MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

MaddAddamTitle: MaddAddam
Series: MaddAddam Trilogy #3
Author: Margaret Atwood
Published: 03 September 2013
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Genre: science fiction, dystopian, post-apocalyptic literary
Source: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley

Rating: 8/10

Like Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, MaddAddam has two timelines. The present timeline picks up after Toby and Ren rescued Jimmy and Amanda from the Painballers. They return to the Maddaddamite camp, with all the curious Crakers in tow. The groups of humans and posthumans live together peacefully, since the Crakers are designed sleep outside and eat leaves, and therefore do not require any of the humans’ resources. With Jimmy unconscious as he burns with fever from an infection, Toby takes up his task of telling the Crakers stories. Zeb takes some of the other men out on periodic scavenging trips, and hopes to find Adam One as well.

It’s a peaceful existence compared to the horrors of the previous two books, but Toby can’t forgive herself for “set[ting] human malice loose in the world again”. Thanks to her God’s Gardener teaching she could not bring herself to kill the Painballers, and even shared food with them. When the confused Crakers pitched up, they untied the Painballers who immediately escaped into the forest. They now present a renewed threat to the humans, the Crakers and the extremely intelligent pigoons, who react with grief and anger when one of their own kind is killed.

The second timeline tells Zeb’s story, which he tells to Toby, and which Toby simplifies into a kind of children’s story for the Crakers. Zeb, as it turns out, is Adam One’s brother and they grew up with a fanatical and abusive Petrobaptist priest – the very wealthy leader of a powerful but absurdly stupid religious sect that believes “God’s Holy Oil” and spouts slogans like “Solar Panels Are Satan’s Work” and “Serial Killers Believe in Global Warming”. The ecological version of the Phelps Family.

Adam was the golden boy, but Zeb was beaten and locked in the punishment closet, an experience that led him to develop the skills of a sneak thief. Despite the differences in the way they were treated, Adam and Zeb were close, united in hatred of their father. With Zeb’s hacking skills and Adam’s planning, they stole their father’s money and escaped, following the myriad paths that eventually led to the God’s Gardeners, and often brought them into contact with Crake.

Zeb and Adam’s story reminds me of Jimmy and Crake’s, with their dysfunctional parents and enduring bond. Adam is a lot like Crake. He has a brilliant mind; not as brilliant as Crake’s perhaps, but similarly amazing and frightening. He’s also inscrutable. He struggles a bit with human interaction, but otherwise displays a cold, calm intelligence, in sharp contrast to Zeb’s exuberance.

Like Jimmy, Zeb had many lovers and no loves, but possesses a much more practical skill set and a stronger survival instinct than Jimmy. His story takes him all over the place, reinforcing the worldbuilding. He works as pilot doing food drops for endangered bears, in the Compounds as both a janitor and a computer programmer, in Scales and Tails as a bouncer. He meets Crake as a child, and we learn a bit more about Crake’s influences. At this stage of Zeb’s life, it’s too risky for him to spend much time with Adam, so we don’t see much of him and only get the bare bones of his plans for starting the God’s Gardeners.

These stories are too complex for the Crakers, but Toby quickly develops an understanding of how their minds work and simplifies the stories as necessary. There’s a lot of humour in the Crakers’ storytelling time, as she repeatedly asks them to stop singing and keeps having to come up with simple or silly answers to their many questions.

These stories are not just a form of entertainment. They clearly have a kind of religious importance, despite Crake’s attempt to design the Crakers without any proclivity for religious belief. Ironically, Oryx and Crake have become like gods to them, and the stories are like myths. Toby has to think on her feet and adjusts or makes things up as she goes along, but you still have a sense of how important her words will be to the Crakers. In addition, Jimmy inadvertently set up a storytelling ritual that the Crakers expect Toby to follow – she must wear Jimmy’s red baseball cap, talk into his gold watch (Jimmy said it was for speaking to Crake), and eat a fish that the Crakers catch for her (Jimmy’s way of getting an easy meal). None of this is necessary, but the Crakers’ insist on it, and you can easily imagine all this becoming part of a future religion: Oryx and Crake as gods, Zeb, Toby and Jimmy as prophets, priests wearing red caps and eating a fish before the sermon. And when Toby starts teaching a sweet young Craker boy to write….

