Lady Oracle

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Overview

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 proves yet again why she is considered to be one of the most important and accomplished ...

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Lady Oracle

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Overview

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 proves yet again why she is considered to be one of the most important and accomplished writers of our time.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
If Atwood keeps a journal, perhaps some of the brief selections in this slender volume—postmodern fairy tales, caustic fables, inspired parodies, witty monologues—come from that source. The 35 entries offer a sometimes whimsical, sometimes sardonic view of the injustices of life and the battles of the sexes. Such updated fairy tales as ``The Little Red Hen Tells All'' (she's a victim of male chauvinism) and ``Making a Man'' (the Gingerbread man is the prototype) are seen with a cynical eye and told in pungent vernacular. ``Gertrude Talks Back'' is a monologue by Hamlet's mother, a randy woman ready for a roll in the hay, who is exasperated with her whiny, censorious teenage son. Several pieces feature women with diabolical intentions—witches, malevolent goddesses, etc. There are science fiction scenarios, anthropomorphic confessionals (``My Life as a Bat''), and an indictment of overly aggressive women that out-Weldons Fay Weldon. While each of these entries is clever and sharply honed, readers will enjoy dipping into them selectively; a sustained reading may call up an excess of bile. Atwood has provided striking black-and-white illustrations.
Library Journal
Gertrude hounding Hamlet? A bat critiquing Bram Stoker? There's even more in Atwood's witty new collection.
From the Publisher
"Read it for its gracefulness, for its good story, and for its help with your fantasy life." — The Globe and Mail

"Marvelously funny." — Maclean's

"A wonderfully unpretentious comic romp — a fine novel: inventive... funny, and a pleasure to read," — Mordecai Richler

"Brilliant and funny. I can't tell you how exhilarating it was to read it — everything works. An extraordinary book." — Joan Didion

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385491082
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/28/1998
  • Edition description: 1 ANCHOR
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 305,439
  • Product dimensions: 5.16 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret  Atwood

MARGARET ATWOOD is the author of more than twenty-five books, including fiction, poetry, and essays. Her most recent works include the bestselling novels Alias Grace and The Robber Bride and the collections Wilderness Tips and Good Bones and Simple Murders. She lives in Toronto.

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    1. Hometown:
      Toronto, Ontario
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 18, 1939
    2. Place of Birth:
      Ottawa, Ontario
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Toronto, 1961; M.A. Radcliffe, 1962; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1967
    2. Website:

Reading Group Guide

1. The specters of the circus Fat Lady and Joan's perfectly coifed mother are the twin specters that haunt Joan throughout the novel. How does each of these visions alter with each subsequent encounter? What does each represent for Joan?

2. Examine the parallels between Joan's life and the adventures of her Gothic heroines. How does Atwood use excerpts from the novel to illuminate turning points in Joan's own story?

3. Atwood devotes the first half of the novel to detailing Joan's childhood. How do her experiences surviving her mother, her obesity, and the torments she suffers at the hands of her peers affect her adult life? Her development as a writer?

4. Although Joan has long made a consistent living as a novelist and becomes a runaway success as a poet, she is still ashamed enough of her novels to keep them a secret from Arthur and is quick to side with the detractors who disdain her poetry. Why is Joan unable to accept and embrace her achievements?

5. "Nice men did things for you; bad men did things to you," is Joan's mother's motto. Compare the various men that dot Joan's life; do you find any truth in this syllogism?

6. In addition to Joan's own host of identities, this novel is laden with other secret dualities: Joan's daffodil manrescuer, her murderer-resurrectionist father, the Royal PorcupineChuck Brewer, and Leda SprottE.P. Revele. What is Atwood's purpose for creating this mosaic of multiplicity? Can truth exist when there are so many versions of each story?

7. "I discovered there was something missing in me. This lack came from having been fat; it was like being without a sense of pain, and pain and fear are protective, up to a point. I'd never developed the usual female fears," notes Joan soon after she's shed the hundred pounds. Obesity confers on Joan a certain invisibility. Discuss the implications of this phenomenon in her adolescence and later life.

8. Throughout her childhood, Joan views Aunt Lou as the only adult who offers her unconditional love, but it is Aunt Lou who makes her the most conditional offer of her life: she will inherit the money only if she loses the weight. What does this offer reveal about Aunt Lou and her relationship with Joan? Joan's childhood perceptions of Lou?

9. "I decided that passionate revelation scenes were better avoided and that hidden depths should remain hidden; facades were at least as truthful," Joan reports. Today, confessional memoirs are all the rage: the more outre, damaging, and abusive one's past, the better. From high-brow literature to talk-show television, the urge to tell-all is pervasive. What compels Joan to not only hide but fabricate her entire past?  Is her shame and compulsive secrecy personally or sociologically motivated?

10. "I'd given up expecting [Arthur] to be a cloaked, sinuous, and faintly menacing stranger . . . Strangers didn't leave their socks on the floor . . . I kept Arthur in our apartment and the strangers in their castles and mansions, where they belonged," claims Joan. How successful is she at separating her desires from her expectations? At compartmentalizing her romantic and domestic needs? What catalyzes her affair with the Royal Porcupine? Causes the breakdown of her and Arthur's marriage?

11. Although Joan claims to be seeking an entirely new, incognito life, she very nearly gives herself away by returning to a place where she is readily recognized. Does she run with the primary hope of being caught, like one of her Gothic heroines? Throughout the novel, Joan's frequent solution to her problems is flight. What happens in the few instances when she chooses to fight?

12. How does your view of the Resurgenites influence your view of Arthur? How effective is he as a husband, a political rebel, a companion and lover for Joan?

13. "The future," Joan claims, "doesn't appeal to me as much as the past, but I'm sure it's better for you." Ultimately, Joan resolves to disclose the secrets of her past in order to protect her friends. Do you believe this disclosure will enable her to begin living in the present? If so, what might her next step be?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 15, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    "I planned my death carefully. . ." Who would not be

    "I planned my death carefully. . ."

    Who would not be hooked on those first 5 words of the novel Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood? Especially with the knowledge I have about a recent read (which I won't say because it will give away part of the book, but those of you who have also read it recently know what I'm talking about!!!!).

    Joan is a gothic romance author who has hidden her entire life from her true being. She was a very overweight child who never was happy and hid her true feelings from her friends. Joan hid her old self from her husband Arthur, as well as hiding the fact that she wrote these gothic romance novels.

    Joan has faked her death, and as you read Lady Oracle (named after a poem she wrote), you find out more about Joan's true self, and all of the lies she has told.

    I read Lady Oracle for my own altered version of Project Atwood, for my November read. Atwood did not disappoint. Once again, she wrote a fabulous novel, one I loved reading from start to finish.

    If you haven't read any Margaret Atwood novels, then I suggest starting with The Handmaid's Tale, which I recently realized is my favorite book.

    What is your favorite Margaret Atwood novel?

    Thanks for reading,

    Rebecca @ Love at First Book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2012

    Prophecy

    Three shall go to the rising sun. On the horizen there is one. To reach their destination, hey shall meet devistation. answers they reach and prevail. Go to the doors of light and say "the gods are who we hail!"

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2000

    Unexpected

    Lady Oracle is not what I expected when I first read it, but it turned out to be really great. I couldn't put it down once I started reading it, and I've recommended it to all my friends. The twists and turns in this story and the story within is what kept me going. It's sad about the fat lady though.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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