Surfacing

Surfacing

by Margaret Atwood

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Overview

From the author of the New York Times bestselling novels The Handmaid’s Tale—now an Emmy Award-winning Hulu original series—and Alias Grace, now a Netflix original series.

Part detective novel, part psychological thriller, Surfacing is the story of a talented woman artist who goes in search of her missing father on a remote island in northern Quebec. Setting out with her lover and another young couple, she soon finds herself captivated by the isolated setting, where a marriage begins to fall apart, violence and death lurk just beneath the surface, and sex becomes a catalyst for conflict and dangerous choices. Surfacing is a work permeated with an aura of suspense, complex with layered meanings, and written in brilliant, diamond-sharp prose. Here is a rich mine of ideas from an extraordinary writer about contemporary life and nature, families and marriage, and about women fragmented...and becoming whole.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781451686883
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 03/27/2012
Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 49,724
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Margaret Atwood, whose work has been published in over thirty-five countries, is the award-winning author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid's Tale, which was made into a TV series, her novels include Cat's Eye, Alias Grace, Oryx and Crake, and The Robber Bride. She has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, winning once for The Blind Assassin. She lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.

Hometown:

Toronto, Ontario

Date of Birth:

November 18, 1939

Place of Birth:

Ottawa, Ontario

Education:

B.A., University of Toronto, 1961; M.A. Radcliffe, 1962; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1967

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE
 
I can’t believe I’m on this road again, twisting along past the lake where the white birches are dying, the disease is spreading up from the south, and I notice they now have sea-planes for hire. But this is still near the city limits; we didn’t go through, it’s swelled enough to have a bypass, that’s success.
 
I never thought of it as a city but as the last or first outpost depending on which way we were going, an accumulation of sheds and boxes and one main street with a movie theatre, the itz, the oyal, red R burnt out, and two restaurants which served identical grey hamburger steaks plastered with mud gravy and canned peas, watery and pallid as fisheyes, and french fries bleary with lard. Order a poached egg, my mother said, you can tell if it’s fresh by the edges.
 
In one of those restaurants before I was born my brother got under the table and slid his hands up and down the waitress’s legs while she was bringing the food; it was during the war and she had on shiny orange rayon stockings, he’d never seen them before, my mother didn’t wear them. A different year there we ran through the snow across the sidewalk in our bare feet because we had no shoes,  they’d worn out during the summer. In the car that time we sat with our feet wrapped in blankets, pretending we were wounded. My brother said the Germans shot our feet off.
 
Now though I’m in another car, David’s and Anna’s; it’s sharp-finned and striped with chrome, a lumbering monster left over from ten years ago, he has to reach under the instrument panel to turn on the lights. David says they can’t afford a newer one, which probably isn’t true. He’s a good driver, I realize that, I keep my outside hand on the door in spite of it. To brace myself and so I can get out quickly if I have to. I’ve driven in the same car with them before but on this road it doesn’t seem right, either the three of them are in the wrong place or I am.
 
I’m in the back seat with the packsacks; this one, Joe, is sitting beside me chewing gum and holding my hand, they both pass the time. I examine the hand: the palm is broad, the short fingers tighten and relax, fiddling with my gold ring, turning it, it’s a reflex of his. He has peasant hands, I have peasant feet, Anna told us that. Everyone now can do a little magic, she reads hands at parties, she says it’s a substitute for conversation. When she did mine she said “Do you have a twin?” I said No. “Are you positive,” she said, “because some of your lines are double.” Her index finger traced me: “You had a good childhood but then there’s this funny break.” She puckered her forehead and I said I just wanted to know how long I was going to live, she could skip the rest. After that she told us Joe’s hands were dependable but not sensitive and I laughed, which was a mistake.
 
From the side he’s like the buffalo on the U.S. nickel, shaggy and blunt-snouted, with small clenched eyes and the defiant but insane look of a species once dominant, now threatened with extinction. That’s how he thinks of himself too: deposed, unjustly. Secretly he would like them to set up a kind of park for him, like a bird sanctuary. Beautiful Joe.
 
He feels me watching him and lets go of my hand. Then he takes his gum out, bundling it in the silver wrapper, and sticks it in the ashtray and crosses his arms. That means I’m not supposed to observe him; I face front.
 
