Surfacing
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Surfacing

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3.44 of 5 stars 3.44  ·  rating details  ·  12,170 ratings  ·  708 reviews
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...more
Paperback, 199 pages
Published June 1998 by Anchor Books (first published 1972)
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Cecily
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...more
Jim
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...more
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
Donna
"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...more
Reese
Oct 05, 2008 Reese rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who think boring = like totally deep, man.
Shelves: fiction, novel
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
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
Jo
Aug 30, 2007 Jo rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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 end....to 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...more
Madeline
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...more
Suzanne
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...more
Jake
Sep 06, 2008 Jake rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
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...more
Kirsten
Jun 01, 2009 Kirsten rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kirsten 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,...more
Magdelanye
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...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...more
Juushika
When her father disappears, the protagonist of Surfacing returns to his remote lakehouse in a search which leads not to her father—but into the wilds of the land and her own past. One of Atwood's earliest novels, Surface's plot is deceptively simple and its themes complex. The real world events of the book are sparse and straightforward, but complexity lies in the protagonist's past and her mental state. Her flawed communication, false memories, and lies make her the consummate unreliable narrat...more
Jo Deurbrouck
I really hate when a masterful book is poorly edited. Running into typos in Margaret Atwood's surreal journey into and -- arguably -- through the sanest insanity you'll ever encounter is like seeing a mustache on the Mona Lisa. Grrr.

My only criticism of the book per se is that the first person narrator's quasi-stream of thought delivery is challenging to follow and not always as rewarding as I'd like. But I've been spoiled lately with books that have a lot of substance and still read effortlessl...more
Teresa
An interesting, compelling read about a young woman's intense struggle with her reactions to civilization encroaching on nature, how the dichotomy has played out in her own life and, through her eyes, in the wider world as well.

I did like this book, the 3 stars are only because of the novels by Atwood that I like even more -- she's one of my favorite writers. Even with this early book, one can see themes emerging that she will use in later works, too, though in different ways, as I find she's a...more
Bob
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...more
Jeanette
This the first book I've read of the acclaimed author Margaret Atwood. There is no doubt that her writing is beautiful, strong and intelligent. Her descriptions of the remote lakes in this wilderness area of south-eastern Canada are haunting. Her depictions of the depredations and encroachment on the area by human hunters and capitalists are challenging. And her use of a tight, deep third, stream of consciousness point of view of her unnamed protagonist is intense and disturbing.

The (unnamed) w...more
D Warner
This book is very fragmented, which I would argue is the primary narrative technique throughout this novel; that's fine but I really wish it would have been a little bit easier to decipher how reliable this narrator was--in this respect Atwood overdid her fragmentary approach. The image of the lynched blue heron is powerful.
Cassandra
To my astonishment, I did like this. It is not well-made, a journeyman work, and that shows through; a friend described it to me as overwrought, and it is, yes. Not in the intensity of the emotion, but in the working to show the emotion in all of its intensity; it is too worked, too elaborate, too overdone. I am not certain if Atwood did not trust that bare emotion would succeed, or if it is part and parcel of her tangled narrator, but regardless, it is not really a successful book. But an inter...more
Ruth
I wish I could remember more about this book because I was apparently really impressed the first time through, despite my misgivings when I read the front cover (The most shattering novel a woman ever wrote). My notes: Wow, the last section powerful, the lead-up necessary.

I also marked two passages in the book, which still seem valid today.

From pages 48-49:

I'm trying to decide whether or not I love him. It shouldn't matter, but there's always a moment when curiosity becomes more important to the...more
Judith
Surfacing by Margaret Atwood draws her readers into an unusual depth of understanding in this extraordinary psychological novel, blending the awakening of a feminist consciousness with a growing awareness of the disruption of natural systems by the invasive effects of tourism. A young woman returns to the remote island in northern Quebec from which her father has disappeared and is presumed to be dead. She is accompanied by her boyfriend and another couple, whose friendship is initially a comfor...more
Ensiform
The narrator, a young woman, travels with three urban hippie companions to a remote lake in Quebec in search of her father, who vanished. What she finds transforms her and alienates her from her rather un-empathetic, free-lovin’ companions who do not understand or work well in nature. She becomes, at the end, as remote and disinterested as an animal.

I must say that this is one of those novels that makes me scratch my head: I’m not sure that I Get It, or if there really is anything beyond what I’...more
Philip
At the end of Surfacing by Margaret Atwood, I had the feeling that I had yet to meet its principal character. Perhaps that’s not so surprising, given that we are never really sure that she has ever met herself.

She is on a mission to find her father, who has disappeared. She returns to the land of her childhood, an island in the sparsely-populated natural wonders of northern Canada. Travelling with her are Joe, her partner, and another couple, Anna and David. Paradoxically, they seem to regard th...more
Gaurav Sethi
I bought this book early this morning. I was in the mood for Atwood. This has come to mean a very specific thing for me. I want to say dark but that's unfair to Atwood. Her works are not necessarily dark, though they do tend to tap into those types of feelings, characters. "Deep" that's a better word. Atwood for me is something deep. She has a way of burrowing into the furthest reaches of your mind, your heart, she finds the humanity that exists and brings it to the front.

Surfacing is about an u...more
Josh
Damn, this book is great. I've only read two books by Atwood, but this and The Blind Assassin are enough to place among my favorite authors. I love her, even though she is really old and somewhat decrepit. She's a really good writer.

Supposedly this is the type of book that only literary snobs like, so I'm not sure I'd recommend this to very many people. But I'm totally* not a literary snob and this is one of the top 10 best books I've read. Hooray for unexpectedly good reads!

Atwood's writing he...more
Lise Petrauskas
I have been thinking about this book recently having read Cat's Eye this fall. I read it before being a member of Goodreads. It is brilliant and terrifying and beautiful. Atwood wrote only poetry before writing this, her first novel. I think she has gained emotional balance and learned to temper her prose during the course of her career and I'm not sure that's a good thing, though aside from Cat's Eye I've only read The Handmaid's Tale, which is creepy but a bit of a gimmick and the one about th...more
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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
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