Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

3.5 Star

In these nine dazzlingly inventive and rewarding stories, Margaret Atwood's signature dark humour, playfulness, and deadly seriousness are in abundance. In "Freeze-Dried Bridegroom," a man who bids on a storage locker has a surprise. In "Lusus Naturae," a woman with a genetic abnormality is mistaken for a vampire. In "I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth," we remeet Tony, Charis, and Roz from The Robber Bride, but, years later, as their nemesis is seen in an unexpected form. In "Torching the Dusties," an elderly lady with Charles Bonnet's syndrome comes to terms with the little people she keeps seeing, while a newly formed populist group gathers to burn down her retirement residence. In "Stone Mattress," a long-ago crime is revenged in the Arctic. 

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Kathryn - 3.5 Star

I’ve read a number of novels by Margaret Atwood and there is no denying that she is a Canadian author of great literary talent.  I would likely list The Handmaid’s Tale as one of the novels that has most stuck with me and I’ve read several Atwood novels since my high-school English reading list. 

Alfinland grabbed me, having recently lost my father I could see bits of my mother in Constance.  A strong woman in her own right Constance finds herself questioning aspects of her life that her husband would normally have fulfilled or validated. Atwood’s little details about the sons infiltration into her existence and the way they tried to help her were uncannily accurate in describing the way my generation might treat their parents.   I actually liked Constance and enjoyed the following two short-stories as they linked to this first one as they gave more information about the same group of people.

The Stone Mattress collection gives a voice to the generation before mine which is lacking on my current reading shelf. I was engrossed in most of the stories for solely that reason because my unease with Margaret Atwood is that she often creates characters and worlds that are dark, dismal and macabre. They are rarely light-hearted. I always hold my breath reading her novels until I can come up again into the land of the bright, light and positive.  Perhaps I’m the only one who feels this way?

This compilation of short stories appealed to me mostly because of Atwood’s writing talent.  Though I admit that a few of her full novels have left me feeling frustrated in the past (because I could never relate to her characters) this collection is engaging and quirky.  It likely won’t keep you warm on a winter’s evening though.

Thank you to Random House Canada for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

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