In the first few hours of driving we moved through flattened cow-sprinkled hills and leaf trees and dead elm skeletons, then into the needle trees and the cuttings dynamited in pink and grey granite and the flimsy tourist cabins, and the signs saying GATEWAY TO THE NORTH, at least four towns claim to be that. The future is in the North, that was a political slogan once; when my father heard it he said there was nothing in the North but the past and not much of that either. Wherever he is now, dead or alive and nobody knows which, he’s no longer making epigrams. They have no right to get old. I envy people whose parents died when they were young, that’s easier to remember, they stay unchanged. I was sure mine would anyway, I could leave and return much later and everything would be the same. I thought of them as living in some other time, going about their own concerns closed safe behind a wall as translucent as jello, mammoths frozen in a glacier. All I would have to do was come back when I was ready but I kept putting it off, there would be too many explanations.
 
Now we’re passing the turnoff to the pit the Americans hollowed out. From here it looks like an innocent hill, spruce-covered, but the thick power lines running into the forest give it away. I heard they’d left, maybe that was a ruse, they could easily still be living in there, the generals in concrete bunkers and the ordinary soldiers in underground apartment buildings where the lights burn all the time. There’s no way of checking because we aren’t allowed in. The city invited them to stay, they were good for business, they drank a lot.
 
“That’s where the rockets are,” I say. Were. I don’t correct it.
 
David says “Bloody fascist pig Yanks,” as though he’s commenting on the weather.
 
Anna says nothing. Her head rests on the back of the seat, the ends of her light hair whipping in the draft from the side window  that won’t close properly. Earlier she was singing, House of the Rising Sun and Lili Marlene, both of them several times, trying to make her voice go throaty and deep; but it came out like a hoarse child’s. David turned on the radio, he couldn’t get anything, we were between stations. When she was in the middle of St. Louis Blues he began to whistle and she stopped. She’s my best friend, my best woman friend; I’ve known her two months.
 
I lean forward and say to David, “The bottle house is around this next curve and to the left,” and he nods and slows the car. I told them about it earlier, I guessed it was the kind of object that would interest them. They’re making a movie, Joe is doing the camera work, he’s never done it before but David says they’re the new Renaissance Men, you teach yourself what you need to learn. It was mostly David’s idea, he calls himself the director: they already have the credits worked out. He wants to get shots of things they come across, random samples he calls them, and that will be the name of the movie too: Random Samples. When they’ve used up their supply of film (which was all they could afford; and the camera is rented) they’re going to look at what they’ve collected and rearrange it.
 
“How can you tell what to put in if you don’t already know what it’s about?” I asked David when he was describing it. He gave me one of his initiate-to-novice stares. “If you close your mind in advance like that you wreck it. What you need is flow.” Anna, over by the stove measuring out the coffee, said everyone she knew was making a movie, and David said that was no fucking reason why he shouldn’t. She said “You’re right, sorry”; but she laughs about it behind his back, she calls it Random Pimples.
 
The bottle house is built of pop bottles cemented together with the bottoms facing out, green ones and brown ones in zig-zag patterns like the ones they taught us in school to draw on teepees; there’s a wall around it made of bottles too, arranged in letters so the brown ones spell BOTTLE VILLA.
 
“Neat,” David says, and they get out of the car with the camera. Anna and I climb out after them; we stretch our arms, and Anna has a cigarette. She’s wearing a purple tunic and white bellbottoms, they have a smear on them already, grease from the car. I told her she should wear jeans or something but she said she looks fat in them.
 
“Who made it, Christ, think of the work,” she says, but I don’t know anything about it except that it’s been there forever, the tangled black spruce swamp around it making it even more unlikely, a preposterous monument to some quirkish person exiled or perhaps a voluntary recluse like my father, choosing this swamp because it was the only place where he could fulfil his lifelong dream of living in a house of bottles. Inside the wall is an attempted lawn and a border with orange mattress-tuft marigolds.
 
“Great,” says David, “really neat,” and he puts his arm around Anna and hugs her briefly to show he’s pleased, as though she is somehow responsible for the Bottle Villa herself. We get back in the car.
 
I watch the side windows as though it’s a T.V. screen. There’s nothing I can remember till we reach the border, marked by the sign that says BIENVENUE on one side and WELCOME on the other. The sign has bullet holes in it, rusting red around the edges. It always did, in the fall the hunters use it for target practice; no matter how many times they replace it or paint it the bullet holes reappear, as though they aren’t put there but grow by a kind of inner logic or infection, like mould or boils. Joe wants to film the sign but David says “Naaa, what for?”
 
