The Snowman cometh

Elaine Showalter

  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
    Bloomsbury, 378 pp, £16.99, May 2003, ISBN 0 7475 6259 8

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. Rather, she is known for her chronicles of women’s victimisation and resistance, and her use of first-person narrative to explore female imagination, consciousness and creativity. Offred’s story in Atwood’s most celebrated book, The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), is as much about women’s language and power as about the futuristic vision of Gilead, a theocracy that reduces women to their childbearing capacity.

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[*] Reviewed in the LRB by Margaret Anne Doody (5 October 2000).