The Crakers also prove to have some mystical qualities to them. They have the ability to ‘see’ when people are dreaming, when their minds are wandering. While Jimmy is unconscious with fever, they describe him as taking a long walk away from them. When someone dies, they can describe the consciousness journeying further and eventually leaving. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this, and I rolled my eyes a bit when Toby was in a quandary and decided to meditate at Pilar’s grave (a friend from the previous book who reappears in Zeb’s story) to ask the dead woman’s spirit for advice. The novel however, doesn’t scoff at these more mystical occurrences. I guess it suits the changes in society – the world has been destroyed and renewed. Hard science has been its downfall. The survivors must look to older methods of coping, and the Crakers can tap into other aspects of existence.

The Crakers can also speak to the pigoons, which adds an interesting new dimension to the story. In the previous books pigoons were ethical conundrums and dangerous predators. Now they’re more complex. They’re basically people, and the humans need to treat them as such if they have any hope for a future.

And the human race could persist, even if it’s in a posthuman form. After the first two books, it seemed that humanity was doomed, assuming the whole world had been as badly affected as North America. The handful of survivors would hang on for a bit, then die out. However, Atwood offers up the possibility of a more functional future with a society composed of humans, Crakers and even pigoons. The humans in the story are all God’s Gardeners or MaddAddamites, so they at least have the skills and experience to survive in this postapocalyptic world. The Crakers are turning out to be more than just the “creepo naked people Crake made” or “walking vegetables”, as the MaddAddamite scientists refer to them. The pigoons, with their human brain tissue, prove to be even smarter than anyone assumed. They have language, emotion, ideas, suggesting the possibility of a better relationship between animals and humans. On the other hand, though, they also make me think of the pigs in Orwell’s Animal Farm, with the possibility that pigoons will simply be considered superior to other animals.

There are little worrying details like this, in the midst of the largely positive outlook. How will people like the Painballers affect the future? If a human society thrives, will it be regressive or progressive? Already we see traditional roles being set up, with the men going out with guns, while the women start thinking about childbirth. Is it a good or bad that the Crakers are developing religion, especially considering the fact that Crake tried to eradicate religion as one of the causes of misery and cruelty?

Overall, I found MaddAddam to be a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. It ends on a slightly more conclusive note that book one or two, even though it leaves us with plenty of questions to consider. Personally though, I think it’s my least favourite of the trilogy. It doesn’t have the massive impact of Oryx and Crake or the fantastic character stories of The Year of the Flood. Adam is a brilliant, enigmatic figure reminiscent of Crake, but while Crake was intriguing, Adam is too far removed from the plot. He’s a fascinating character, but unsatisfying to read about because we learn so little of him. Toby is a strong protagonist, and she finally acts on her feelings for Zeb, but then proceeds to get a bit too jealous and whiny about other women he’s slept with. One thing I admired about The Year of the Flood was that the many characters felt distinct, even though some of them had small roles. This time, the main characters stand out but most of the others just blend into the background.

However, MaddAddam is still a more elegantly written sci fi novel than most. The great thing about this series is that it takes a more literary, character-based approach to the post-apocalyptic and dystopian genres. I wouldn’t call it “thrilling” as the marketing-speak does, because that’s not the point. There’s violence, action and suspense, but for the most part this is an intimately human story. Don’t miss it if you’ve been following this series.

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The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

The Year of the FloodTitle: The Year of the Flood
Series: MaddAddam Trilogy #2
Author: Margaret Atwood
Published: 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury (my edition)
Genre: science fiction, dystopian, literary
Rating: 8/10

The Year of the Flood‘s plot runs parallel to Oryx and Crakebut it’s set in the pleebland slums, rather than the secure, sterile Compounds of the scientific elite. The pleeblands are where everyone else lives. It’s violent, and rife with diseases and infections (some of which come from the Compounds who test viruses or make money selling cures).

