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Surfacing

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3.45  ·  Rating details ·  17,183 Ratings  ·  1,039 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
Published (first published 1972)
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Karen Yes, I am watching it on you tube and maybe the book is better, but so far, I keep thinking when is anything exciting going to happen. they just…moreYes, I am watching it on you tube and maybe the book is better, but so far, I keep thinking when is anything exciting going to happen. they just tipped over in the rapids, but it seems just silly.(less)
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Fabian
Sep 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nothing good ever comes from two couples locking themselves in some cabin in the woods. (See "Evil Dead," "Cabin Fever," "Cabin in the Woods"... well, actually just the first one [I do think the latter two suh-huck!]) E-vverr.

But Margaret Atwood is not a horror writer. This is her take on the isolation that begets thoughts too deep to describe other than in her language. With a lyrical poetic voice, we see here precursors to the also extraordinary "Alias Grace" & "The Blind Assassin" (as wel
...more
Robin
The last time I read this 1972 beauty was approximately half my lifetime ago. It was a vital part of a never-waning appreciation and adoration for Margaret Atwood's work. I'm pretty sure I didn't quite get it then, being a very young adult, unaware of many things going on in this far-out, complex ride into the Canadian wilderness.

Maybe I did, maybe I didn't. But I do know I loved it then, and I love it now.

What was different this time around was I had a better idea of the time in which it was s
...more
Julie
Jun 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddy-reads
If you ever happen to walk up to a fresh water lake and see me in it, go find a damn life preserver and toss it in, immediately. There are only two reasons that I'd ever stick one toe in that leech-infested nastiness: I have fallen in and I am drowning, or I'm rescuing another person who is drowning. Either way, we require assistance.

Similarly, if you ever happen to walk up and see me with a fishing pole in my hand, you can consider me the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse. The day I stick bait
...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
Maria
This is one of the most poetic and haunting books I have ever read. I marked it as a favorite, and noticed once again that my favorite books often gets a wide variety of ratings, some people love it, while quite a few states that it's not their cup of tea. Maybe that's because I'm not really a "reading for the plot" type of reader. Although I have really liked some fast paced and suspenseful books, that kind of story will never be among my favorites. Surfacing is not particularly plot driven. Al ...more
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
Amanda
Sep 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
...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
Katheryn Thompson
I just want to start by saying that I've read some strange books, but this one's definitely up there. There's only one thing I'm sure about, and that's that the writing is gorgeous. This is my first Atwood novel, and I will definitely be reading more. Beyond that, I'm not really sure what happened.
The protagonist, a young woman from whose perspective the book is told but whose name is never revealed, returns to northern Quebec to the remote island of her childhood, with her lover and two friends
...more
Madeline
Sep 20, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-list
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
Tiffany Reisz
May 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book and a quick read. One of several books I've read in the past year about women going insane in one way or another due to the restrictions imposed on them by men or by society. I don't believe books have to have positive messages or overtly feminist messages. I think books only need to be either entertaining or artistic. But what are we saying when we give female protagonists only two options--conformity to expectations OR insanity? Is there not a better way? A third way? The whol ...more
Donna
May 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-novels
"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
May 23, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  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
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
Rafa
May 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nathan
Mar 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Gabrielle
Ever-insightful Margaret Atwood, who creates flawed and unlikable characters, projects us into their heads and makes us sympathize with them. I have yet to run into an Atwood novel I didn't enjoy, but I also think that this book is not quite the same caliber as some of her later work.

A woman goes back to the small Quebec village of her childhood vacation to look for her estranged father, who was reported missing. She doesn't really want to see him, but she needs to know he is safe. She brings he
...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I tried her The Blind Assassin before and couldn't finish it, even though I read about 200 pages. As this was barely over 200 pages, I did manage to finish it. The problems with this are very different than why (I recall) that I couldn't finish the other.

I'll begin with the writing style. Although there seem to be complete sentences, there are also phrases and fragments appended to the sentences. I am not the stickler for good sentence structure as was my mother, but this structure - or lack of
...more
Lindsay
Sep 25, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Jo
Aug 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Rusalka
Oh Margaret Atwood. We continue this dance.

Atwood is a brilliant writer. Hands down. I will read whatever she writes. But it seems that I will love 50% of her books, and find 50% a bit meh. Well written, beautiful meh. But meh.

In case you are unclear, this book falls into the latter category.

Surfacing tells the story of two couples going deep into the Quebec wilderness to find the main character's father who has gone missing from their family cabin. The couples spend a week in the cabin, looking
...more
Eunice Catherine
Mar 27, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  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
Chris Dietzel
Oct 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Debbie
Nov 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition


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
...more
Elisabeth
Mar 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-books
Etter starten trodde jeg dette skulle bli årets første femmer. Stemningsfullt, dvelende og introvert, akkurat slik jeg liker det. Men de siste 80 sidene var jeg ikke like begeistret for, så ble ikke toppkarakter fra meg likevel. Men fremdeles en veldig god bok, og annerledes fra andre Atwood-bøker jeg har lest.
Natalie (Never trust a duck)
I'm still convinced Joe is a werewolf on some level.
Lulu
4.5 stars, rounding up. I loved this, and was thoroughly absorbed from start to finish.
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
Michael
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 children�s books going through the motions with a boyfriend she doesn�t love and keeps secrets about her past marriage. The boyfriend and married couple on the trip are shallow and crass and engage little empathy fro ...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
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More about Margaret Atwood...
“Stupidity is the same as evil if you judge by the results.” 738 likes
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