Length: 525 pages
About: Dying woman remembers remarkable life
Style: 1st & 3rd person
Where: Canada (Toronto)
Iris Chase, married at eighteen to a politically prominent industrialist, but now eighty-two and poor, is living in Port Ticonderoga, a town dominated by her once-prosperous family. While
bewailing her unreliable body and deriding those who try to help her, Iris reflects on her far from exemplary life and her perilous times, particularly on the events surrounding her sister Laura’s
mysterious, tragic early death.
Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge. The bridge was being repaired: she went right through the Danger sign. The car fell a hundred feet into the ravine,
smashing through the treetops feathery with new leaves, then burst into flames and rolled down into the shallow creek at the bottom. Chunks of the bridge fell on top of it. Nothing much was left of
her but charred smithereens.
I was informed of the accident by a policeman: the car was mine, and they'd traced the licence. His tone was respectful: no doubt he recognized Richard's name. He said the tires may have caught on
a streetcar track or the brakes may have failed, but he also felt bound to inform me that two witnesses - a retired lawyer and a bank teller, dependable people - had claimed to have seen the whole
thing. They'd said Laura had turned the car sharply and deliberately, and had plunged off the bridge with no more fuss than stepping off a curb. They'd noticed her hands on the wheel because of the
white gloves she'd been wearing.
Atwood has never written with more flair and versatility than in this multidimensional novel. This is Margaret Atwood at her remarkable best.
Not so good:
The truth that emerges is, in fact, eminently neat, in a murder-mystery sort of way. The surprises have the effect of further flattening out the characters, the villains becoming blacker, the
martyrs yet more devoted. More of a grey area would be welcome. The demands of Atwood's tricksy plot have produced a curiously reactionary world picture, in which men have political convictions,
while women's lives contain nothing more serious than love.
With three researchers working for her, Atwood has come up with plenty of background about labour relations in Canada between the wars, but the political elements of the book never seem more than
cladding bolted on to the romantic tale. He so dark, sarcastic and righteous, she so vulnerable in her youth and lovely gown.
The Observer, Adam Mars-Jones 17th September 2000 for full review click here
About the author
Margaret Atwood was born in November 1939 in Ottawa and is the author of more than thirty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays. Her work is acclaimed internationally and has been
translated into thirty-three languages. She is the recipient of many literary awards and honours from various countries. Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto, with writer Graeme Gibson. Margaret Atwood
has been shortlisted for it three times in; 1986 with The Handmaid’s Tale, 1996 with Alias Grace and most recently in 2003 with her eleventh novel Oryx and Crake.