Brittany's Reviews > Surfacing

Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
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May 22, 12

bookshelves: canadian, fiction, literary-fiction
Recommended for: Canadian Lit fans
Read from May 17 to 21, 2012, read count: 1

How I Came To Read This Book: Every year I read an Atwood book. This was on the shelf on a recent visit to a library, thus I read it.

The Plot: Oh god. I feel better now that I've double-checked and discovered our female protagonist is indeed nameless. The young woman at the centre of the story returns to Northern Quebec, where she grew up, with some friends - including the man she's living with, and a couple that appears to have a perfect, jovial marriage from the outside. They venture out to her father's cabin, hoping to find him after he was reported missing a month earlier. While the crux of the novel's plot is the search for her father - spread out over a week of lazing about, taking care of basic human needs, fishing, and some emotional / conversational grappling - the underlying plot point is the past, and how it appears to have overtaken her father (quite literally), and takes over the protagonist bit-by-bit as the novel wears on, until she descends into a wild state of mind.

The Good & The Bad: Um...hm. This is probably my least favourite Atwood book I've read to date. When I look at her bibliography I see it was one of her earliest ones, which may explain why - perhaps her writing became less CAN LIT (in purposeful caps) as time went on because this one was very heavy in both respects. There was a weird emphasis on the Canadian - I never realized such a nationalist sentiment ever existed in our country - that feels very anachronistic to the modern reader. There's also that sort of dry, meandering Canadian Literature feeling to the whole book, where the meaning behind the actions is more important than the plot itself. I hate that. I'd rather just read a book that's interesting as opposed to trying to find interest within the book.

There were some good pieces of writing though - Atwood still knows how to spin a fully realized world in mere sentences. But I found the constant, subtle shift between the past and present distracting and disorienting, although the writer in me recognizes it's a very organic way of doing things - memories come up at you in sporadic flashes, as they do for the protagonist. The unwinding of the protagonist's story was also interesting, how you keep on peeling back layers until you get to the ugly (yet still sort of obscured) truth.

I don't know. I'm obviously still going to continue my annual Atwood tradition, but this one was not the greatest example of one of the world's best contemporary writers.

The Bottom Line: I shouldn't have to try so hard when reading, and neither should Ms. Atwood.

Anything Memorable?: Nope.

60-Book Challenge?: Book #23 in 2012
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