The story follows the God’s Gardeners, believers in a green religion founded by Adam One, with leaders known as Adams and Eves. The Gardener’s faith is a pacifist, eco-friendly interpretation of the Christian Bible. They are strictly vegetarian, respect the lives of all creatures, shun technology, recycle absolutely everything, avoid the processed food and medications produced by corporations, and spend their days living a quiet agrarian existence amidst the chaos of the pleeblands. They lament the gross environmental destruction wreaked by Corporations, and await the Waterless Flood – the apocalypse.

Of course, we know from Oryx and Crake that this Flood will take the form of a plague designed by Crake. It comes in Gardener Year 25, which is when the novel opens. Toby is hiding out at the AnooYoo Spa where she was working. Many of the treatments are edible or at least useful, she’s got a rifle for protection, and draws on her Gardner knowledge to grow food. Ren is locked inside the quarantine room of Scales and Tails, the strip club where she worked. Being locked up saved her from the riots that followed the outbreak of the plague, but now she’s counting on her childhood friend Amanda to find her and unlock the door before she starves to death.

Punctuating this present-day narrative are the Gardener Years 1-24. Each year/section begins with a sermon from Adam One and a hymn, then follows the stories of Toby and Ren. The Gardeners rescue Toby from a rapist who was certain to kill her. She’s not a true believer, but she adapts to their lifestyle and finds a home. Ren went to live with the Gardeners as a child, when her mother ran away from the Compounds with a Gardener named Zeb. She later made friends with Amanda, a smart, tough pleebrat, and invited her to join the Gardeners.

It’s not as dramatic as Oryx and Crake, since it covers the same time period, and focuses on the people who are disempowered and, unlike Jimmy, have very little contact with the forces that define their society. And I prefer Oryx and Crake if only because it had the kind of impact on me that very few novels could ever match. Nevertheless, The Year of the Flood is a superb piece of painfully dystopian science fiction in its own right, and a beguiling literary novel. Oryx and Crake was a bit different for Atwood in that it had a male protagonist. With The Year of the Flood she’s back in her element with two female protagonists and a larger cast of female characters. Like Oryx, they live in a world where sexual predators are a constant threat, and Toby’s story of sexual abuse is reminiscent of Oryx’s, as is Ren’s decision to become a sex worker at Scales and Tales. Ren actually sees Oryx when Crake brings her to Scales and Tales late in the novel, and Ren immediately recognises her as a fellow sex worker, charming the people around her while hiding her own identity. In that moment, she seems to understand more about Oryx than Jimmy was ever able to.

Ren has her own disappointing experiences with Jimmy, who becomes her lover when they’re teenagers but eventually gives her his damaged-boy-who-can’t-commit speech. Toby also spots Jimmy as Snowman, leading the singing Crakers from the Paradice Dome to the shore. They’re so bizarre that Toby assumes she must be hallucinating. I think it’s the first time we see Jimmy from another perspective, and the first of several occasions when we get a fresh perspective on exactly how dysfunctional Jimmy/Snowman is.

The novel often intersects with Oryx and Crake like this, filling in little details. Besides Jimmy and Oryx, we encounter other familiar characters like Glenn/Crake, Jimmy’s mother, Bernice (Jimmy’s crazy roommate who set his shoes on fire), and MaddAddam. There are lots of familiar details of the world – Extinctathon, Happicuppa, ChickieNobs, AnooYoo, pigoons – and a few new things, like liobams (a lion/lamb splice) and Mo’Hair sheep (genetically engineered to grow human hair in a wide range of colours, although the wigs sometimes smell like meat).

