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I love her to bits

Deborah Friedell: ‘The Testaments’, 7 November 2019

The Testaments 
by Margaret Atwood.
Chatto, 419 pp., £20, September 2019, 978 1 78474 232 4
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... anyone it can exploit to empty bedpans. I once imagined that The Children of Men was a sequel to Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), just set a few years later, and in a less benighted country. In Atwood’s novel, it’s still possible to see a pregnant woman, but she’s a ‘magic presence’, a ...

The Snowman cometh

Elaine Showalter: Margaret Atwood, 24 July 2003

Oryx and Crake 
by Margaret Atwood.
Bloomsbury, 378 pp., £16.99, May 2003, 0 7475 6259 8
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... Margaret Atwood’s 11th novel delivers two huge surprises: a male protagonist and an action-movie plot. Atwood has never written a novel from a male point of view before, and John Updike was among the reviewers who complained that the men in The Blind Assassin* were mysterious and unlovable ...

Female Relationships

Stephen Bann, 1 July 1982

When things of the spirit come first 
by Simone de Beauvoir, translated by Patrick O’Brian.
Deutsch, 212 pp., £6.95, July 1982, 0 233 97462 8
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Union Street 
by Pat Barker.
Virago, 266 pp., £6.95, May 1982, 9780860682820
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Lady Oracle 
by Margaret Atwood.
Virago, 346 pp., £3.50, June 1982, 0 86068 303 6
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Bodily Harm 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 302 pp., £7.50, June 1982, 0 224 02016 1
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Hearts: A Novel 
by Hilma Wolitzer.
Harvester, 324 pp., £6.95, June 1982, 9780710804754
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Pzyche 
by Amanda Hemingway.
Faber, 236 pp., £7.95, June 1982, 0 571 11875 5
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December Flower 
by Judy Allen.
Duckworth, 176 pp., £7.95, May 1982, 0 7156 1644 7
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... limitations of the structure are always in evidence. There is no doubt at all about the Canadian Margaret Atwood’s being a novelist. Both Lady Oracle (first published in 1976 and now appearing in paperback) and Bodily Harm are splendid demonstrations of the contemporary novelist’s craft. To read them together is to note an interesting ...

Enthusiasts

Anita Brookner, 3 February 1983

Where I Used to Play on the Green 
by Glyn Hughes.
Gollancz, 192 pp., £7.95, January 1982, 0 575 02997 8
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Virginie 
by John Hawkes.
Chatto, 212 pp., £8.50, January 1983, 0 7011 3908 0
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Ancient Enemies 
by Elizabeth North.
Cape, 230 pp., £7.95, November 1982, 0 224 02052 8
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Dancing Girls 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 240 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 224 01835 3
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Master of the Game 
by Sidney Sheldon.
Collins, 495 pp., £8.95, January 1983, 0 00 222614 6
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... inside of the human head, but that is wrong. They know less, that’s why they write.’ So says Margaret Atwood in her collection of stories, Dancing Girls. They know less, but she might have added that they find out more; they might wish they had not had to, but there is no going back on what they have learned. ...

Our Little Duckie

Thomas Jones: Margaret Atwood, 17 November 2005

The Penelopiad 
by Margaret Atwood.
Canongate, 199 pp., £12, October 2005, 1 84195 645 7
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... Margaret Atwood’s new novel is a reworking of the Odyssey, told largely from Penelope’s point of view. The Penelopiad is presented by its publisher as a retelling of a myth, but it isn’t quite that. The story of Odysseus’ return home from the Trojan War would qualify as a myth, but the Odyssey does not, if a myth is a story that doesn’t depend for its resonance and power on the details and language of any one version ...

Then You Are Them

Fredric Jameson: Atwood, 10 September 2009

The Year of the Flood 
by Margaret Atwood.
Bloomsbury, 434 pp., £18.99, September 2009, 978 0 7475 8516 9
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... in which more purely ‘literary’ writers have felt free to indulge: Huxley, Orwell, even the Margaret Atwood of The Handmaid’s Tale. And not unpredictably, the results of these efforts have been as amateurish as analogous experiments in the realm of the detective or crime story (from Dostoevsky to Nabokov, if you like), but including a message or ...

Post-Feminism

Dinah Birch, 19 January 1989

Cat’s Eye 
by Margaret Atwood.
Bloomsbury, 421 pp., £12.95, January 1989, 0 7475 0304 4
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Interlunar 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 103 pp., £5.95, October 1988, 0 224 02303 9
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John Dollar 
by Marianne Wiggins.
Secker, 234 pp., £10.95, February 1989, 0 436 57080 7
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Broken Words 
by Helen Hodgman.
Virago, 121 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 9781853810107
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... always been for women to answer. It has become clear that women’s novels can answer them, too. Margaret Atwood knows all about the harassing particularities of family life, and has written about them with a memorable edge of resentment. Her high standing is largely derived from the way in which she has pushed these acerbically intimate perceptions ...

