Saturday, March 22, 2008


by Margaret Atwood

Fiction/Literature, 1972
Virago UK, trade pb, 186 p.
A young woman returns to northern Quebec to the remote island of her childhood, with her lover and her two friends, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of her father. Flooded with memories, she begins to realise that going home means entering not only another place but another time. As the wild island exerts its elemental hold and she is submerged in the language of the wilderness, she sees that what she is really looking for is her own past.
It started out not too bad and while it never really grabbed me I did enjoy the descriptions of the Canadian wilderness in Quebec, but I quite lost interest in the story, and the characters near the end. I skimmed a couple of essays about the novel online and they talk about identity (and the search thereof) and language (and the inability to communicate). I could appreciate these elements and I’m sure there is plenty of deeper meaning here but I’ve never been terribly good at figuring out the hidden symbolism in literature. So on the surface, for me at least, it was a disappointing read that I couldn't relate to and was glad to finish. I will read Atwood again because I’ve found that she’s hit or miss with me (hits include Alias Grace, and The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake was ok, but then I really really disliked The Blind Assassin) so hopefully I’ll enjoy the next book of hers that I read.

My Rating: 2.5/5

(#10 for 2008, My Year of Reading Dangerously #3)


  1. Hi Nat, ratmammy read SURFACING she felt that Margaret Atwood got SURFACING right when she wrote CAT'S EYE. I did not read SURFACING so I can't say, it seems so from your description there are similarities, the discovery of oneself, returning home etc...

    I think you'd like CAT'S EYE. Margaret Atwood like Joyce Carol Oates has hits and misses yet both can write wonderful novels. I read recently that they have been close friends for a long time.

  2. "Surfacing" is an Atwood I still need to read. Have you read her first, "The Edible Woman" or her latest, "Moral Disorder"? Along with a couple others I know you've already read, these are 2 that I love.

  3. Sorry to hear that this one fell flat for you. I hope you have better luck with your next Atwood and your next DAngerously book.

  4. It looks like some of Shannon Hale's books are really popular choices for this challenge! I can't wait to share notes on The Goose Girl!

  5. Madeleine- I actually saw her review when I was poking around Amazon. Sounds like I should give 'Cat's Eye' a try sometime.

    Teresa- I haven't read either of those so I'll add them to my list, thanks.

    Andi- At least it was short so I still managed to finish it. :)

    Stephanie- I've heard so many good comments about 'The Goose Girl'. I'm looking forward to reading it too.

  6. I am sorry to hear this one didn't turn out to be a winner for you. Hopefully the next book you read by her will be better.

  7. Literary Feline- At the least it's nice to get it off the shelves since I've had it for awhile. :)

  8. I'm sorry you didn't like this one. The Handmaid's Tale and Alias Grace are my top favorites by Atwood, too.

  9. Atwood's a hit or miss with me, too. And even then, the hits aren't really "great" reads. I liked The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake, but didn't care for The Blind Assassin or The Edible Woman. I still have Alias Grace in my stacks. Someday...

  10. Nyssaneala- I'm glad I finally read 'The Handmaid's Tale' last year. It helped get me over my Atwood aversion.

    Les- True, about the good books of hers not being "great". I don't think she'll ever be a favourite author. 'Alias Grace' is more like historical fiction so it's a bit different from the other books of hers that I've read.


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