Orphan Pamuks' SNOW helpmed make it a bestseller in 2004.I reviewed it some time ago.Looking at her reviews made me realize how amateurish mine are, but the difference is that she's a 'pro' and I'm just having fun.

She wrote about Ursula K. LeGuin and her writer mother.Ursula has eighteen novels of fantasy and science fiction, and ten collections of stories.Her stories never seem to crash, like our Internet e-mail programs. There are all kinds of Biblical connotations concerning the left hand.Although the left hand is the sinister one, God has a left hand so left hands can't all be bad.The thief was at the left hand of Christ.The decisive blows are struck left-handed.Happy Birthday to my left-handed son.In the painting, "The Prodigal Son," his left hand is feminine.

In fiction, Margaret Atwood's work includes CAT'S EYE, BLUEBEARD'S EGG, and BODILY HARM; in non-fiction, DAYS OF THE REBELS, STRANGE THINGS and MOVING TARGETS.She has written juvenile storybooks for children, FOR THE BIRDS, ANA'S PET, and UP IN THE TREE.Her poetry includes POWER POLITICS, INTERLUNAR, and YOU ARE HAPPY.Today is a good day to be happy.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Must for Atwood Fans
I was introduced to the works of Margaret Atwood several years ago through A Handmaid's Tale.For several years, I knew her only as a writer of fiction novels.With this collection of essays and reviews, I have finally come to fully appreciate what an amazing writer she is.I cannot praise this book enough.Itis divided into three parts according to the time in which they were written.The works contained in this book include her own process of writing such novels as the Handmaid's Tale and Alias Grace, to reviews of other works (she only reviews what she likes), to personal stories.

This is the kind of book that I feel the need to highlight and discuss with my friends.I started to photocopy various selections to give to my best friend to read, but in the end I decided just to lend her the entire book, post-its sticking out all of the pages, marking the sections I think she must read.Read it one section at a time, or all in one sitting, either way, this collections shows just how talented and thought-provoking Margaret Atwood is as a writer. ... Read more

18. Dancing Girls
by Margaret Atwood
 Paperback: 256 Pages (1998-05-18)
list price: US$14.95 -- used & new: US$7.40
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0385491093
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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This splendid volume of short fiction testifies to Margaret Atwood's startlingly original voice, full of a rare intensity and exceptional intelligence.Her men and women still miscommunicate, still remain separate in different rooms, different houses, or even different worlds.With brilliant flashes of fantasy, humor, and unexpected violence, the stories reveal the complexities of human relationships and bring to life characters who touch us deeply, evoking terror and laughter, compassion and recognition--and dramatically demonstrate why Margaret Atwood is one of the most important writers in English today. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (10)

5-0 out of 5 stars Great collection
Atwood as always is lyrical, and beautiful in prose. Though I did not love every story, I recognized the beauty in every story.

4-0 out of 5 stars In the minds of young women
In this short story collection Atwood explores the mindset of women in a variety of situations. From an isolated grad student to an expectant mother, to a severely disabled girl at summer camp, these stories find women in deceptively ordinary situations, each with a slight twist. This collection is comprised of stories written early in Atwood's career, and that is clearly reflected in the details. Several stories focus on academic environments, with graduate student characters. The protagonist in the collection's namesake, "Dancing Girls," a Canadian graduate student in Cambridge, certainly brings to mind Atwood's own time at Harvard. Together this collection explores the expectations that follow young women in the late-1970s: sometimes restrictive, sometimes depressing, always present.

4-0 out of 5 stars Short Stories by Atwood
I've read most of Margaret Atwoods work and like her writing a lot.This book of short stories does not disappoint.The gist of each story is as follows:

1) The Man From Mars - A Strange oriental man (greasy, poor, unkempt) becomes obessed with a plain, plump, wealthy woman and begins to follow her everywhere.Previously unnoticed, other men wonder what her attraction is and they begin to notice her too.

2) Polarities - A delusional woman develops a relationship with a university colleague.After her commitment, he realizes that the substance of her delusions run deep and have significance for us all.He realizes, too, that life is a paradox.

3) A Travel Piece - A travel writer, feeling estranged from his own life, endures a plane crash only to find that she still can't decide if she's outside, looking in, or inside, looking out.

4) The Resplendent Quetzel - A woman who loses a child at birth torments her husband for his not being there at the time of the news.

5) Training - A young man serving as a counselor at a summer camp for disabled youth has to deal with his hopes and yearnings for their future and his own. He realizes that his idealism and caring will fade gradually and he will no longer care.

6) Lives of the Poets - This story is about the fear and pain of revealing oneself to an audience. A poet gets psycho-somatic illnesses before each reading.She turns to her husband for help but he is not there for her.

7) The Dancing Girls -A repressed student, living out her father's dreams, lives in a squalid room in a large house inhabited primarily by transient foreign students.She becomes intrigues by a neighbor who is chased down the street by their landlord for having a party where dancing girls entertained.

If these synopses intrigue you, then I recommend this book.I have only provided short outlines of each story.None are spoilers.The stories are deep and provide much, much more than what I have reviewed.

5-0 out of 5 stars Fine Atwood Collection
Dancing Girls / 0-553-37791-4

This collection of Atwood short stories includes:
- The War in the Bathroom
- When It Happens
- The Man from Mars
- A Travel Piece
- Polarities
- The Resplendent Quetzal
- Under Glass
- Training
- The Grave of the Famous Poet
- Lives of Poets
- Dancing Girls
- Hair Jewelry
- Giving Birth
- Rape Fantasies
- Betty
- The Sin Eater

These stories are classic Atwood material - the pain between modern relationships is explored closely, the ennui that sets into modern life and leaves people feeling deeply sad, yet unable to explain their sadness. In the face of material security, the "right" kind of relationships and jobs, and owning the proper goods and homes, why do we still feel so sad?