As a child, Glenn had a connection to the Gardeners, many of whom are scientists who escaped the Compounds, and it’s clear that his actions were strongly influenced by their ideas. Adam One describes how the Waterless Flood will wash away the “Exfernal” world, destroying what man has built so that the natural world can flourish again, which what Crake attempted to do with his plague. His design for the Crakers also reflects the Gardeners’ lifestyle in some ways – they’re purely vegetarian, non-violent, and live happily with the bare minimum of industry. In some ways the Crakers are a perfected version of the Gardeners, who they smell bad, look scruffy, complain about inconveniences, need technology, and often break their own rules.

Obviously the one thing Crake didn’t like about the Gardeners was the whole idea of religion, which he tried (and failed) to eradicate in the Crakers. And although the Gardeners have many admirable ideas, their faith still suffers from the kinds of absurdities and hypocrisies common to religion. They’re wary of writing, but use the bible. They consider knowledge to be poisonous, but benefit greatly from the knowledge of the scientists among them. They rely on things they scavenge, which in some cases means living off things they consider evil.

Not surprisingly for a small community full of social misfits and outcasts, they also have problems with sexual harassment and abuse, but women and children are told to keep quiet about these things. Sharing personal problems is discouraged, some serious psychological problems are dismissed as a form of meditation, and voicing doubts is taboo. Toby in particular finds this troubling, but because she lives in constant terror that her rapist will find her and kill her, so she has no intention of leaving the Gardeners.

But then again, Atwood hasn’t written a world where anyone’s figured out clean, noble answers to the massively complicated problems plaguing society. It’s easy to be thoroughly evil – like a corporation that razes rainforests to plant coffee or a man who rapes women to death – but fixing a world full of these evils is almost unimaginable. A few people, like the man/group MaddAddam that is created in this novel, are bold enough to rebel. Only Crake, the mad genius, actually takes any major action, countering a million horrors with one massive one.

Most people, like Ren and Toby, are caught up in this world they have little control over, and the appeal of The Year of the Flood is this grassroots perspective. Which is not to say they’re weak – Amanda, Ren and Toby all show amazing resilience and adaptability, unlike Jimmy, who was always a bit unstable and degenerated into a sickly, naked nut job waving a gun at three strangers on a beach. If the ambiguity of that ending bothered you, by the way, rest assured that The Year of the Flood will take you back to that beach and resolve that scene, leaving the final book, MaddAddamto pick up the story from there.  As always with Atwood, it’s beautifully written and a pleasure to read, but also brutal and terrifying. This trilogy envisions one of the most disturbing futures I’ve ever read, but the books are so amazing I can’t look away.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and CrakeTitle: Oryx and Crake
Series: MaddAddam Trilogy #1
Author: 
Margaret Atwood
Published: 2003
Publisher: 
Virago Press (my edition)
Genre: 
science fiction, dystopian, post-apocalyptic
Source:
 own copy
Rating: 
10/10

This is the first time I’m giving a book a 10/10 rating on Violin in a Void. While I’ve reviewed excellent books that could rival this one, I’ve reserved the highest rating for books that also make excellent re-reads. I think the best books are those that won’t fade with familiarity but actually become more enjoyable as you get to know them better. Oryx and Crake is the first such book that I’ve reviewed.

That said, it’s incredibly bleak, and I’d forgotten exactly how dark it gets. But while it scares and horrifies me, it’s also such a pleasure to read because of the elegance of Atwood’s writing and the sophistication of her vision. The narrative is split into two future time periods that also happen to fall into two sub genres – post-apocalyptic and dystopian. In the post-apocalyptic narrative a man named Snowman is a lone survivor of a global catastrophe for which he holds his friend Crake responsible. In his loneliness, he imagines the voice of his lover Oryx teasing and comforting him. But like Crake, Oryx is long gone. Snowman lives in a tree, wraps himself in old bedsheets, and scavenges meagre supplies from the remains of human civilisation. He is also the increasingly unnecessary guardian of the Crakers, a race of bio-engineered post-humans designed by Crake to inherit a ravaged earth.

