Thursday, September 24, 2009

Author Appreciation: The Books of Margaret Atwood- or, at least, Those I've Read

Margaret Atwood is absolutely and by far and away one of my favorite authors. I first read her in 2003, when I chose The Handmaid's Tale as my Banned-Book-Week pick. I haven't been able to get enough since. Over the past five years or so I've worked my way through most (though not all) of her novel-length fiction and of course I'm so excited for her new book and I hope everyone reads it.

So the other day I promised a little recap of the books of hers that I've read. Where I've blogged a full review I'll include the link.

The Handmaid's Tale was my first foray into Atwood's work and still the most emotionally riveting. Don't make the mistake I made and read it the month before you're getting married! Trauma! I loved this book but it definitely shook me up.

Alias Grace is without question my favorite of her books. It's historical fiction centering on a true-crime story about a young Irishwoman named Grace Marks, a maid who was convicted of the murders of her employer and his mistress. Grace is one of the most fascinating literary creations I've come across, and the book is filled with the themes and motifs that you'll see over and over in Atwood- women, sex, and power- but executed in a wholly unique way.

The Blind Assassin was the second Atwood novel I read, several months after finishing The Handmaid's Tale- when the shock had worn off. A Booker Prize winner, it's a combines a truly creepy family story with metafictional and science fiction elements in a brilliant, compelling work.

The Robber Bride is another brilliant entry, this time focusing on a group of friends whose lives and loves have been impacted by another friend, the enigmatic Zenia, whose funeral opens the book. But is she really dead? And is (was?) she, anyway? Atwood creates three vivid, different women and a fourth whose story is told through their eyes- though she never speaks for herself. I think there's a lot more going on in this one than meets the eye.

Lady Oracle is an earlier book, and one that I enjoyed immensely. It's about a housewife who becomes an unlikely literary star, then fakes her own death. It's not a particularly heavy book but I found it very, very satisfying and enjoyable.

Life Before Man, another early Atwood, is about a love triangle between two women and the husband of one. A worthwhile read.

The Penelopiad came out a couple of years ago as part of a series of rewrites of mythology by modern writers. It's the story of The Odyssey from Penelope's point of view. It's not my favorite but Atwood completists will want to read it.

Cat's Eye is probably one of my least favorite of her books. It's a coming of age story about an artist and her troubled relationships, particularly with her best friend. I liked the way Atwood depicts the pains of childhood- it seemed very real to me- but in a lot of ways it strikes me as a rough draft of The Blind Assassin, where a lot of the themes and situations are repeated. It's on the light side so it will appeal to some readers more than others. I will say though, that certain things about it have stayed with me.

I've also read her novels Surfacing and Bodily Harm; I wasn't crazy about either one and can't remember much more about them than that.

Recently I picked up The Edible Woman and I hope to get to that soon; Moral Disorder and Other Stories is out there for me at some point, and then maybe I'll dive into her short fiction and poetry as well. You can click to see my recent reviews of The Year of the Flood and Oryx and Crake .

If you've never read her, or read one or two of her books, I hope that you find something to try!