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3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  14,086 ratings  ·  821 reviews
Part detective novel, part psychological thriller, Surfacing is the story of a young woman who returns to northern Quebec, to the remote island of her childhood, with her lover and two friends, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of her father. Flooded with memories, she begins to realize that going home means entering not only another place, but another time. As t ...more
208 pages
Published (first published 1972)
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The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëThe Bell Jar by Sylvia PlathThe Color Purple by Alice WalkerThe Awakening by Kate Chopin
Best Feminist Fiction
421st out of 1,004 books — 2,049 voters
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The Queen's Library: Best of the Commonwealth
282nd out of 493 books — 163 voters

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Community Reviews

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A story of loss and struggle for identity around a remote Canadian lake in the 60s (ish). It starts out slowly and straightforwardly with two couples visiting the remote island cabin that belonged to the narrator’s missing father. However, it becomes evident (I can hardly say “clear”) that there is much more going on. There are tensions between and within the couples, the narrator’s own story is tantalisingly contradictory and it’s not always clear at first whether she’s talking literally or met ...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
An always thought-provoking, awe-inspiring and disturbing plunge into the depths of Atwood's (early) vision, voice and artistry. Everything and more than I remembered. It reads equally as powerful and mostly as relevant today as it did when I first read it, not so long (these things are relative; I re-read this on my 50th birthday) after it was published in 1972.

I feel sorry for readers who find this plotless, obtuse and unfinished. It is nothing short of perfect, in my mind. Atwood probes memo
Margaret Atwood's second novel and one I'm reading for the first time.

Atwood digs deep into the female psyche, as well as the human psyche, probing and poking in all the dark underwater caves that the modern world has separated us from. Her unnamed protagonist is searching for her missing father in a remote area of northeast Canada. She has brought along her current lover and a married couple whom, removed from their city life in Toronto, she is able to see clearly and critically, and bit by bit
I don't even know how to start to review this. It's hard to believe that this was just Atwood's second novel. The writing is so powerful it knocked me off my feet in places. I had an extremely emotional response to this book. I actually finished it last night but I wanted to think about it a bit before I gave it five stars. The ending almost brought it down a star but after thinking about it more I've decided that it is worth the full 5.

The story starts out with an unnamed narrator who is on a
"To become like a little child again, a barbarian, a vandal; it was in us too, it was innate."
--Margaret Atwood, Surfacing

Surfacing would be a very interesting book to study. From a literary standpoint, it's deep, rich, and powerful. If Margaret Atwood has not yet been considered for a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize in literature (she's won pretty much every other award), it's just a matter of time.

That said, I didn't like this book. The mood, images, and themes are dark and deeply disturbing. This is
Colin Bruce Anthes
As Surfacing comes to a close, it is difficult to tell if the protagonist is losing her sanity or obtaining great clarity. I think most will conclude great clarity, with the added observation that sometimes acting abnormally is really quite normal. It is (Warning: this way rather vague spoilers lie!) possible to grow into feelings for a lost child and father, and it is possible to grow out of feelings for friends and lovers, and though the running from one towards another grows frantic and even ...more
I checked the copyright date on this book and found out that it was first published in 1972. Let's all pause and bow our heads to offer a silent prayer of thanks that Margaret Atwood has improved with time.