The story of how this all came to be is told in the non-linear dystopian narrative, beginning when Snowman was a child named Jimmy. His world – our future – is characterised by bio-engineering, artificial food, extinction, climate change and environmental destruction. Great advances in medicine are matched by the creation of catastrophic viruses. The scientists who work for giant bio-engineering corporations live privileged lives in highly secure-compounds designed to save them from ever having to go out into the disease-ridden ‘pleeblands’ where the masses live.

As Atwood herself has said, “Every novel begins with a what if  and for Oryx and Crake she asked “What if we continue down the road we’re already on? How slippery is the slope? What are our saving graces? Who’s got the will to stop us?” (Curious Pursuits, 2003, p.323). The questions are primarily ecological, and the answer to the first one is the dystopia where Jimmy’s story begins. The answer to the last questions is: Crake.

We first encounter him as a creepy child, a genius who seems to be studying everyone, who hides his feelings, and has secret plans that Jimmy never fully understands even when he’s caught up in the aftermath as Snowman. Oryx, the woman he loves, is similarly elusive, and somehow they’re both a part of the ruined world he lives in now.

Because he’s a “word person”, Snowman turns Oryx and Crake into myth for the Crakers. They are the Children of Crake, and the animals are the Children of Oryx, respected and never eaten. With the world reverting to its natural state, the Crakers give the impression of return to Eden, to paradise – they’re incredibly innocent without any violent tendencies or any knowledge of the world before. They’re also pretty damn weird. Crake designed them with myriad animal traits to keep them close to nature and avoid violent conflict. They wear no clothes (their skin is thick and UV-resistant), they eat leaves, purr like cats to heal injuries (yes, cats’ purring can do that). They’re designed to be free from lust, jealousy, racism and religion. The Crakers are basically Crake’s attempt to fix everything that was wrong with the human race and then make his own improvements on the basic design. It’s really interesting to see how he’s played god here.

Snowman of course, is stuck with the original design and isn’t suited to the world humanity has so badly damaged. This post-apocalyptic world of Atwood’s is more subtle than others I’ve read. Snowman simply finds himself at the mercy of the natural world as it consumes a dead civilisation. He sleeps in a tree to stay safe from predators. Because of climate change, he must to take shelter from the unbearably hot sun and daily storm. Things he probably never thought much about have become serious dangers or annoyances – ants, bug bites, sweating, starving to death. Simply scratching open a scab might lead to serious infection. Loneliness is driving him mad, and he finds little company among the strange Crakers.

The post-apocalyptic world is in many ways a version of the dystopia that led to it. While Snowman fears nature, Jimmy grew up in a world where humanity destroys and modifies nature. Jimmy’s father works for OrganInc, a company that creates pigoons – bio-engineered pigs that grow skin, organs and even brain tissue for human transplants. After the apocalypse however, the pigoons roam free. They could tear Snowman to shreds and eat him, and they’re extremely smart because of the human brain tissue they were designed to produce. Equally dangerous are the wolvogs – vicious wolves designed to look like friendly dogs.

The food that Jimmy eats is often pretty gross and almost always artificial. Dairy products seem to be a thing of the past, and you get crap like “cheese food” instead. There are the disgusting “Chickie-Nobs”, a kind of bland KFC-style junk food made from bio-engineered ‘chickens’ that are just fat bodies with mouths. No heads, beaks or feet because none of those things are needed to produce meat. Often when natural foods like real eggs, fish or meat appear, it’s described as a rare and expensive luxury. On the other hand, rainforests are destroyed to grow Happi Cuppa coffee.

Equally revolting is the media that Crake and Jimmy consume. They don’t watch movies and TV series, but watch videos online – animal snuff, assisted suicides, executions, child pornography. Disturbingly, none of this seems to be considered particularly abnormal. Two teenage boys watching hundreds of hours of real executions and kiddie porn is portrayed like two teenage boys watching normal TV and a bit of porn today.