Now we’re on my home ground, foreign territory. My throat constricts, as it learned to do when I discovered people could say words that would go into my ears meaning nothing. To be deaf and dumb would be easier. The cards they poke at you when they want a quarter, with the hand alphabet on them. Even so, you would need to learn spelling.
 
The first smell is the mill, sawdust, there are mounds of it in the yard with the stacked timber slabs. The pulpwood goes elsewhere to the paper mill, but the bigger logs are corralled in a boom on the river, a ring of logs chained together with the free ones nudging each other inside it; they travel to the saws in a clanking overhead chute, that hasn’t been changed. The car goes under it and we’re curving up into the tiny company town, neatly planned with public flowerbeds and an eighteenth century fountain in the middle, stone dolphins and a cherub with part of the face missing. It looks like an imitation but it may be real.
 
Anna says “Oh wow, what a great fountain.”
 
“The company built the whole thing,” I say, and David says “Rotten capitalist bastards” and begins to whistle again.
 
I tell him to turn right and he does. The road ought to be here, but instead there’s a battered chequerboard, the way is blocked.
 
“Now what,” says David.
 
We didn’t bring a map because I knew we wouldn’t need one. “I’ll have to ask,” I say, so he backs the car out and we drive along the main street till we come to a corner store, magazines and candy.
 
“You must mean the old road,” the woman says with only a trace of an accent. “It’s been closed for years, what you need is the new one.” I buy four vanilla cones because you aren’t supposed to ask without buying anything. She gouges down into the cardboard barrel with a metal scoop. Before, the ice cream came rolled in pieces of paper which they would peel off like bark, pressing the short logs of ice cream into the cones with their thumbs. Those must be obsolete.
 
I go back to the car and tell David the directions. Joe says he likes chocolate better.
 
Nothing is the same, I don’t know the way any more. I slide my tongue around the ice cream, trying to concentrate on it, they put seaweed in it now, but I’m starting to shake, why is the road different, he shouldn’t have allowed them to do it, I want to turn around and go back to the city and never find out what happened to him. I’ll start crying, that would be horrible, none of them would know what to do and neither would I. I bite down into the cone and I can’t feel anything for a minute but the knife-hard pain up the side of my face. Anaesthesia, that’s one technique: if it hurts invent a different pain. I’m all right.
 
David finishes his cone, tossing the carton-flavoured tip out the window, and starts the car. We go through a part that’s spread out from the town since I was here, freshly built square bungalows like city ones except for the pink and baby blue trim, and a few oblong shacks further along, tar-paper and bare boards. A clutch of children playing in the wet mud that substitutes for lawns; most of them are dressed in clothes too big for them, which makes them seem stunted.
 
“They must fuck a lot here,” Anna says, “I guess it’s the Church.” Then she says “Aren’t I awful.”
 
David says “The true north strong and free.”
 
Beyond the houses, two older children, darkfaced, hold out tin cans toward the car. Raspberries perhaps.
 
We come to the gas station where the woman said to turn left and David groans with joy, “Oh god look at that,” and they pile out as though it will escape if they aren’t quick enough. What they’re after is the three stuffed moose on a platform near the pumps: they’re dressed in human clothes and wired standing up on their hind legs, a father moose with a trench-coat and a pipe in his mouth, a mother moose in a print dress and flowered hat and a little boy moose in short pants, a striped jersey and a baseball cap, waving an American flag.
 
Anna and I follow. I go up behind David and say “Don’t you need some gas,” he shouldn’t use the moose without paying, like the washrooms they’re here to attract customers.
 
“Oh look,” Anna says, hand going to her mouth, “there’s another one on the roof,” and there is, a little girl moose in a frilly skirt and a pigtailed blonde wig, holding a red parasol in one hoof. They get her too. The owner of the gas station is standing behind his plateglass show-window in his undershirt, scowling at us through the film of dust.
 
When we’re back in the car I say as though defending myself, “Those weren’t here before.” Anna’s head swivels round, my voice must sound odd.
 
“Before what?” she says.
 
The new road is paved and straight, two lanes with a line down the middle. Already it’s beginning to gather landmarks, a few advertisement signs, a roadside crucifix with a wooden Christ, ribs sticking out, the alien god, mysterious to me as ever. Underneath it are a couple of jam jars with flowers, daisies and red devil’s paintbrush and the white ones you can dry, Indian Posies, Everlasting, there must have been a car accident.
 