The copy I have of this book is part of a larger volume containing three Atwood novels. Because there's no plot synopsis on the back of the book or the inside of the jacket, I dove into it having no idea what it was going to be about. It took me thirty pages to figure it out. For the benefit
No me extraña que a Harold Bloom le guste tanto y creo que a mí me tenía que haber impresionado. Pero, por algo que hay en ella no me identifico y parece que la leo detrás del cristal de la ventana donde ocurre todo.
Shane Malcolm
This book: wow. I just wrote a lengthy review on my book blog, but even in that, I found it difficult to say everything I wanted to say. A few words that come to mind: atmospheric, evocative, relevant, transforming, transcendent, visionary, sinister. I have wanted to read Surfacing forever, and I am so glad I finally did. You can see Atwood's talent in full, early bloom, a genius right out of the gate in this sophomore novel. Feminism, the environment, gender wars, sexuality, parent-child bonds, ...more
Aug 30, 2007 Jo rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers with patience.
The more Margaret Atwood I read, the better I feel I "get" her writing. Surfacing is not the type of book I typically enjoy. I'm a fast reader with a short attention span and too often find myself skimming details to find out what happens next. Books like this one, however, don't work that way. The characterizations run deep and Atwood is not afraid to bare her characters' flaws. It's also deeply methaphorical and rather slow-paced, in a traditional sense, but once I caught on, slowed down, and ...more
This was my third reading of Surfacing and I'm still not sure I totally get it. Each read has been rewarding though. It went up a star for me this time. I think this novel works a lot like a poem. It's about what you feel rather than what can be perfectly, clearly articulated.
Oct 05, 2008 Reese rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who think boring = like totally deep, man.
Shelves: novel, fiction
I got about 2/3 of the way through this book and finally had to give up on it. Sure, the language was lovely and descriptive, but the plot just wouldn't move. There was a bit of suspense that something interesting could happen any second, but it just. never. did. I sensed that there may have been a more esoteric point to it all that I just wasn't getting yet, but I couldn't bring myself to care enough to stick with it anymore and find out, because really, if it was there, Ms. Atwood should have ...more

Strangely good. Eerie. Ethereal. Complex.

What else can one expect from Margaret Atwood. At first I found it strangely intoxicating. I was like when you walk into a room and a movie is already in progress. You may stand in the door way out of curiosity and then it reels you in. Soon you've moved to the edge of a chair, before you realize it you're sitting back and you can't peel your eyes away. Family members pass by the door way to repeat this same ritual. "What are you watching", they ask. "I
Eunice Catherine
Mar 28, 2013 Eunice Catherine rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who are seriously demented
Recommended to Eunice Catherine by: College Curriculum
I tried and I tried and I tried, till the convince myself that this book could be interesting, could be worth reading, but I failed miserably and I wouldn't blame myself for it.

So far I've never read any of Margaret Atwood's books before and I don't think I would read another one anywhere in my entire future. I wouldn't have read this too if it wasn't for 'academic purpose'. However, I expected a lot out of Atwood, she being very popular in Canadian literature and all that, but I was
Chris Dietzel
Having read and loved Atwood's dystopian books, I was nervous to read one of her stories that takes place in every day life. I was happy to find that the same beautiful writing was there with the same incredibly simplistic and painful dialogue. By the book's mid-point I had come to realize that Atwood not only survives but excels in presenting real people in real situations and that this book is just as enjoyable as 'The Handmaid's Tale and 'Oryx and Crake.'

It's also worth noting that while this
What is this? I have read several Atwood novels and short stories, and I found myself cringing throughout the first ten pages of this novel, ten pages in which I found five typos. Whoa.

What happened here? I realize it was an early work and clearly her writing and tone improved rapidly, but there wasn't a lot of redemption in this work, for me. I wanted to find some trace of Atwood's genius as I continued, but I just felt more and more as if I were in an episode of the Twilight Zone. Sure, the d
Was it my lack of awareness or the author's skill that it wasn't until afterwards, mulling over how to review without a major spoiler, that I realized that this first person narrative never once reveals this first person's name. This realization sent me scurrying back into the pages,but no, even in crucial scenes where it would have been easy to slip it in, I could find no reference.

My imagination is not satisfied.I think of her as Catherine.

In a way, it is entirely fitting that she does not rev
I first read this book in high school and had absolutely no comprehension of it. A few advanced English classes later, I found myself returning to the book and appreciating it much more.

A nameless narrator goes on a trip with her current boyfriend and another couple, and is forced to confront gender, reproduction, national identity, and language itself. What's fascinating is that this is all internal -- there's very little "action" in the book, but a lot of things happen. I get the feeling James
Sep 06, 2008 Jake rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Girls with hairy butts.
Margaret Atwood says:

You fit into me like a hook in an eye
A fishhook
An open eye

Haha. Well, she was a bit dark and bitter in the 60's and 70's. I haven't read any of her later stuff.