Jimmy only pauses to consider what he’s doing when he first sees Oryx. At the time she has no name, she’s “just another little girl on a porno site” (103). But she turns to the camera and Jimmy imagines that she looks at him with contempt. For years, Jimmy is haunted by the look on her face and the way she seems to judge him.

It’s appropriate that the first feeling Oryx evokes in Jimmy is a kind of moral shock. While most of the novel reveals the environmental consequences of problems like overpopulation, Oryx is a testament to the more human side – stark poverty, trafficking, child abuse. After Jimmy has met Oryx and started sleeping with her, she tells him her life story – how she was sold into slavery by a mother who couldn’t afford to keep her and went from selling flowers to tourists, to following men into their hotel rooms, and then onto the kind of child pornography where Jimmy and Crake first saw her.

This is disturbing stuff, although Oryx tells it in a gentle matter-of-fact way that makes it easier on everyone. Jimmy actually doesn’t like this, because, in his opinion, she’s too forgiving of the men involved. She feels sorry for some for being so pathetic, she’s grateful to her pimp for looking after her, she giggled at men’s penises because she thought they looked funny. This is not what Jimmy wants to hear, “all this sweetness and acceptance and crap”. He wants her to cry, to say how traumatic it was, and to hate the men who abused her so that she can be the victim and he can be her saviour. And that bothers me about him.

But honestly, I don’t know how to feel about Oryx’s character either. She’s so elusive I can’t quite grasp her. Then again, my feelings about the other characters can never be simple either. Crake is both monstrous and admirable. I find him hateful at first, but out of all the characters, he’s the only one who both expresses anger at what humans are doing to the world, and actually manages to do something about it.

Jimmy is our connection to the story (he’s a “word person”, ideal for the job), and there are many reasons to empathise with him, especially when we see how neglectful his parents are. His mother is deeply depressed, agonising over the ethics of the work she and her husband have done. You might identify with his, while hating her for the way she treats her young son. Which leads you to feel sorry for Jimmy, but then he also watches child pornography. The thing is, he’s probably the character most similar to you as the reader – an ordinary person, who just gets swept along in the habits of society, no matter how repulsive those are. Jimmy/Snowman is not someone who will change the world or even oppose it.

The world does get changed however, and you could argue a great deal about the ethics that go into that, into genetic engineering, and the design of the Crakers. Will our extinction be the only thing that stops us murdering our world? Are the Crakers a better kind of human? Would you call them human at all? Is it ok for Crake to play god by creating them, or for any of the scientists to splice together species or grow human organs and brains in pigs and then eat them? Atwood leaves you with a thousand things to think about and not all of it is bad – there’s a lot of science that’s just really awesome. Still, the results of Atwood’s what ifs are so plausible it’s terrifying. Few novels have hit me as hard as Oryx and Crake does with its vision of the future, it’s exquisite writing,  and unforgettable characters. I will read this again, and again.

Ideally, I’d also like to say that everyone should read this book, but I know it’s not for every reader. While I take great pleasure from it, it’s not a fun book in any way, and it’d be completely wasted on readers only looking for entertainment. I find that it’s a smooth, easy read, but at the same time this is very much literary sci fi that deserves your attention, not just something you can breeze through.

If you’re a serious science fiction fan who enjoys the genre for its ideas and its vision, you can’t not read this. And I don’t give a crap what Atwood says about this not being true sci fi – it is. It’s some of the best sci fi I’ve ever read. Books like this are why I love this genre, why I love fiction, why I love reading.

On My Shelf: Margaret Atwood

On My Shelf is a new monthly meme started by KJ Mulder over at Worlds in Ink and it’s all about sharing the books on your shelf in alphabetical order, according to author. For July we’re kicking off with A & B. It’s a very chilled-out meme, so you can plan it in any way you like, and post at any time of the month, any number of times you like. And who doesn’t like to show off some of their books?

