Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review: STONE MATTRESS: NINE TALES, by Margaret Atwood

Stone Mattress: Nine Tales, by Margaret Atwood. Published 2014 by Nan A. Talese/Doubleday. Literary Fiction. Short Stories.

I don't know what I can say about the incomparable Margaret Atwood that hasn't been said already. She's probably the most prolific of my favorite living writers (A.S. Byatt doesn't publish that often; Ludmila Ulitskaya only has a handful in English, etc.) so not a lot of time goes by before there's a new opportunity to enjoy her wonderful storytelling. Stone Mattress is her most recent book, a return to the short-story form after a bunch of wonderful novels. It's also the first story collection of hers I've read; I'm not a big short-story reader generally. And it's a great collection, of course.

The first three stories are interconnected, focusing on a writer named Constance W. Starr whose fantasy series Alphinland has made her famous. The stories wind in and out of a group of artists and writers, telling events from different perspectives. Subsequent stories have the feel of fairy tales or nightmares, dark and by turns comic and ominous. "The Freeze-Dried Groom" was probably my favorite, about a man who wins an auctioned-up storage space only to be confronted with a nasty surprise. I absolutely love how this story ends, the final words. The title story is about a woman on a trip to the Arctic who takes revenge on the man who hurt her a long time ago. "Torching the Dusties" is an over-the-top dystopia that makes the final chapters of The Bone Clocks look optimistic. One of the stories acts as a sequel to her 1998 novel The Robber Bride, a bonus to long-time fans. Several of the stories touch on the dangers of underestimating a woman's power, whether that power be to create or destroy.

Atwood fans need to read this; I'd also recommend it to readers of dark fantasy and scary tales. I had a lot of fun with these stories. They're caustic, funny, disturbing and wonderful. They're classic Atwood, and maybe just plain classic.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.


Jeanne said...

Now I have to read the one story just because of your claim that it makes the final chapter of The Bone Clocks look tame! Love the way you put that.

Mystica said...

I am not a fan of fantasy light or dark but Atwood does draw one in.