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Lady Oracle

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  6,744 ratings  ·  348 reviews
'One of the most important writers in English today' GERMAINE GREER An exceptional novel from the winner of the 2000 Booker Prize
Paperback, 345 pages
Published 2003 by Virago (first published 1976)
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Sep 12, 2007 Katie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who read for the language of the book, not necessarily for plot
I am a big Margaret Atwood fan, mainly for her writing. Her books don't always have a lot of plot and sometimes I find her endings too pat, but I still devour her books for the language. Lady Oracle has one of my favorite beginnings to a book:

"I planned my death carefully; unlike my life, which meandered along from one thing to another, despite my feeble attempts to control it. My life had a tendency to spread, get flabby, to scroll and festoon life the frame of a baroque mirror, which came from...more
Sickly funny, in a way that's typically attributed only to men. The book begins with the narrator's (a writer of Harlequin romances) own faked death and becomes, finally, a woman writer enjoying her woman-ness, fat jokes and all. You could talk to this book over coffee about things that matter in your life, and it wouldn't start crying and gushing about Oprah. Plus it's got a delicious title. I can't believe it is a second novel.
This book really pissed me off. I guess there's no real character arc. The main character starts out weak, unself-aware and just really messed up (for plenty of good reason, so I did sympathize with her) -- but nothing has really changed by the end of the book. She's still messed up and unself-aware. Ugh. The whole book made me feel really impatient and uncomfortable. I felt kind of sick and nervous the whole time I was reading it, as if doom was just around the corner. That probably says a lot...more
I love Margaret Atwood and she can do (almost) no wrong, so it's probably not shocking that I really liked this book. After all, I have read (in order): The Handmaid's Tale (multiple times), Cat's Eye, Robber Bride (I should go back and re-read these as it's been a long time) The Blind Assassin, Alias Grace and The Penelopiad.

Lady Oracle treads over some of what most readers of Margaret Atwood will realize is familiar ground. The premise of the book is that Joan Foster, a woman who for all appea...more
Sep 23, 2007 Linda rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those that want to escape.
This is one of those books that makes you feel kind of intellectual, but doesn't take any effort at all to slip into. Who can't relate to wanting to escape the life that you've built, or let happen, around you, at least from time to time? Atwood is such an accomplished writer that the themes are almost secondary to her skill with the language. A pure pleasure to read.
This is my favourite of Atwood's books, probably because in some ways it's the silliest. Joan Foster is melodramatic and hapless, but entirely loveable. Plus, there's a mystery! And a fake death! And a secret life in a foreign villa! It's kind of like reading a romance novel, only a lot more with the intentional funny.
Atwood has just released MaddAddam, the third novel in the dystopian trilogy that began with Oryx and Crake, but I'm not likely to read it. I did read the first one, back in 2003, but I'm not very interested in dystopian and speculative fiction so I'm hoping that now that the trilogy is out of the way, she'll revert to writing sparkling novels about the real world.

In the mean time, however, I've still got a few of her books to read on my TBR, one of which is Lady Oracle. I'd forgotten that I had...more
Jul 21, 2010 Jamie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Atwood fans, lovers of the gothic
Recommended to Jamie by: my thesis advisor
Shelves: thesis
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 11, 2007 Ree rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone interested in jouissance
I read lady oracle to complete my lit degree. Well, this one is nice storytelling with metafiction and some fantasies. Atwood always build her character with her alienation towards her surrounding, to let her character find her own identity.

This character, Joan Foster is built to overcome her problem of writing Gothic Romance, which seems very non-intellectual works compared to her husband's, Arthur, an activist who likes to stamp footnotes in his politic books.

Joan is only able to write escapi...more
I love M. Atwood, but this book...I still can't believe she wrote it.

In most cases Atwood's themes revolve around women in some form or another. For the first time I felt myself becoming so frustrated with the female protagonist. I wanted to slap her and tell her to (ironically) grow some balls and stop feeling sorry for herself; there are people who have worst problems! She was weak and doubtful for superficial reasons and I couldn't believe Atwood would resort to using weight a major reason fo...more
Cheri Portman
I very much enjoyed this book. It's dark and morbid, emotional and... yes, even a little creepy. I'm honestly not sure, in the end, how to think about it. The faked death (not a spoiler, it's announced in the first line) and all that leads up to it is fascinating and, to me, very tragic. I identified strongly with narrator's body image issues - and how that entangled every emotion she had.

Joan is one of the more interesting main characters I've read in awhile. She's smart yet doesn't trust her...more
Allan Sanedrin
Feb 25, 2008 Allan Sanedrin rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Allan by: Book Club
After reading this book, I feel like I have to re-read it again. The story is reavealed to to the reader in such a way that you might not exactly know what's going on until chapters later. Throughout the book, you feel as if something underlying is going on. And at the end, you just want to psychoanalyze the main character.
I didn't enjoy "Lady Oracle" as much as I had enjoyed other Atwood novels that I've read. Atwood is one of my favorite writers so I still found this a worthwile read. The book is populated by smart, funny, and deep characters. The ending was a bit of a disappointment.
Amy Geriak
Atwood's books are all a bit quirky, strange, difficult -- not your typical novels to pick up and enjoy an escape. They all can be quite dark, searching, haunting, etc. Of all of her books, this was my favorite, second to Handmaid's Tale.
Geetanjali Shrivastava
I enjoyed this one for it's outrageous take-off on the gothic form, and its moments of dark humour!