It’s the end of the month already so the first part of this meme is nearly over, but I actually made the effort to photograph most of my A & B titles, so I’m going to do three more of these posts, just because I feel like it and don’t want to waste the photos. First off, is one of my favourite authors, Margaret Atwood. I first read Atwood for a postmodernism course during third year. The novel was Surfacing, which I didn’t like at all. But then during honours my thesis supervisor suggested I try Oryx and Crake, as Atwood’s sci fi is more interesting than her other fiction (at least for the purposes of my thesis, and for sf fans). I absolutely loved Oryx and Crake and went on to read  The Handmaid’s Tale, which was brilliant as well. I gave Atwood’s other fiction a second chance, and really enojoyed some of it, while others left me as cold as Surfacing. Nevertheless, I bought many of her works, mostly second-hand or at book sales.

First, my favourites, Atwood’s SF novels.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985, Vintage Future Classics edition) was the first book I bought with my staff discount when I was working at Exclusive Books. Oryx and Crake (2003) I bought in paperback (Virago) to use for my thesis. I found the hardcover (Bloomsbury) some time later at an Exclusive Books sale, and couldn’t resist taking it. I love hardcovers, but usually can’t afford them, so it’s wonderful to find them at sales. I don’t particularly like the dust-jacket cover of this one, but the cover of the book itself is really cool, as it features the glow-in-the-dark rabbits from the novel:

I also have a beautiful hardcover edition of The Year of the Flood (2009), but it was a very impractical purchase – I picked it up at Paperweight while in Cape Town, shortly before I had to leave for Ethiopia, and because the book was heavy I left it with my parents. I’ll get it back next time I go home.

 

Next up, Alias Grace (1996) and The Robber Bride (1993), both published by Seal Books.

Of Atwood’s non-sf works, The Robber Bride is my favourite. The title is based on one of Grimm’s fairy tales, “The Robber Bridegroom” (Atwood often uses fairytales and folklore in her work). Both novels were bought at a charity bookshop in Rondebosch Main Road. I used to visit the bookshop quite often, as it was very close to campus. One day I was very happy to find several Atwood works on the shelf, and bought all of them.

 

Surfacing (1972, Virago), Bodily Harm (1981, Anchor Books) and Cat’s Eye (1988, Virago). Surfacing I bought for varsity, either at Van Schaik’s or the campus bookstore. Bodily Harm I acquired through Bookmooch; Cat’s Eye I got at the charity bookstore as part of that Atwood haul. I disliked both Surfacing and Bodily Harm, but I can’t bear to give either away, if only because they’re part of the collection. Anyway, I might one day change my mind about them. Cat’s Eye  on the other hand is one of my favourites, a brilliant if disturbing story about bullying among young girls and how it affects one woman into adulthood.

 

Dancing Girls(1977), The Edible Woman (1969) and Bluebeard’s Egg (1983), all Virago. I have to admit I haven’t read any of them yet, although I’ve read a few of the stories collected in Bluebeard’s Egg. The Edible Woman I acquired through Bookmooch. Dancing Girls and Bluebeard’s Egg I got at the charity bookshop.

 

Curious Pursuits (2005, Virago) is a collection of essays, reviews and other writing by Atwood, from 1970 to 2005. I bought the paperback a few years ago, and then found the hardcover at an EB sale last year and gave the paperback away on Bookmooch. I don’t know how to describe Bones and Murder (1995) and The Tent (2006). They contain very short, short fiction, that are more like fictional musings than regular stories. However, they have some great insights and imagery. Bones and Murder is drawn from two of Atwood earlier works, Good Bones  and Murder in the Dark. I bought it at the charity bookshop. The Tent  found at an EB sale (you can still see the sticker).

Finally, a book that’s not by Atwood but rather about her work:

Acquired through Bookmooch. I haven’t read this yet, but I intend to do so one day, and (re)read her fiction as well.

Having done this post I’ve also realised how many Virago editions I have of Atwood’s work. I really like the newer ones (the editions of Surfacing, Cat’s Eye and Curious Pursuits) so if I were every to get a collection of matching novels, I’d choose those.