At intervals the old road crosses us; it was dirt, full of bumps and potholes, it followed the way the land went, up and down the hills and around the cliffs and boulders. They used to go over it as fast as possible, their father knew every inch of it and could take it (he said) blindfolded, which was what they often seemed to be doing, grinding up past the signs that said PETITE VITESSE and plunging down over the elevator edges and scraping around the rockfaces, GARDEZ LE DROIT, horn hooting; the rest of them clamped onto the inside of the car, getting sicker and sicker despite the Lifesavers their mother would hand out, and finally throwing up groggily by the side of the road, blue asters and pink fireweed, if he could stop in time or out the car window if he couldn’t or into paper bags, he anticipated emergencies, if he was in a hurry and didn’t want to stop at all.
 
That won’t work, I can’t call them “they” as if they were somebody else’s family: I have to keep myself from telling that story. Still though, seeing the old road billowing along at a distance through the trees (ruts and traces already blurring with grass and saplings, soon it will be gone) makes me reach into my bag for the Lifesavers I brought. But they aren’t needed any more, even though the new road turns from pavement into gravel (“Must’ve elected the wrong guy last time around,” David says jokingly) and the familiar smell of road dust fuming behind and around us mixes with the gas-and-upholstery smell of the car.
 
“Thought you said this would be bad,” David says over his shoulder, “it’s not bad at all.” We’re nearly to the village already, the two roads joining here but widened – rock blasted, trees bulldozed over, roots in the air, needles reddening – past the flat cliff where the election slogans are painted and painted over, some faded and defaced, others fresh yellow and white, VOTEZ GODET, VOTEZ OBRIEN, along with hearts and initials and words and advertisements, THÉ SALADA, BLUE MOON COTTAGES ½ MILE, QUÉBEC LIBRE, FUCK YOU, BUVEZ COCA COLA GLACÉ, JESUS SAVES, mélange of demands and languages, an x-ray of it would be the district’s entire history.
 
But they’ve cheated, we’re here too soon and I feel deprived of something, as though I can’t really get here unless I’ve suffered; as though the first view of the lake, which we can see now, blue and cool as redemption, should be through tears and a haze of vomit.

What People are Saying About This

Marge Piercy

Margaret Atwood is a large and remarkable writer. Her concerns are nowhere petty.
—(Marge Piercy)

Reading Group Guide

1. Throughout the novel, we never learn the name of our narrator. Why might Atwood choose anonymity for her heroine?

2. This novel is replete with dis- and re-appearances: fathers vanish, babies are lost, marriages erode, long-banished memories return, pregancies occur. Discuss the implications of disappearing and reappearing.

3. Our narrator frequently refers to herself as an "accomplice": to the killing of the fish, to the accruing of "random samples" for the film. Over the course of the novel, she not only ceases her collusion but also becomes an active saboteur. What catalyzes this shift?

4. Early in the novel, the narrator attempts to draw clear battle lines: men versus women, the city versus the country, the Americans versus Canadians. In time, however, many of these opposing camps blur together: supposed Americans are revealed to be Canadians, Anna shifts her allegiance and sides with the men. What is the result of these new alliances?

5. The narrator must literally dive into the lake in order to dredge the swamp of her memory and recover her buried past. Throughout the novel, the lake serves as both a literal and symbolic centerpiece. Discuss its role and importance.

6. What can we see from the novel's discussion of "truth" or "lies?"

7. What clues in the novel suggest that the narrator is struggling to supress memories of an abortion?

8. What role does the discovery of her father's drawings play in her ability, as a daughter and as a fellow artist, to understand his life better?

9. Each of the two couples employ different strategies for wounding and communicating with one another.Do relationship strategies differ more on gender lines or from couple to couple? What are the distinctive strategies employed by each couple/person?

10. Does the heroine remain a reliable narrator throughout? Do her perceptions ever deviate from reality? At what point, if ever, do you discount her version of reality?

11. Does your opinion of Joe alter as the novel progresses?

12. Our heroine describes her habitual process of observing, memorizing, and copying emotions she has seen in others in lieu of having actual feeling herself. Discuss.

13. What is the role of animals in the novel? The role of technology?

14. In describing childhood games of hide and seek in the forest, the narrator recalls her fear "that what would come out when you called would be someone else". When she later escapes into the forest, she does in fact emerge transformed. What happens on her odyssey?