Dry Eyes

John Bayley, 5 December 1991

Jump and Other Stories 
by Nadine Gordimer.
Bloomsbury, 257 pp., £13.99, October 1991, 0 7475 1020 2
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Wilderness Tips 
by Margaret Atwood.
Bloomsbury, 247 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 7475 1019 9
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... art is to use them without insistence or inner glee. Talented women like Nadine Gordimer and Margaret Atwood are very good at this. Both have styles that are frostily kind, sharp and dry-eyed, and the Atwood stories in particular remind me of those by an expert in the art from a previous generation, Elizabeth ...

Making poison

Patrick Parrinder, 20 March 1986

The Handmaid’s Tale 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 324 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 224 02348 9
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... Fear is a powerful stimulant,’ says Offred, the heroine of Margaret Atwood’s chilling tale of the near future. Trained at the Rachel and Leah Centre and habited in red, Offred belongs to a quasi-religious order of ‘sacred vessels’, ‘two-legged wombs’ whose task it is to produce the next generation of the ruling élite in the Republic of Gilead ...

Dying Falls

John Lanchester, 23 July 1987

Temporary Shelter 
by Mary Gordon.
Bloomsbury, 231 pp., £11.95, July 1987, 0 7475 0006 1
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Bluebeard’s Egg 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 287 pp., £10.95, June 1987, 0 224 02245 8
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The Native 
by David Plante.
Chatto, 122 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 0 7011 3247 7
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The March of the Long Shadows 
by Norman Lewis.
Secker, 232 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 436 24620 1
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... passionately committed to the most private and hidden areas of human life. (One of the stories in Margaret Atwood’s new collection treats very similar imaginings of nuclear war, and we learn in an aside that the central male character of David Plante’s new novel works on a science project related to Star Wars. A lot of writing in the last few years ...
How far can you go? 
by David Lodge.
Secker, 244 pp., £5.95, April 1980, 0 436 25661 4
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Life before Man 
by Margaret Atwood.
Cape, 317 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 224 01782 9
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Desirable Residence 
by Lettice Cooper.
Gollancz, 191 pp., £5.50, April 1980, 0 575 02787 8
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A Month in the Country 
by J.L. Carr.
Harvester, 110 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 85527 328 3
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... far this is an improvement David Lodge does not profess to know. It is not clear what the title of Margaret Atwood’s Life Before Man is meant to imply, but here we are back with the zombies and automatons of modern fiction. In her earlier novel Surfacing, the setting in the northern Canadian wilds is of some interest, but the characters, presented at ...

Royal Classic Knitwear

Margaret Anne Doody: Iris and Laura, 5 October 2000

The Blind Assassin 
by Margaret Atwood.
Bloomsbury, 521 pp., £16.99, September 2000, 0 7475 4937 0
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... Margaret Atwood’s tenth novel is both familiar and new. As it is an Atwood novel, we get eggs, a ravine, shit, snow, an ethereal double or sisterly doppelgänger, a bridge, a river, an act of violence – images and themes from her earlier fiction metamorphosed. The Blind Assassin also possesses the unusual lyrical sensuousness that distinguished Alias Grace (1996), Atwood’s last major work ...

Capital W, Capital W

Michael Wood: Women writers, 19 August 1999

Women Writers at Work 
edited by George Plimpton.
Harvill, 381 pp., £9.99, February 1999, 1 86046 586 2
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Just as I Thought 
by Grace Paley.
Virago, 332 pp., £8.99, August 1999, 1 86049 696 2
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... in 1988, and now expanded and updated to include Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and Susan Sontag, Margaret Atwood remarks that the writers have been brought together ‘over what, in some cases, would be their dead bodies’. Dorothy Parker, for instance, says she is ‘a feminist, and God knows I’m loyal to my sex ... But when we paraded through the ...

Offered to the Gods

Frank Kermode: Sacrifice, 5 June 2008

Culture and Sacrifice: Ritual Death in Literature and Opera 
by Derek Hughes.
Cambridge, 313 pp., £45, October 2007, 978 0 521 86733 7
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... cultural contexts of human sacrifice, more or less from its speculative prehistoric beginnings to Margaret Atwood’s recent novel The Blind Assassin. To succeed in such an enterprise an author must be fantastically well read, expert in the disposition of large tracts of material in various languages, some of it by great artists and some by no less ...

I scribble, you write

Tessa Hadley: Women Reading, 26 September 2013

The Woman Reader 
by Belinda Jack.
Yale, 330 pp., £9.99, August 2013, 978 0 300 19720 4
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Curious Subjects 
by Hilary Schor.
Oxford, 271 pp., £41.99, January 2013, 978 0 19 992809 5
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... me who, girlish and unlearned as I am, presume to write to a man who is the father of learning.’ Margaret Cavendish in her 1656 autobiography calls her own work ‘scribbling’ as opposed to her husband’s ‘writing’. The operations of this cultural cringe are intricate. How much is simply the formulaic politeness of eras more unabashedly hierarchical ...

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