My review
Charming, hilarious fun (though this might be one of the more pointedly anti-American ones, which bugs me).
Pam Bustin
Shit. I’d danced right through the broken glass, in my bare feet too. Some butterfly. I limped into the main room, trailing bloody footprints and looking for a towel. I washed my feet in the bathtub, the soles looked as if they’d been minced. The real red shoes, the feet punished for dancing. You could dance, or you could have the love of a good man. But you were afraid to dance, because you had this unnatural fear that if you danced they’d cut your feet off so you wouldn’t be able to dance. Fi
Having only previously read The Handmaid's Tale (and having been really impressed by that experience), I had high expectations. This book only partly delivered. It took me quite a few chapters to find the narrator empathetic - or even interesting beyond her surface quirks. In fact, her surface quirks and eccentricities disoriented me for quite a while. What kept me reading was my faith that Margaret Atwood had to know what she was doing, right?
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the long trip...more
LADY ORACLE never fails to twist, to defy the reader's expectation: straightforward woman-in-midlife-crisis story, Gothic Romance, modern supernatural tale...and that is what I love, that Atwood gives the reader not what they want, but what they need to get a deep understanding of her characters.

The main character, Joan, is trying to reinvent herself and, by reinventing herself, to escape a past filled with bullying. It would be expected to find the bullies as classmates, which we do get, but Jo...more
Oh, I almost missed this novel, and what a shame that would have been! As we begin this humorous account, Joan Foster is in a small villa of Terremoto, Italy. She has just faked her own death but is so consumed with missing herself and her husband that she almost gives herself away. As she hides, we learn about the trysts and misdeeds, and her uncanny success which is exactly what causes her to need to hide. We go all the way back to her childhood as a hateful overweight girl. Foster's occupatio...more

I liked the development of the character as having multiple, secret lives, and multiple "personalities". The formerly fat self, that never leaves her and continues to haunt her.

Everyone has multiple versions of themselves, and "lives" kept separate. Most of us have pasts that we wish would leave us alone but continue to follow us through life. Joan just takes all this to an extreme.

I liked how Joan's novel (the story within the story) reflected her own life. It was subtle and well don...more
Ariane Gagnon
I usually love Margaret Atwood, but Lady Oracle made me confused and mad. It's like she wanted to criticize society and patriarchalism ...but then decided not to do so. The main character is weak and vulnerable in the beginning, and I thought she was telling us her story because there would be a change, an evolution...but nope.

Maybe that's more realistic, though. Many unhappy people tend to stay that way because it's easier // all they know. Her character just did it the complicated way, I gues...more
I became increasingly uncomfortable as this book went along. I felt that I was watching a woman loose touch with reality, becoming insane. Atwood's parody of period romances was great fun but, for me, her language did not sing as much as in other books of hers that I have read.
I thought it was interesting that the same bridge over a stream appeared in Cat's Eye. In both books something traumatic happened in childhood to the main character on this bridge.
Lady Oracle is an odd novel, with a slow and relatively mundane build-up leading to a much more dramatic and ambiguous ending. The drama is hinted at early in the book - the protagonist has faked her own death and fled to Italy - but the reader is quickly drawn into Joan's childhood and back story. It's a compelling story of an isolated and secretive girl who struggles with her weight as a bid for independence against her controlling mother. Soon, she leaves her home and her weight behind as she...more
Oct 22, 2007 Rachel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Atwood fans
Shelves: for-a-class
A good book, but not a great book. A fascinating tale of a woman who writes "lurid Gothics" in her spare time, becomes a fraud of a poet overnight and fakes her own death to escape her multiple, bizarre affairs (including one with a man named, I kid you not, the Royal Porcupine).

Somehow, Atwood manages to make this sound a lot less zany than it comes off. The ending has an unresolved quality that is very symptomatic (I feel) of Atwood's earlier novels. A brilliant read, flaws and all.
Not my favourite and so many years since I read it there were only a very few pages I had any memory of. Still a really interesting read and mixes so many different genre styles and themes, covert as well as overt! I read this really quickly so I obviously found it hard to put down. However at bottom pretty bleak despite the laughs although the protagonist is still pretty young at the end (I think) and a better future is still open.
G. Marie
This is the funniest Margaret Atwood book I've read, but that's not to say it's funny.

The characters are as complicated as usual...Atwood-complicated...but familiar enough that you connect with them even if you don't want to (or don't want to admit you do). The main character, Joan, is a writer of fiction and poetry, and some of her stories and poems are included in the novel, all of which Atwood wrote. This floors me every time. Besides driving a race car, writing fiction is the most daunting...more
Anne Marie
I love Margaret Atwood so much that I might as well skip reading her books and just give them all 5 stars. This is a book that flows so beautifully, filling in the pieces of the main characters life in a way that is both compelling and meandering. Another amazing piece of writing, the language just stays with you.
I liked this book a lot. Probably 3.5 stars overall. The only Atwood I've read previously was The Blind Assassin, which was also great, so when I was browsing the shelves at the library and saw this I picked it up on a whim. It is a lot less dark than TBA, but that was totally fine by me.

It seems, if not autobiographical, at least indulgent in an authorial way. The strongest parts were the individual relationships Joan forms. The way they are doled out and recur throughout the narrative was ver...more
This was the first Margaret Atwood book I've read, and I really enjoyed her writing style. Not much action in the plot, but Atwood's writing kept me interested. Great characterization, too. Funny, touching, did I mention funny?
I'll definitely read more of her books.
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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
More about Margaret Atwood...
The Handmaid's Tale Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Trilogy, #1) The Blind Assassin The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam Trilogy, #2) Alias Grace

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“How could I be sleeping with this particular man.... Surely only true love could justify my lack of taste.” 340 likes
“I planned my death carefully, unlike my life, which meandered along from one thing to another, despite my feeble attempts to control it.” 57 likes
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