15. Consider this final manifesto: "This above all, to refuse to be a victim . . . I have to recant, give up the old belief that I am powerless." Does a shift in self-perception have the power to reverse one's destiny? What factors determine who is and is not a victim? What gives her the power to break free?

Foreword

1. Throughout the novel, we never learn the name of our narrator. Why might Atwood choose anonymity for her heroine?

2. This novel is replete with dis- and re-appearances: fathers vanish, babies are lost, marriages erode, long-banished memories return, pregancies occur. Discuss the implications of disappearing and reappearing.

3. Our narrator frequently refers to herself as an "accomplice": to the killing of the fish, to the accruing of "random samples" for the film. Over the course of the novel, she not only ceases her collusion but also becomes an active saboteur. What catalyzes this shift?

4. Early in the novel, the narrator attempts to draw clear battle lines: men versus women, the city versus the country, the Americans versus Canadians. In time, however, many of these opposing camps blur together: supposed Americans are revealed to be Canadians, Anna shifts her allegiance and sides with the men. What is the result of these new alliances?

5. The narrator must literally dive into the lake in order to dredge the swamp of her memory and recover her buried past. Throughout the novel, the lake serves as both a literal and symbolic centerpiece. Discuss its role and importance.

6. What can we see from the novel's discussion of "truth" or "lies?"

7. What clues in the novel suggest that the narrator is struggling to supress memories of an abortion?

8. What role does the discovery of her father's drawings play in her ability, as a daughter and as a fellow artist, to understand his life better?

9. Each of the two couples employ different strategies for wounding and communicating with oneanother. Do relationship strategies differ more on gender lines or from couple to couple? What are the distinctive strategies employed by each couple/person?

10. Does the heroine remain a reliable narrator throughout? Do her perceptions ever deviate from reality? At what point, if ever, do you discount her version of reality?

11. Does your opinion of Joe alter as the novel progresses?

12. Our heroine describes her habitual process of observing, memorizing, and copying emotions she has seen in others in lieu of having actual feeling herself. Discuss.

13. What is the role of animals in the novel? The role of technology?

14. In describing childhood games of hide and seek in the forest, the narrator recalls her fear "that what would come out when you called would be someone else". When she later escapes into the forest, she does in fact emerge transformed. What happens on her odyssey?

15. Consider this final manifesto: "This above all, to refuse to be a victim . . . I have to recant, give up the old belief that I am powerless." Does a shift in self-perception have the power to reverse one's destiny? What factors determine who is and is not a victim? What gives her the power to break free?

Discussion questions provided courtesy of Anchor Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. All rights reserved.

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Surfacing 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I must confess, I bought Surfacing because it was the shortest of Margaret Atwood's novels and I had only a few days before my deadline. But after reading The Blind Assassin, I was excited to be picking up another Margaret Atwood book. Surfacing has quite a different feel, however, and meanders for the first 160 (of 200) pages. As the book winds down, you wonder if the main character is mentally sane, or, in fact, if Margaret Atwood is. The book twists and turns, puzzles the reader, but ultimately all comes together for a satisfying (but fairly tragic) ending.
HemaG More than 1 year ago
Feminist and post colonial theories share common qualities since they have consistently held the position of the ¿other¿ in society, making the protagonist¿s plight a mere microcosm of the reality of what exists. The nameless protagonist is exploited in various ways by society as well as her married lover; paralleling the exploitation of Canada and other post-colonial societies by other dominant cultures. Atwood highlights the damage caused to those exploited and colonized as she shows the loss of identity experienced by the individual whose history: 'I must be more careful of my memories, I have to be sure they're my own and not the memories of other people telling me what I felt, how I acted, what I said'; language and culture have been dominated.

