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Stone Mattress: Nine Tales

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  16,144 Ratings  ·  2,061 Reviews
A collection of highly imaginative short pieces that speak to our times with deadly accuracy.
A recently widowed fantasy writer is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband. An elderly lady with Charles Bonnet syndrome comes to terms with the little people she keeps seeing, while a newly formed populist group gathers to burn down her retirement
Hardcover, 273 pages
Published September 16th 2014 by Nan A. Talese (first published August 28th 2014)
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Heather I think speculative fiction is a good description. Her stories are more psychological and have magical realism. There aren't really aliens and the…moreI think speculative fiction is a good description. Her stories are more psychological and have magical realism. There aren't really aliens and the like in her stories. Even the stories with fantasy elements, they're often complex (like a character who writes fantasy and believes the world is for her and her alone). Her stories, at least to me, are more about the human psyche and just happen to have science fiction and fantasy elements.(less)

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So..... this book is about people getting older and let's say, suffering the gradual breakdown of the body and mind. Mmmmmmm..... I am getting older. Can't read without my reading glasses... (I'll stick to 'just' this one example here :-)). And I was thinking... do I want to read about decline and decay of getting older... mmmmmmm.... And you know what, I like a sturdy, complete book story. Not a short story... really... not my thing. But, perhaps this is because I'm getting older :-), I seem to ...more
Sep 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's been awhile since an author has stunned me with brilliance and originality. The stories are often dark and funny but always razor-sharp in their observations on the indignities of aging. It is a joy to see a 75 year-old author in top form. I've come late to the party but as of this writing, I have become Ms. Atwood's 15,119th fan.
Feb 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Here's an interesting thing I noticed: on the cover photo that Goodreads attaches to this review, the full title is Stone Mattress: Nine Tales. But my copy (the paperback version, with the bright yellow cover) reads Stone Mattress: Nine Wicked Tales. I'm not sure why there's a difference in the titles, but I'm glad I have the wicked version.

Fuck, I love Atwood. She just gets better and better as the years go on, and I'm especially in the love with the way she's happily embracing her love of pul
R.J. Lynch
Sep 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I give five stars reluctantly. Four stars means “this is a very good book and I recommend it” whereas five stars means “this is superlative—an exceptional, out of the ordinary book and a must-read.” I cannot deny that fifth star to Stone Mattress. Margaret Attwood is a fine writer—we know that. There are many fine writers. What marks her out is her ability to write excellent books without writing what is effectively the same book over and over again. I sometimes wonder just what sort of person c ...more
Oct 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The murderous
Put me on a desert island with the complete works of La Atwood: I would NOT be sending desperate requests for rescue on endpages ripped out and stuffed into bottles, or using the paper to fire smoke signals to the world.
You know it's a good one when you re-visit to write a review and end up re-reading practically the whole thing.
The blurb on the front says "If this collection can be said to have a clear uniting theme, it might be that by a certain stage of life we've all got at least one person
Sep 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I love short stories! I try to read one each day. It's always a pleasure to sit down with a collection of stories by an up-and-coming young writer; the thrill of the unexpected and the delight in discovering new talent is irresistible.

BUT . . .

There's just something about being taken in hand by a master storyteller and accomplished writer that is beyond magical.

Gavin hates his study with a rancorous hatred. He hates this study - which is only a temporary one - but especially he hates his real s
I loved Hairball. No, I don’t mean what my cat barfed up—good god, give me a break! I mean the story, Hairball, in an Atwood collection called Wilderness Tips. I read it in 1991 and it still haunts me. It’s about a woman who gets a tumor removed (though it turns out to be something more like a hairball), and she displays it on her mantel. Obviously, it’s a weird story, and I definitely must reread it. Seriously, for almost 25 years I’ve thought of that story every time I debate whether a particu ...more
Dec 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: public-library
Reading these short stories is to reap the bounty of Atwood's fertile imagination. This lady always manages to come up with something that smells like weird. I like that about her. In these stories, she focuses on the geriatric set, and what a wealth of fodder she has upon which to draw.

