I’ve never read an Atwood and I was disappointed. I will read more so you Atwood fans can take your seats again. Perhaps this is not her best. That’s not to say the writing was bad at all. Not so. I just wish she’d spent less time creating elaborately detailed characters and more time breathing life into her repetitive formula.
As I began, I liked the way Atwood has thought about the four main characters a huge amount. She really knows their lives, what motivates them and why they’ve come to be where they are. This makes them work very well. They’re very believable, very real people. Little throw-away lines put you in a position to see things the way they see things. This is what kept me going through the nearly 700 pages of this book. Like most books I read written by women, I learn a lot from seeing the world through a woman’s eyes.
But there’s a certain amount of desperation in each which I found hard to relate to. Don’t misunderstand me, I know that each of us has childhood issues which colour our adult life. I myself didn’t have the most pleasant childhood at all. But am I the only one who doesn’t spend each waking day looking over my shoulder at my fears trying to ensure that the door to the closet with my skeletons in it stays well and truly shut? In this novel I was!
Now, if this had been the influence of one woman on another and the resultant emotional and psychological fallout resulting, the novel could have been two-thirds the length and no doubt a great read. Quite why there should be three repeated plots with the only variation being the neuroses of the particular victim concerned I’m not sure. Perhaps Atwood had a list of traumas on her desk and realised that to pack them all into one character would be like resurrecting Hamlet. Or is everyone in Toronto really like this?
It’s this ‘law of thirds’ which made the novel overlong for me. There are three characters plagued by a fourth. You meet the three in the same order. Atwood introduces them in the same way with each introduction bringing them to the same conversation with each other. Then she’s off again and we’re taken on a biography of each of the three, in the same order, with the same resultant connection of their lives. As if she hasn’t exhausted the formula enough, Atwood then does it all over again. The nemesis is confronted by each of the three, again in the same order and again with the same resultant conjunction of fates. All too labouriously predictable for me.
Oh yeah. And then the one who’s made their lives a misery for all these years goes and… well I won’t spoil it for you by telling you what happens because I don’t know. And neither will Atwood. She doesn’t even bother to tell you.
Finally, she won no gold stars for a glaring error slap dab in the middle of the book: Jesus was an only child apparently.
The story of Zenia ought to begin when Zenia began.
There’s clean outside and there’s clean inside.
lugubrious: excessively mournful
mucilaginous: viscous, slimy
perfidious: tending to betray
lambent: flickering lightly over or on a surface
dirndl: a full skirt with a gathered waistband
peplum: Short skirt sewn on to the bottom of a fitted bodice.
moll: the female companion of an American gangster of the 1920s and 30s
prestidigitation: manual dexterity in the execution of tricks
laconic: brief and to the point
acidulated: made sour
Then she opens the door, and goes in to join the others.
terrible > poor > mediocre > okay > good > very good > excellent > superb
FINISHED:2007 – May