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Lady Oracle

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  11,991 ratings  ·  717 reviews
Joan Foster is the bored wife of a myopic ban-the-bomber.  She takes off overnight as Canada's new superpoet, pens lurid gothics on the sly, attracts a blackmailing reporter, skids cheerfully in and out of menacing plots, hair-raising traps, and passionate trysts, and lands dead and well in Terremoto, Italy.  In this remarkable, poetic, and magical novel, Margaret Atwood p ...more
Paperback, 346 pages
Published April 13th 1998 by Anchor (first published September 27th 1976)
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Rebekah I think it mentions the year a few times, if I remember right, it was in the 60s, but you can't tell; it has no part in the book. …moreI think it mentions the year a few times, if I remember right, it was in the 60s, but you can't tell; it has no part in the book. (less)
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Average rating 3.68  · 
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 ·  11,991 ratings  ·  717 reviews

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Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The secrets of self...

Margaret Atwood has wowed me again, with this quirky 1976 delight. It's surprisingly playful and humorous (for Atwood), but also brings with it her trademark not-messing-around intelligence when it comes to womanhood, self, body and love.

Joan is our protagonist, our red-headed Botticellian heroine, who begins the book with this tantalising line:

I planned my death carefully; unlike my life, which meandered along from one thing to another, despite my feeble attempts to co

I’ve read quite a lot of Margaret Atwood and very much enjoy her writing, both style and issues she raises. I like her in psychological scene and don’t shy away from her dystopian face either. Lady Oracle is her earlier work and truly didn’t know what to expect there. I also have a problem to what genre the novel in fact belongs. She seems to feel comfortable in gothic romance, black comedy and quasi-noir novel though it's the psychological portrait and depth I'm looking for in her novels.

It s
Dec 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: north-america
The premise of this book intrigued me: a main character with several identities running from all of them by faking her own death - seems dramatic for an Atwood novel. Did it all get too complicated? Well... yes. Joan Foster is an escape artist, a medium (maybe), wife, lover, fat girl, communist but not really, and authors - two different kinds. In the opening of the book, she has escaped all of this. She's had enough. But it's not easy running from your other selves, and as she sits in her hideo ...more
Glenn Sumi
This was my second read of Atwood's third novel, and, alas, I didn't find it as witty or as funny as I did the first time around.

It's about Joan Foster, a writer of Gothic romances, who has found her real life getting so out of control that she has had to fake her own death to start anew.

Joan's ability to keep secrets – and live in a fantasy world – comes naturally to her. She's used to living a double life. She grew up with a weight problem, and was bullied by everyone from her mother to her cl
Barry Pierce
At the beginning of Lady Oracle, Joan Foster is hold up in her Italian apartment after faking her death. Back in Canada, Foster was hailed as a literary sensation and a major author on the rise, so why did she choose to die at the height of her hype?

In many ways, Lady Oracle is the polar opposite of Atwood's previous novel Surfacing. Surfacing is a quiet, introverted, atmospheric novel that concerns only a handful of characters over a few days. Lady Oracle is a globe-trotting saga that follows o
Dannii Elle
Dec 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just who is Joan Foster? Is she the emotional, over-eating teen? Is she the unknown creator of the commercial historical romances, that fill bookstore shelves with their covers of buxom, swooning damsels? Or is she the mysterious, red-headed and suave figure behind the renowned publication of Lady Oracle? Right now she is none of those people. Right now she is dead.

Much of this novel reminded me of another of Atwood's masterpieces, Cat's Eye. I found they appealed to me in the similar execution
Sep 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Shirin Tondkar
Oct 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: l-canada, my-best
Joan Foster is a writer of Gothic romances, her story begins with the decision to start a new life, then we know about her childhood and next continue to this time of her life in which the situation get out of control.
Maybe running away from reality and difficulties are not a very logical decision, but I admire the people who easily can give up everyone and gave up everything, live their own lives, and don't care about what others say. So, I think Joan is something like this in a good way.
This b
Aug 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Who is Joan Foster? I'm not sure she knows. She juggles two identities, has a whole career her husband doesn't know about, a past she hides from everyone... To get away from it all and start fresh, she fakes her death and takes off to a small Italian village, where she gets a chance to think back on exactly how she got there.

That sounds simple enough, but in Atwood's hands it turns into a story at once hilarious and tragic. Joan's story made me think of the actual multiple identities we carry ar
I finished Lady Oracle over a weekend, without being able to put it down. And yet, once I’d finished it, I was left having mixed feelings about it.