Feminist and post-colonial theories have also always been concerned with the language, both the native language of the colonized land as well as the language forced on the individuals as speech is part of the basis for identity. They can also be used subversively to thwart patriarchal powers. When the protagonist emerges from the lake liberated, she no longer feels the need to use the language of the `conquerors¿ and instead retreats into animal grunts. Her culture is perpetually threatened by the `enemies¿, The Americans; and also her own countrymen as the condition of degeneracy as well as what is considered `normal¿ by the enemies have been internalized and Canadians themselves have become the very thing they loathe.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My first Atwood book was Alias Grace, and I loved it so much I wanted to read more by this author. Surfacing was very different, I was gently lulled along by lovely descriptions to a violent and unexpected end. Satisfying and disturbing both!
scd87 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Abortion, divorce, environmentalism, Canadian-American relationships, sexism ¿ oh my! This list of difficult issues is tackled in Margaret Atwood¿s Surfacing, which is about a woman who searches for her lost father in northern Quebec, along with her boyfriend (Joe) and a married couple (David and Anna). These subjects may seem a bit overwhelming for one novel, but Surfacing handles these issues (and more) very well. The unnamed narrator is deeply affected by these problems of twentieth-century society, and the novel¿s messages are not lost on a twenty-first century reader. I don¿t know how good of a strategy this is, but when I read novels, I like to be able to say to myself that `character X is a good/bad person¿. I just find that the characters are typically more memorable when I can label them according to how their morals and intentions compare to my values. It was easy for me to do this with characters like David (who I found despicable, yet entertaining), and Anna (who I felt sorry for, while I also wanted to knock some sense into her). The reader feels like he or she knows where David and Anna are coming from, even though the novel is a first-person narrative. On the other hand, Atwood skilfully kept Joe, and his relationship with the narrator, a little mysterious. Joe¿s intentions were never clear, and the narrator kept waiting for him to physically hurt her, but he never did. Although such vagueness about an important character would normally annoy me, I enjoyed the vagueness of Joe. The first-person narration means that every insight about Joe depicts the narrator¿s numbness to love. Atwood uses Joe as a vehicle for the reader to learn about the narrator, and Joe never really becomes more than `the narrator¿s boyfriend¿, but he does play a major role in the narrator¿s transformation. One aspect of the novel that I thought was very interesting was the Canadian view of Americans. Atwood seems to have grasped the love/hate relationship that Canadians feel towards our neighbours to the south. With the huge differences in population size, it is understandable that Canadians feel threatened by American society, and are therefore critical of it. In Surfacing, Americans are represented as polluting, careless killers who will do anything to get what they want: ¿Are the Americans worse than Hitler?¿ (129). David is especially vocal about his distaste for Americans, calling them things like ¿rotten capitalist bastards¿ (12). But, the irony in David¿s character is how much he is actually like the Americans he hates so much. Besides the fact that he loves baseball (the American past-time), he seems to treat his wife Anna the same way the Americans abuse the Canadian environment; they take advantage of it for their own leisure without regard for the damage they are causing. Many people would probably call Surfacing a feminist novel, but I think that Atwood gets even deeper than that. She seems to be commenting on what it means to be human, not just a female human. This comes from the narrator¿s understanding of nature, which I would say is the main reason to read this novel. The narrator does not accept the roles for women in society, but she does not seem to accept society in general, either. Having grown up in northern Quebec, the narrator connects to the natural world better than any city or suburban person ever can. It is this connection that makes her critical of people¿s place in the world, which is seen in her views on animals, surviving in the woods, and environmental exploitation. The narrator¿s insight may make you want to pack just the essentials, and head off into the wilderness! Overall, Surfacing is a psychological exploration of a woman¿s search for her place in the world. While the serious issues in this novel are not too heavy, they will make the reader go into deep thought about the major problems presented. I have heard that Atwood¿s newer works are much better than her earlier stuff. I don¿t know if that means
Nickelini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An odd book. At times quite interesting, and there is a lot going on, but it left me with an unsettled feeling. I can see why this isn't a favourite by Atwood fans who love the Handmaid's Tale.
HippieLunatic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While certainly not my favorite Atwood tale (that title goes to The Handmaid's Tale, this was a wonderfully beautiful, dark story of a woman trying to figure out who she is and why. How X is able to delve into her past, figuring out why she has become who she is, with little attachment to relationships is a story that most women have experienced, on at least some level. No, not every woman is faced with the pain that X has had to face, or the desire to simply leave everything behind, but I would bet that in each of our lives, we have had a need to become a detective to figure out our own life.This is a novel that needs to be read on various levels. An understanding that it is an exploration of X's mind and memories - and how they affect her current situations, along with being an exploration of X's current life and her needs to become someone knew, defined by herself as opposed to all those around her, is necessary to getting anything out of the work. It is not a straight time-line story, nor is any of our lives. We all fluctuate between the present and the past, trying to figure out how the past has impacted our present.Atwood does an admirable job of writing this process out, in my opinion.
