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Stone Mattress: Nine Tales

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3.90  ·  Rating details ·  23,037 ratings  ·  2,757 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
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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 lik…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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Average rating 3.90  · 
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Annet
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
Madeline
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
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Fergus
Dec 21, 2021 rated it liked it
Welcome To The Everyday World of an inner Margaret Atwood!

Nestled slightly beyond the fringe in a decadent modern Southern Ontario city, her too-knowingly-cozy home welcomes you into her cluttered kitchen - crammed with the sins and petty annoyances of old age.

And where there's always a large pot of rich black depression simmering on the stove...

Some of us find cheer in these stories. I guess that's due to their risque levity. But here all that's just another Stone Mattress for these folks. The
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Veronica
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. ...more
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
·Karen·
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
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Johann (jobis89)
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“He drowned his sorrows, though like other drowned things they had a habit of floating to the surface when least expected.”

I’m so used to reading horror short story collections that it was refreshing to read a collection with a different theme - in this case, the ageing process and death. However, Stone Mattress is still delightfully dark and witty, everything I would come to expect from Atwood.

What I loved most about this collection was that a lot of the stories featured elderly protagonists, a
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Melki
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
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Nat K
”It’s paltry. It’s vicious. It’s normal. It’s what happens in life.”

Oh my goodness. This book has bite!

A deliciously WICKED collection of nine short stories. Acerbic as the tartest vinegar.

The stories deal with the passing of time, the erosion of the human spirit and the slow decay of the body and mind.

Revenge is a dish served both hot and cold, and grudges are not forgotten. Most of the characters are unpleasant and some of them are downright vicious (which makes for fabulous reading!).

I’ve no
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Debbie
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
Janelle
Jan 19, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021, library
A collection of stories from 2014. Atwood is one of my favourite writers and she doesn’t disappoint here. The stories are an interesting mix mostly about older people, and ageing to a certain degree but most go in unexpected directions. Then writing is of course excellent, filled with fine observations and clever humour. The subject matter is varied from settling of old scores when it relates to relationships, murder , ageing and loneliness, memory and loss. What makes the characters feel very r ...more
Zoeytron
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
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Lorna
Stone Mattress is a collection of nine short stories by Margaret Atwood. However, as the author relates in her Acknowledgements, calling a piece of short fiction a "tale" removes it from the mundane and "evokes the world of the folk tale, the wonder tale, and the long-ago teller of tales." And this work was certainly that.

The titled tale, Stone Mattress, involves a woman on an Artic Cruise plotting the perfect murder as she explores the geological formations of stromatolites derived from the Gr
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Julie
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.
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Lauren
These were delicious and dark short stories. Some were connected - multiple perspectives of events, etc., while others were standalones. Nearly all had the larger theme of aging; the majority of the protagonists were sept/octogenarians, remembering the past, seeking revenge, revising history, or digging for the truth of long ago events.

So many novels are told from a young person's point of view. I really liked getting an older (but not always wiser) narrator in these stories. These characters ar
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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
Maciek
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
Abbie | ab_reads
4.5 stars

My second Atwood short story collection did not disappoint, of course! Stone Mattress is described as a collection of tales about that one person we’d all really like to kill... and it certainly is very dark and I LOVED IT.
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Atwood’s acerbic wit is present on every page, I honestly find her hilarious when she writes a ridiculous, arrogant male protagonist and you can almost hear her cackling and giving him the finger between the lines! She reveals the dark side in us all, our desire for
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☮Karen
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
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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
Jo (The Book Geek)
As with nearly every short story collection, I've never read one where I've liked them all. There were some interesting ideas here, but I couldn't resonate with all of them, despite them all being kind of bound by a particular theme.

Atwood blew me away with The Handmaid's Tale, and since that series, I hadn't read anything else written by her, so I thought this one might be a good place to start.

This collection seemed pretty average. I mean, there wasn't really anything that struck me as "Wow.
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Maxwell
Jul 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc, short-fiction
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
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Maria
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
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Althea Ann
Jul 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Alphinland
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
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Christine
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
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Kinga
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
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F
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories, 2016
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.
Teresa
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
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Cynthia
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
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
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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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