This was a good book, a woman who turns into an animal living on a remote island. For all of us who have turned animal on remote islands and feasted on our companions, hypnotized by the maddening silence and wind in the trees.

Her boyfriend musters up things to say behind his beard.
Her friend looks like a battered barb
Kavita Ramesh
Atwood could publish an illegible doodle on the back of a used tissue, and I would still worship it. I have read this book multiple times, and each time I come away with something new.
Rebecca McNutt
I love Margaret Atwood's writing, and this book is definitely no exception; it's eerie, well-written and fast-paced, and its really creative.
Christa  Seeley
I am the first to admit that I am a huge Margaret Atwood fan. She is by far my favourite writer and I could read her work over and over again. So I finally read Surfacing, after having it recommended to me a number of times,and though I went in with high expectations I found that the book wasn't as good as I had hoped.
True to Atwood style the novel was beautifully written. Despite any reservations I may have, it was nothing if not poetic. Her description of the Canadian wilderness was incredi
Mariano Hortal
Publicado en

Pocas cosas hay más gratificantes que encontrarse poco a poco con libros de tus escritores favoritos e ir perfilando su carrera literaria, la evolución en su escritura y los temas que van tratando. Esto es sencillo cuando esta lectura es cronológica y se vuelve un caos inconexo cuando los lees desordenados, aunque al final consigas unir todos los flecos.
Esto último me está sucediendo con la obra de Atwood; buena parte de culpa la tiene la publ
An unpleasant but gripping story of a woman succumbing to psychosis.

The unnamed narrator returns to her father's home on an island in a lake in Quebec because her father has gone missing. She has brought with her her uncommunicative lover Joe and a married couple David and Anna. Her distance, depression and detachment aren't helped by being around these frankly horrible people and she goes from depressed to unstable fairly quickly.

This is a horrible story. Extremely well written, but unpleasant
There is an air of menace throughout this story of four people spending a week on a remote Canadian island, and I kept expecting something terrible to happen. I could have been influenced by the slightly inelegant claim on the cover "the most shattering novel a woman ever wrote". It does have a somewhat intense climax but more psychological than physical.

The book is written and set as the 60s counterculture was metamorphosing into the 70s and more attention was being paid to the observation that
Kirsten *Dogs Welcome - People Tolerated"
Sep 09, 2014 Kirsten *Dogs Welcome - People Tolerated" rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kirsten *Dogs Welcome - People Tolerated" by: B&N Book Club
I started reading this since my book club was going to discuss it. I was behind every one else - they all finished first - and I decided to finish it even though nearly all the group gave it a negative reading. I was advised not to bother. It was depressing and you should be ready to dislike the characters.

Humph! I did not have that experience at all. I really enjoyed it. (Though, to be fair, I don't think it really qualified as a mystery.) You have to be pretty careful reading Margaret Atwood,
K.D. Absolutely
This book was written by the Canadian author Margaret Atwood in the late 60's when Quebec (Canada) was trying to establish itself as an independent French country. One of the novel's characters, David was the most vocal about his hatred to all Americans and their language.

I prefer male writers. Most female writers have the tendency to be too melodramatic and full of crap. However, there are some exceptions like Virginia Woolf and Madame Iris Murdoch who write with intelligence in every page. Jan
I appreciated this short, minimalist tale of a woman trying to find a pathway out of her alienation from her modern urban life through a trip with friends to a lake in remote northern Quebec where she was raised and where her father has disappeared. She is an illustrator of fanciful childrens books going through the motions with a boyfriend she doesnt love and keeps secrets about her past marriage. The boyfriend and married couple on the trip are shallow and crass and engage little empathy from ...more
Badly Drawn Girl

I will admit it took me some time to appreciate this book. I had to read some other people's interpretations, and spend some time thinking before I could honestly evaluate it. This is a book that could be re-read often and the reader would discover new insights and throw away old ones. I wasn't prepared for how deeply I would need to process what I was reading. This is the most challenging of Atwood's books that I've read yet. But there are so many absolutely beautiful sentences in this book, th
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FABClub (Female A...: Surfacing group discussion 12 15 May 06, 2015 10:43AM  
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Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College.

Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, childr
More about Margaret Atwood...

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