Standouts for me were Alfinland, where an old widow woman battles an ice storm with some ghostly help from her dearly departed. Loved how his clothes continued to hang in a closet, waiting to be donned and taken
Julie Christine
Nov 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: shorts, read-2014
“At the outset, Verna had not intended to kill anyone.”

Intention and perception are at the heart of Margaret Atwood's wry and rueful collection Stone Mattress: Nine Tales. Her characters—women, men, beings other than human, even a mischievous hand—look back on their lives, some with wonder, others with regret, all with an inchoate understanding of how they got to the fix they are in now: old, older, or even dead.

A cocktail of absurdity and tragedy is blended to icy perfection in Stone Mattress.
In the afterword to Stone Mattress Margaret Atwood writes that these are nine stories, but nine tales - meant to evoke the world of folk and wonder tales as told by tale tellers, removed at least slightly from the world of the mundane and the ordinary. It's no surprise then that most of these stories are quite whimsical, even when speaking about otherwise macabre things, and often involve a fantastical element. They're not detached far enough to be timeless as tales are - which can and are read ...more
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this, and I am glad to say that the stories only got better the further into the book I got.

All of them deal with getting older and facing the last stages of life in some way or other. Having luggage and especially keeping grudges - or maybe letting them go. It is a stage of life that is not written about that much. The contrast of a strong, experienced mind in a failing body that only grows more frail and vulnerable as time passes. It made me think of that saying - "youth is w
Althea Ann
Jul 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Atwood's writing talent really shines here. In a brief piece, she creates a rounded, fully-realized character. Dramatic tension oozes out of the smallest incidents: a trip down to the corner store in a snowstorm.
Her elderly, widowed protagonist, Constance, is haunted by the ghost of her dead husband, reminisces about the jerk she dated in college, and uses the popular online fantasy environment she's created as a kind of memory palace.
The 'plot' here is minor, but:

"The freezing rain s
Dec 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Margaret Atwood is an absolute genius but it's taken me some time to realize it. I am not a huge fan of short story collections but will be recommending this one to everyone I know.

Growing old and finding revenge are common themes, and I do like me some revenge. That is, of course, reading books about revenge. I'm not expecting to personally off a guy with a blow to the head, but here's a valuable lesson from Torching the Dusties: "A wine bottle--a full wine bottle--can crush in a skull, at the
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, short-stories
As per usual with short stories i prefered some to others.

Just not a huge fan of short stories.

Read a story every so often.
Diane S ☔
Mar 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is of no surprise for those of us who have read the very prolific Atwood, that these tales are very well written and imaginative. I read the first story, which I loved and was pleasantly surprised to find some of the same character in the second and third. This trilogy along with the title story would be my favorites. The connecting theme seems to be aging and revenge. Not straight forward stories, but insightful stories often with a twist. As always I will look forward to seeing what surpris ...more
Disclaimer: Digital ARC read via Netgalley. (And I shouted in glee when I read the email).

The technique of a short story is at times over looked by readers at large. Not all novelists can be short story writers, for the short work requires something that goes for the jugular. Tanith Lee, for instance, writes better short stories than novels. Willkie Collins’ longer works are better than his shorter ones. Doyle is rightly remembered more for Sherlock Holmes than his novels, which are at best not
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinion of the book .

This being my second Atwood read, the first being The Handmaid's Tale which I loved, I didn't really know what to expect. I knew her writing style was rich and captivating, but I had never read any short stories from her before.

In the end, I was blown away . These stories are incredible. Each one is so unique, so creative and captivating, and so well executed. The character
Jun 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
3.5 rounded up

I admit I came to this collection hoping for another Moral Disorder and Other Stories and while there's plenty of moral disorder here, if you haven't read any of Atwood's short stories and would like to, I recommend the earlier collection. These "tales" -- Atwood purposely chose that word for her subtitle -- are witty and amusing, but I can't imagine them sticking with me as long as the stories in Moral Disorder have.

