by Margaret Atwood
This is a collection of short stories that are set mostly in Canada. The stories revolve around women (mostly) and their existence in the world and their relationships. A brief synopsis of each:
- True Trash – summer camp for boys of rich parents and the young women who intrigue them. “He shifts the binoculars, taking in a slippery bared haunch, a red-polka-dotted breast, a long falling strand of bleach-blonde hair: Ronette the tartiest, Ronette the most forbidden.” Pg 10
- Hairball – a young woman struggles with being the “other woman.” “She stares into the bathroom mirror, assesses her face in the misted glass. A face of the eighties, a mask face, a bottom-line face; push the weak to the wall and grab what you can. But now it’s the nineties. Is she out of style, so soon? She’s only thirty-five, and she’s already losing track of time.” Pg 53
- Isis in Darkness – a man obsessed with a mysterious woman of his past. “He met her on a Tuesday night, at the coffee-house. The coffee-house because as far as Richard knew there was not another like it in Toronto.” Pg 61
- The Bog Man – an “other woman” breaks it off with her boyfriend. “Because of her original awe of Connor – he was very smart, he knew a lot about ancient bones, about foreign travel, about how to mix drinks – she did not drive nearly as hard a bargain with him as she could have.” Pg 89
- Death by Landscape – a woman is still haunted by a childhood incident many years later. “She can hardly remember, now, having her two boys in the hospital, nursing them as babies; she can hardly remember getting married, or what Rob looked like. Even at the time he never felt she was paying full attention. She was tired a lot, as if she was living not one life but two: her own, and another, shadowy life that hovered around her and would not let itself be realized – the life of what would have happened if Lucy had not stepped sideways, and disappeared from time.” Pg 127
- Uncles – an accomplished woman rethinks her opinion about herself and how everyone else sees her. “Sassy and obsolete; a show-off, an obnoxious brat. Was that how the uncles had really seen her, all along?” pg 156
- The Age of Lead – a woman grieves the loss of a friend. “She thinks about Vincent’s apartment, so carefully arranged, filled with the beautiful or deliberately ugly possessions he once loved. She thinks about his closet, with its quirky particular outfits, empty now of his arms and legs.” Pg 175
- Weight –over lunch with a man, a business woman reminisces about a friend. “This is what I’m thinking as I look at the man. He’s a rich man, that goes without saying: if he weren’t rich, neither of us would be here. He has excess money , and I’m trying to get some of it out of him.” pg179
- Wilderness Tips – a family of three sisters, one brother and one brother-in-law sort out their differences and play sexual games at a summer lake cabin. “George drinks a beer, and eats and smiles, eats and smiles, while the family talks around him – all but Roland, who absorbs his nutriments in silence, gazing out at the lake through the trees, his eyes immobile.” Pg 202
- Hack Wednesday – a day in the life of an ageing newspaper columnist. “Marcia wonders what will happen to her if she gets fired. Something else may turn up for her; then again, she’s getting older, and it may not. Pg 235
I don’t generally read short stories because the medium doesn’t allow for the character depth and over-time story telling I prefer. These stories are no exception. I didn’t enjoy the stories, not that they weren’t written well – they were. I just wasn’t captivated by the characters. I slogged my way through because of the author.
Usually one paw means back to the thrift store we got it from, but as we like Margaret Atwood as an author, we’re going to keep it.
Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master’s degree from Radcliffe College.
Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction and is perhaps best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1970), The Handmaid’s Tale (1983), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. Atwood’s dystopic novel, Oryx and Crake, was published in 2003. The Tent (mini-fictions) and Moral Disorder (short stories) both appeared in 2006. Her most recent volume of poetry, The Door, was published in 2007. Her non-fiction book, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth in the Massey series, appeared in 2008, and her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, in the autumn of 2009.