DivineMissW on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting book. Margaret Atwood tells stories like no one else. She is always facinating in her perspectives.
sjurban on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the only book by Atwood that I didn't like at all. It was too cryptic. Maybe I just didn't get it, but either way, I did not enjoy it at all.
nocto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This didn't captivate me really, seemed a bit dated. I'm surprised I finished it really - I start way more books than I finish lately.
ahgonzales on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although the book was difficult to get through, it was an interesting read. The main character takes a trip back to her childhood home with her boyfriend and another couple after find out her father has gone missing. It was hard to relate to any of the characters, the main woman is distant yet introspective, the boyfriend is also distant without the internal narration, and the couple comes off as self-centered asses. As the book explored the character relationships, none were big surprises, just expansions of initial impressions. The overall themes were more engaging: relationships, birth/abortion, family and nature. A lot packed into such a short book, but I don't know if I'd read it again to get more out of it. It's also probably not a book I'd recommend to others.
LisaMorr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
On the surface (pun intended?), it's about a woman who journeys back to her hometown and the house she grew up in situated on a hard-to-get-to island somewhere in Quebec because her father has disappeared. She goes with the guy she's living with and another couple, the female of which is her best friend, her best woman friend, whom she's known for 2 months...As much as this woman is her best friend, and she's with the guy she's living with, she doesn't seem connected to them at all. And as we follow her along her journey, we learn more and more about why she is so disconnected, and not just to them but to the world at large.There's a lot going on in this relatively short novel - the mystery of her father's disappearance, her relationship to the people she's on the trip with, her marriage, growing up on this island with her brother; over and over she is depicted as a stranger.Some of the themes touched on include feminism, marriage and love. Also, I was surprised at the anti-Americanism depicted in the book. I haven't read that much Canadian fiction, and this is the first time I've noticed that theme, and I'm quite curious if that is common or not in Canadian fiction. In the end, everyone's an American, and that's not good!I liked the book and read it quickly, wanting to know what was going to happen. It's not my favorite Atwood book though - I liked The Blind Assasin and The Handmaid's Tale a lot more. It was a bit dissatisfying - I wanted there to be a bit more closure on what happened to her father, and to be honest, I'm not 100% sure what happened with her husband and her child - it was a bit disjointed.
Cait86 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Well, my favourite authors have been disappointing me lately. First, I was underwhelmed by McEwan's Amsterdam, and now I am dissatisfied with Atwood's Surfacing. I have heard from other that Atwood fans tend to favour either her earlier works or her later works, and I guess I fall under the latter category. Surfacing is Atwood's second novel, and while well-written, I feel as though she left a lot of potential territory unexplored.Surfacing is narrated by an unnamed women in her twenties, who journeys to her childhood home. Her father is missing, last seen in his cabin on an island in northern Quebec. Along with her boy-friend and another couple, the narrator attempts to find clues to her father's whereabouts, while spending a few days fishing the lakes around the cabin.This book was written in 1972, the same year that Atwood wrote Survival, a book of literary criticism exploring Canadian Literature. Atwood claimed that while the central thematic symbol of British Literature would be the island, and that of American Literature is the frontier, Canadian Literature is defined by survival. Atwood saw characters in Canadian Lit as having to fight for their lives, as needing to survive other human beings, the natural world, or their own inner turmoil. Character against Nature is particularly prevalent in Can Lit, especially in the Modern period, of about 1940-1970. This struggle is often a metaphor for the character's struggle with his or herself, with Nature standing in the place of impending madness. Atwood's own poetry from this period demonstrates this theme, particularly her poems about Susanna Moodie, and "Progressive Insanities of a Pioneer." Since 1972, Atwood's theories have fallen a little out of favour - her book, IMHO, makes sense for its time, but not really for present-day writing.Surfacing clearly echoes a lot of what Atwood discusses in Survival - and hey, if you are going to define Canadian Literature, and then write a Canadian novel, I guess your novel should follow your own definition, right? So, as Atwood's narrator spends more time in the bush, her mental state begins to decline. The reader sees hints of instability throughout the novel, but the climax really highlights the connection between Nature and Madness. The narrator's thoughts become disconnected, and are often only partial sentences or images. Atwood skillfully traces the narrator's downward spiral, and the reader feels pulled down along with her.However, at only 195 pages, Surfacing is not all that it could be. Contemporary Atwood novels are long, meaty narratives, and better demonstrate this author's considerable skill. The ending felt rushed and inconclusive - and, while I am not opposed to endings that leave the reader with unanswered questions, I felt that this ending did not do justice to the subject matter. Insanity is a complex state, and if an author decides to tackle this topic, then he or she had better confront it head on, delve deep, and take some risks - which Atwood does in her later novel, Alias Grace. Surfacing definitely has potential, but it is one of those stories that should have been 400 pages, not 200.Again, this is only Atwood's second novel, and the reader can see glimpses of the author of masterpieces like Alias Grace and The Blind Assassin. It is always interesting to see an author's development over a body of work, but Surfacing unquestionably places me as a fan of Atwood's later novels.