I thought the ending to the three connected stories was great. I
Aug 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Growing old ain’t for sissies”, or at least that’s what my gramma used to say. Atwood is at her wicked best with these stories. There’s not a dud in the group. The first three are an interconnected trilogy from three different perspectives. The protagonists look back on their youth and come to some surprising conclusions. The rest of the stories are independent of one another but they share an ancient outlook. This is Atwood at the top of her twisted game so don’t expect the usual themes. Age h ...more
Apr 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommended to Britany by: Pallavi Sharma
Shelves: 2017, short-stories
I'm not a huge fan of short stories, typically because I just can't seem to connect in the time it takes to read one. Also, I especially despise story collections that don't link together in some way, shape, or form. Maybe I'm just a short story Luddite.

I had this on my to-read shelf (no idea why) and had a prompt to read something by Margaret Atwood , and had another prompt to read a short story collection by a female writer. Why not kill two birds with one stone and check another book off my t
Lucy Banks
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
You can always rely on Margaret Atwood to produce a very high calibre of story. The nine short tales in Stone Mattress don't disappoint.

The first three stories are interconnected, which lures the reader into thinking that all of them will have some link or other; but apart from the recurring theme of old age, none of the others follow suit. Indeed, they're a diverse collection. A tale about a vengeful OAP, paying back her teen rapist in the Arctic. Another about an elderly lady who can't see to
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: short-stories
While short stories may not be my thing, there are usually things I can appreciate about them. These stories were very creative and well plotted. She adds detailed descriptions that are vivid and not overly wordy. However, all of that still didn't change my mind about short stories. I've had this book for awhile and I'm glad I finally got to it. This author has a certain flair with her subject matter that is obviously underappreciated by me. I liked one story (Stone Mattress) more than all of th ...more
Aug 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Some Most days I feel like a character in a Margaret Atwood tale.
I haven’t seen snow for at least three years now and I don’t know when I’m going to see it next. Before I moved to London, I would see snow in regular intervals, as a part four of the comforting routine of seasons.

Now, however, I live in the land of perpetual autumn. There is no way of telling whether we are in January or June. Maybe this dullness of the English weather and landscape makes me look for more interesting phenomena in literature. It might be a cheap trick to set up the atmosphere i
Dannii Elle
Alphinland - 4.5/5 stars
Revenant - 4.5/5 stars
Dark Lady - 4/5 stars
Lusus Naturae - 3/5 stars
The Freeze-Dried Groom - 4/5 stars
I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth - 2/5 stars
The Dead Hand Loves You - 4/5 stars
Stone Mattress - 4/5 stars
Torching the Dusties - 4/5 stars
H.A. Leuschel
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nine short stories which I enjoyed, not each in equal measure, but they all had an original premise, wicked characters doing quite wicked things most of the time!
I hesitate to think about how many decades it has been since I read anything by Margaret Atwood—perhaps since the early 1990s? Reading this book of short stories reminded me of how much I appreciate her outlook on the world (and this from someone who isn’t really a big fan of short stories).

I particularly enjoyed the first three stories, which were inter-related and which provided a look into the poetry scene of the 1960s, something that Atwood knew from the inside. There seemed to be a lot of
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
This book is fabulous! I am officially now a fan of short stories. Atwood is absolutely brilliant. These stories are so well-written, and they balance wonderfully between deep & significant and witty & humorous. I laughed out loud so many times while reading this book. I highly recommend this one — 5 stars!
Aug 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Listened to the audio version of this book. Margaret Atwood artfully narrated some of these stories. I enjoyed some of the stories but found the cruise ship story most entertaining!
Jul 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In an appendage to her short story collection, Margaret Atwood reveals that these are not stories at all, but tales; in her words, removed “at least slightly from the realm of mundane works and days, as it evokes the world of the folk tale, the wonder tale, and the long-ago teller of tales.”

Score point: Atwood. At 74 years old, she creates characters who are mostly aging and feisty, bohemian and free-spirited, increasingly self-aware, and ready to correct and revenge the ills done to them in the
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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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“It’s a lifelong failing: she has never been prepared. But how can you have a sense of wonder if you’re prepared for everything? Prepared for the sunset. Prepared for the moonrise. Prepared for the ice storm. What a flat existence that would be.” 31 likes
“There’s only so long you can feel sorry for a person before you come to feel that their affliction is an act of malice committed by them against you.” 22 likes
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