Lady Oracle started off strong, with the first paragraph grabbing my attention immediately. After only a few sentences I knew I want to dedicate my full attention to the book and read it until my eyes hurt. The narration was full of Atwood’s usual poignant insights on the human heart and behavior. You can see the main character’s, Joan’s, complicated
Jun 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourites, mystery
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. ...more
Linda Aull
Sep 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Abbie | ab_reads
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars! I did love this but I feel like there was *something* missing that I can’t quite put my finger on. Otherwise, classic Atwood, witty, sharp, relentless
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
Sonia Gomes
Mar 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: weird
I can never understand why I am drawn to Margaret Atwood, it is I think the strangeness of the characters, the quirkiness of the plot, the queerness of the situations because once I am in the middle of the story I am surrounded by a sort of disquiet a weirdness I cannot come to terms with...

I should keep Atwood away from me but…
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
«I planned my death carefully, unlike my life, which meandered along from one thing to another, despite my feeble attempts to control it.»

Sometimes you come across a book whose story is neither mind-blowing nor has crazy plot twists, but that's still truly enjoyable and delightfully written.
In brief, Lady Oracle was that book.

In the beginning, we know a little about Joan Foster's current situation: she has forged as death so she could take control over her life once again. This may sound like a
May 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  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 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Joan Foster has faked her death back in Canada and fled to Italy, where she alternates between working on the Gothic romances she publishes under a pseudonym and remembering the various lives she’s lived: as a fat girl who could never earn her mother’s approval and only lost weight to secure an inheritance; as a mistress of a Polish count in London; as a budding spiritualist who completed a poetry book through automatic writing; as a wife and reluctant co-conspirator of a communist; as a paramou ...more
Aug 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3,75 stars

I think that so far this is my least favorite Margaret Atwood, even though it's still very witty and original. I really enjoyed the parts about the main character's childhood, growing up fat I could definitely relate to some of it and the writing was amazing, Margaret Atwood didn't waste a single word. A great example would be this quote from Chapter One: "Years of breakfasts, inept, forsaken, never to be recovered... Years of murdered breakfasts, why had I done it?" Unfortunately, aro
Apr 27, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Joan Foster is a confused character that drifts through life, living multiple identities and struggling to keep them separate. The novel begins with Joan reflecting on her life as she makes plans for the future.

Joan's childhood is a miserable one. She struggles with friendships, suffers with self-hatred and escapes into a fantasy world where she is accepted and revered. Joan's mother is a neurotic, disappointed, angry woman who is unhappy in her life and in Joan. Atwood writes with a quirky, wit
C. McKenzie
Feb 21, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm an Atwood fan, but I struggled with this one. It seemed to go fast forward for a while, and then it slowed and almost went into reverse. I admired and laughed at the intertwined stories of the main character's "real" life and her "Gothic bodice rippers." That was the best, and her sense of humor was subtle and poignant throughout.

The big message was that the fat girl never gets over being fat. That can apply to anything in our young lives: we're too fat, we're too skinny, we don't have a da
Apr 04, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nusrah Javed
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Just like Handmaid’s Tale turned me away from Atwood, Lady Oracle has brought me back.

What a delicious book full of dark humor and gorgeous writing.

With Atwood’s books I have realized you know from the first page if you will like a book or not. I have had this feeling with two of her other works; Edible Woman and the Blind Assassin.

Disappearing is a thread I am seeing a lot in Atwood’s writing. Be it be a real disappearance, or disappearance amidst the daily expectations on women.

I am excite
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks, canada
What a reading pleasure. I love the way Atwood weaves a story within a story and takes you on an enjoyable fantasy journey.
Dec 17, 2014 added it
I guess I'm an anomaly in that, as much as I enjoyed The Handmaid's Tale, it has been Margaret Atwood's other books I have read (Cat's Eye and this one) that grabbed my by the shoulders and shook me, speared me not just through the mind but into my heart; I felt it and it hurt.

This book pained me at times because it had such truth in each of the small insights woven into the greater plot. Women make a huge impact on each other's lives, and this book gives a sense of this and how it can affect a
Rosalind Reshma
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
“I planned my death carefully, unlike my life, which meandered along from one thing to another, despite my feeble attempts to control it.”

These are the opening lines of Lady Oracle, an experience more than a book. While the same can be said about pretty much every work of Atwood, Lady Oracle would be my personal favourite because I happened to read it while going through a rather severe phase of existential crisis and the opening lines lit up something in me as I nodded in agreement.

The protago
Tied with The Handmaid's Tale as my favourite Margaret Atwood book. This one was decidedly less eventful but just as dramatic.

What I loved about it was that it was very character-driven, very psychological. It blended elements of the Gothic, of romance, and realism in order to theorize on escapism; particularly, on what escapism means to women (and men), and how it can shape our self-image and even our understanding of reality. A sharp-witted commentary on what it means to be authentic to yours
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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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