SilversReviews on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
STRANGE....easiest way to describe it.The nameless character goes back to her childhood home on a remote island looking for her father....she brings all kinds of emotions and "hangups" with her.She spends little over a week with her boyfriend and another couple...they all start getting on each other's nerves. When it is time to leave, the nameless heroine hides and doesn't go with them....even stranger things happen when she is there alone.While there with her friends, she is constantly worrying that her widowed father will return and be enraged that there are people in his home. She finds things from her childhood while in the house and things that make her think about feelings and obligations.She seems to be looking for answers about her life then and now. It has excellent character descriptions and descriptions of feelings.....it takes a few pages to get you interested, and it is a deep, thoughtful book with a lot more "underneath" that comes out - must be why it is called surfacing?
samfsmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Picked this up to read while I was on a five day backpack. Needless to say, it spooked me out at first. Two couples stranded on a North woods island looking for the missing father of one of them. Is he dead or crazy? I thought I was in a slasher movie. But then things turned around and the novel changed its direction. The narrator is unreliable, and everything is told from her viewpoint, so at times it can be hard to sort out what is really happening, but it was a good read. A very early Atwood, and worth picking up.
advena on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Margaret Atwood is my favourite author. She has a voice I identify with - a rare pleasure. I find her use of language so beautiful and artful that I could read any of her books repeatedly. I frequently find myself reading and rereading sentences and paragraphs because they are so stunningly crafted.
Magadri on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Linguistically, this novel was fantastic. Atwood's prose is wonderful; her strange metaphors and similes never ceased to amaze me. However, other than the language, I didn't come away from this novel with much. The story line was barely interesting, and the characters were irritating. I'm certain that in two years, I will have forgotten what this book was even about.
isabelx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am getting distinctly bored with Margaret Atwood. Her protagonists are so distant that I have a hard time caring what happens to them. And I don't like books in which the main character's name is never mentioned - it's just annoying. But at least this was a short novel and only took me a couple of days to get through. This book was written well over a decade before "Cat's Eye" which I read recently. I noticed that various elements of the "Surfacing" heroine's life have been recycled and expanded upon in the story of Elaine in the later book.
rcooper3589 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
this book was alright. it didn't really leave an impresion on me.
MsNikki on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
She returns to her family's island to regain her sanity. The horrors of modern life send her crazy, so she needs to return to nature to find herself.
realsupergirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have lost this book at least 5 or 6 times. I keep loaning it out and never seeing it again. But I always buy it again, because it's so good. It's a beautiful, haunting, sad depiction of a woman coming into her own and a couple coming apart at the seams.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book started out bad a just got worse. Don’t waste your time or money. There is zero plot and no action.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After her fathers disappearance,a woman returns to the island of Her birth to findd his body with 3 other canadians. During her Search she starts to uncover how her ooriigins & upbringing & Environment bring old forgotten questions to the surface of her Consciousness. Digging deeper into her past she begins questioning her previous plans to returning to a life of pain &artifice among people and jobs that seem irrelevant and without purpose.
CR-Buell More than 1 year ago
The more I read of Atwood the more convinced I become that she should be ranked up with Naipaul, Rushdie, Grass as one of the world's greatest living authors (RIP Gabo). Surfacing is one of her early works, and as such has more of a raw quality about it than say The Handmaid's Tale. This is not a bad thing; there is power in the rawness. One of the main complaints I see in the negative reviews about Surfacing is the lack of plot. To this I say, if you're reading Atwood for the plot you're missing the point. This novel is not about getting from point A to point B; it's about understanding, or trying to understand. Trying to understand the roles we play, the masks we wear, the lies we tell ourselves. This is a novel about the connections between innocence and victimhood, guilt and survival. This is a novel about breaking down, and becoming whole. Do yourself a favor and read this book. Atwood here captures the essence of what it is to be human in the modern world.
steveforbertfan More than 1 year ago
Very, very dated. Some books written 40+ years ago still remain relevant. This one did not, thank goodness it was a short book. I have loved many other Atwood books, this one is not very good at all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago