Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Saturday, May 18, 2019

"Surfacing" by Margaret Atwood

I definitely picked up this book based solely on the author's name. There are a handful of writers whose books I would probably give a shot even if the cover were ugly or the premise sounded boring or the blurb rubbed me the wrong way, and Margaret Atwood is one of them. I associate a kind of "you can't go wrong, or even if you do, you don't go very wrong" with her. (Now I am daydreaming about a blog post listing all the other authors in that category.) (Now I am taking a break from blogging and actually writing a list of all the other authors in that category.)

Moving on . . . Atwood did not disappoint with Surfacing. (Good thing! One unworthy book is enough to knock you off The List.) It started with the same sort of otherworldly struggle to find my feet (where am I? who are these people? what is going on??) that I remember from The Handmaid's Tale. Even as the pieces began to fit together, the story retained a sense of mystery and suspense.

Surfacing was first published in 1972. The unnamed narrator is a young Canadian woman traveling back to the remote island where she grew up. She's in the company of Joe, her sort-of boyfriend, and Anna & David, a not-especially-happily-married couple who are kind of friends of theirs. Narrator's father seems to have disappeared from the island and she vaguely wants to figure out what has happened to him, and David and Joe are tagging along to film an arty mishmash of random vignettes.

The narrator, numb and empty and detached (though none of these are recent developments), is definitely what one might call unreliable. Events from her past slowly bubble up . . . and then later reemerge as something somewhat different. By the end I'm not sure I could say with any certainty what did and didn't happen. (I mean, I think I know, but maybe I'm just a trusting fool.) While on one hand I had the sense that attitudes in the book (which is just slightly older than I am) are old-fashioned and somewhat dated, on the other hand it's still a good read that stands the test of time and has the ability to make a reader think.

1 comment:

Ti said...

I've not heard of this one but it does sound like something I'd like.