Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Surfacing (Atwood) 8

One of the earliest VMCs, Surfacing, by Margaret Atwood is a slim volume but a complex read. On the surface, it is the story of a woman who returns to the island with three friends (one of whom is her lover) where she spent part of her childhood in order to seek out her father who has gone missing. Delve a little deeper and it is a rather dark story of a woman trying to figure out who she is. Go further (and I didn't make it to this level I'm afraid, but there was quite a good introduction) and the novel is full of religious imagery. It is thus a novel that can be read on many different levels.

Whilst this fitted into the non-sci-fi sort of Atwood novels that I enjoy more, it was very different to the longer, meatier narratives of books such as Alias Grace and Cat's Eye. I couldn't help wondering if perhaps this could have been elaborated into something like one of those.

I still need to read Lady Oracle, and then I'm done with Margaret Atwood as part of this venture.

It's been published four times with very different covers (I own the original green version)


  1. What an interesting contrast in cover art and design! I think the characters are interesting enough for the novel to have been more complex in its telling (like the others you've mentioned), but as you've said, it's a layered novel, and one of those layers is rooted in landscape and how it impacts (or does not) nationhood and identity and a person's sense of belonging to a particular place. So the fact that the story is told in very stark prose makes sense because it's all "rocks and trees and water": on the surface it seems pretty simple.

  2. This sounds very interesting and I am surprised to read of a Margaret Attwood that I have not heard of. Also - if this is an early VMC I wonder if it one of the list of 20 or so that Antonia White recommended before she died... hmmm... I feel a spot of research coming on.

    Thanks for sharing Verity


  3. I have a different Virago cover from the three above; Atwood has been reissued so many times (not surprising, really, as she is probably their best-selling novelist).

    I thought this was stunningly written, especially for an early novel, although its not my favourite Atwood.

  4. I haven't read this one but I love Atwood and think she's one of the most brilliant living authors today. I even enjoy her sci-fi or as she calls it 'speculative fiction.' The first cover seems so appropriate to the title and the story. I'd love to read this and I'll definitely look out for it.

  5. Hannah - I didn't know there was a list of VMCs recommended by Antonia White - tell me more!

    Claire - what does your cover look like?

    Mrs B - she's certainly written a wide variety of books.

    BIP - The covers are very varied, and I think you've got the nail on the head about the complexity of the book.

  6. It has a door on the front cover; I think to represent the cabin. I have the correct cover for my copy in my librarything library.

  7. Thanks Claire - I didn't realise that was a Virago one when I looked! Have added it in.

  8. The first cover is my favorite, though as other commenters have noted, they're all so different! You'd never know they were for the same book.