Other stories carefully examine mental deterioration, whether mental illness (The War in the Bathroom) as the main character slowly seems to spiral into dementia, or severe strain brought on by unusual circumstances (A Travel Piece). Atwood posits that, in the face of complete breakdown, a part of us still hangs onto the familiar, our routines, even when hanging on seems absurd. Whether this absurd cling to the familiar helps to maintain our sanity or whether it merely hastens the descent into madness is never made clear.

~ Ana Mardoll

5-0 out of 5 stars Piercing and Brilliant
Initially enticed into the world of Margaret Atwood through a short story, I was thrilled to discover this collection. Social commentary, moral narrative, human fable - each piece is compelling in its own right. The depth and diversity of the characters populating each story is astounding and the themes inherent in each range from abstract to concrete, profound to peripheral. Atwood's writing remains piercing, brilliant and timeless. ... Read more

19. Murder in the Dark: Short Fictions and Prose Poems
by Margaret Eleanor Atwood
Paperback: 112 Pages (1996-03)
list price: US$2.98 -- used & new: US$8.53
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 1853816809
Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
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These short fictions and prose poems are beautifully bizarre: bread can no longer be thought of as wholesome comforting loaves; the pretensions of the male chef are subjected to a loght roasting; a poisonous brew is concocted by cynical five year olds; and knowing when to stop is of deadly importance in a game of Murder in the Dark. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Caustic.Comforting.A necessary companion to all writers.
Murders In The Dark leaves me speechless.It's a book that panders to my short attention span-- full of short short stories, commentaries, and other artistic pieces.The best, in my opinion, is "The Page," a work that explains writing to me better than any other work I've come in contact with to date.Atwood has spunk (and a dark side). She's coming to speak at my school next semester (SUNY Albany).I am counting the minutes. ... Read more

20. Morning in the Burned House
by Margaret Atwood
Paperback: 144 Pages (1996-09-16)
list price: US$16.00 -- used & new: US$1.70
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0395825210
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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These beautifully crafted poems - by turns dark, playful, intensely moving, tender, and intimate - make up Margaret Atwood's most accomplished and versatile gathering to date, " setting foot on the middle ground / between body and word." Some draw on history, some on myth, both classical and popular. Others, more personal, concern themselves with love, with the fragility of the natural world, and with death, especially in the elegiac series of meditations on the death of a parent. But they also inhabit a contemporary landscape haunted by images of the past. Generous, searing, compassionate, and disturbing, this poetry rises out of human experience to seek a level between luminous memory and the realities of the everyday, between the capacity to inflict and the strength to forgive. ... Read more

Customer Reviews (7)

4-0 out of 5 stars Isn't There Enough of the Past Without Making More
The title poem leads us to Atwood's dense, ironic world: "In the burned
house I am eating breakfast.You understand:there is no house, there is no breakfast,yet here I am." The poet occupies that space where reality, the present, is informed by imagination's creative re-rendering
of an encroaching past.
"Waiting" announces the appearance of " the dark thing...waited for so long." Atwood recounts various musings about this dark thing before it really becomes present and finds that it " is strangely like home."
She then details that past in a sepia-toned reverie in which she realizes " for the first time in your life that you would be old." The
dark thing-- being in an "old murky" body, "a stranger's body you could not even imagine" is here now and yet "nothing new". The fear of being old
she felt as a child and had forgotten " has now come true".
There is tough humor present everywhere. In the voice of Sekhmet,
The Lion-Headed Goddess of War, Atwood so easily diminishes the monuments
of men that Ozymandias would be unable to stifle a bitter laugh:
"I see the temple where I was bornor built, where I held power.
I see the desert beyond,where the hot, conical tombs,that look
from a distance, frankly, like dunces' hats
hide my jokes....
The turn of expectation in the enjambment is one merit of her work.
The language of these poems may seem sparse, but that language
elicits from its self-references, its sharp ironies, its pronouncements,
an emotional richness where the reader, now attuned to its subtle internal melodies, recognizes that something important and true is being said.

5-0 out of 5 stars beautiful, powerful
I've no other way to describe her poetry than powerful.I find her novels to be hit or miss, but this book of poetry is a big hit.The imagery is vivid and visceral.And beautiful.This is one of my favorites and my copy is well worn.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Pleasing Book for the Mind
Margaret Atwood has once again delivered a simply wonderful collection of her works. Being an avid reader of her work I delight in each new book she puts out. Her writing is so real one can almost feel, touch, taste, or be wherever she is writing about. There is a maturity and higher level of writing expertise that she possesses. I would almost dare to say she is a class of her own. An excellent book. I look forward to more in the future!

Dorothy Krusky
Author The Chrismas Cat - A Child's Christmas Story 2005
Life's Ride - A Journal of Poems 2007

5-0 out of 5 stars A Dazzling Journey into Metaphor and Myth
An avid poetry reader and writer, I was introduced to the sparklingly new and innovative metaphors found in Atwood's book, MORNING IN A BURNED HOUSE, by a teacher.The poems certainly illuminate the ancient hidden core of individuals that yearns to beleive in something greater and morepowerful...the human spirit.A great addition to a poetry library. Profoundly clear and imaginative.

5-0 out of 5 stars Profound.Simple.Human.
This book is very aptly titled.The poems feel like waking up in a pile of cinders that used to be a house.Not sad really.Just sort of empty.As if everything has been reduced to stark facts with a few flowerssprouting here and there out of the ashes.There is something profoundlytouching about these poems.They do an amazing job of conveying the spentfeeling after the huge emotional turmoil of losing a parent.One line fromthe book that runs through my head sometimes:"After a pause, shesays--he hears her say--'I love you like salt.'" ... Read more

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