Surfacing

( 12 )

Overview

Part detective novel, part psychological thriller, Surfacing is the story of a talented woman artist who goes in search of her missing father on a remote island in northern Quebec.  Setting out with her lover and another young couple, she soon finds herself captivated by the isolated setting, where a marriage begins to fall apart, violence and death lurk just beneath the surface, and sex becomes a catalyst for conflict and dangerous choices.  Surfacing is a work permeated with an aura of ...

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Surfacing

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Overview

Part detective novel, part psychological thriller, Surfacing is the story of a talented woman artist who goes in search of her missing father on a remote island in northern Quebec.  Setting out with her lover and another young couple, she soon finds herself captivated by the isolated setting, where a marriage begins to fall apart, violence and death lurk just beneath the surface, and sex becomes a catalyst for conflict and dangerous choices.  Surfacing is a work permeated with an aura of suspense, complex with layered meanings, and written in brilliant, diamond-sharp prose.  Here is a rich mine of ideas from an extraordinary writer about contemporary life and nature, families and marriage, and about women fragmented...and becoming whole.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“One of the most important novels of the twentieth century…utterly remarkable.”
New York Times Book Review

“Atwood probes emotions with X-ray precision. All in all, it’s an exhilarating performance.”
Globe and Mail

“A brilliant tour-de-force.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“Atwood’s powers of observation are disconcertingly acute, combining an ear for the vernacular with an eye for the jugular.”
Time

“The depth and complexity of Atwood’s critique of contemporary society are stunning.”
Ms.

“It is excellent in so many ways that one cannot begin to do justice to it in a review. It has to be read and experienced.”
–Margaret Laurence, Quarry

“Margaret Atwood is one of the most intelligent and talented writers to set herself the task of deciphering life in the late twentieth century.”
Vogue

“In this disturbing book, Margaret Atwood has written a fascinating, sometimes frightening novel about our Canadian landscape, about our paranoia, about what we are and what we are becoming.…Astonishing.”
Edmonton Journal

Surfacing is likely the best piece of fiction produced by Atwood’s generation in North America or anywhere.”
Canadian Forum

“[Atwood is] a superb storyteller who brings intelligence and wit to bear in a compelling personal vision.”
Toronto Star

“It is quite simply superb.…She writes with the ease of total acceptance, from right inside the culture, authenticating our experience, holding up a mirror so that the image we get back is not distorted by satire or made unreal by proselytizing…but real.”
Maclean’s

“The sophistication of its telling, the power of observation and imagination make the book remarkable.…It’s a masterful encounter with the way we live now.”
Kingston Whig-Standard

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385491051
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/1998
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 199
  • Sales rank: 207,306
  • Product dimensions: 5.14 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.58 (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.

Biography

When Margaret Atwood announced to her friends that she wanted to be a writer, she was only 16 years old. It was Canada. It was the 1950s. No one knew what to think. Nonetheless, Atwood began her writing career as a poet. Published In 1964 while she was still a student at Harvard, her second poetry anthology, The Circle Game, was awarded the Governor General's Award, one of Canada's most esteemed literary prizes. Since then, Atwood has gone on to publish many more volumes of poetry (as well as literary criticism, essays, and short stories), but it is her novels for which she is best known.

Atwood's first foray into fiction was 1966's The Edible Woman, an arresting story about a woman who stops eating because she feels her life is consuming her. Grabbing the attention of critics, who applauded its startlingly original premise, the novel explored feminist themes Atwood has revisited time and time again during her long, prolific literary career. She is famous for strong, compelling female protagonists -- from the breast cancer survivor in Bodily Harm to the rueful artist in Cat's Eye to the fatefully intertwined sisters in her Booker Prize-winning novel The Blind Asassin.

Perhaps Atwood's most legendary character is Offred, the tragic "breeder" in what is arguably her most famous book, 1985's The Handmaid's Tale. Part fable, part science fiction, and part dystopian nightmare, this novel presented a harrowing vision of women's lives in an oppressive futuristic society. The Washington Post compared it (favorably) to George Orwell's iconic 1984.

As if her status as a multi-award-winning, triple-threat writer (fiction, poetry, and essays) were not enough, Atwood has also produced several children's books, including Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (1995) and Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes (2003) -- delicious alliterative delights that introduce a wealth of new vocabulary to young readers.

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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:

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE
 
I can’t believe I’m on this road again, twisting along past the lake where the white birches are dying, the disease is spreading up from the south, and I notice they now have sea-planes for hire. But this is still near the city limits; we didn’t go through, it’s swelled enough to have a bypass, that’s success.
 
I never thought of it as a city but as the last or first outpost depending on which way we were going, an accumulation of sheds and boxes and one main street with a movie theatre, the itz, the oyal, red R burnt out, and two restaurants which served identical grey hamburger steaks plastered with mud gravy and canned peas, watery and pallid as fisheyes, and french fries bleary with lard. Order a poached egg, my mother said, you can tell if it’s fresh by the edges.
 
In one of those restaurants before I was born my brother got under the table and slid his hands up and down the waitress’s legs while she was bringing the food; it was during the war and she had on shiny orange rayon stockings, he’d never seen them before, my mother didn’t wear them. A different year there we ran through the snow across the sidewalk in our bare feet because we had no shoes,  they’d worn out during the summer. In the car that time we sat with our feet wrapped in blankets, pretending we were wounded. My brother said the Germans shot our feet off.
 
Now though I’m in another car, David’s and Anna’s; it’s sharp-finned and striped with chrome, a lumbering monster left over from ten years ago, he has to reach under the instrument panel to turn on the lights. David says they can’t afford a newer one, which probably isn’t true. He’s a good driver, I realize that, I keep my outside hand on the door in spite of it. To brace myself and so I can get out quickly if I have to. I’ve driven in the same car with them before but on this road it doesn’t seem right, either the three of them are in the wrong place or I am.
 
I’m in the back seat with the packsacks; this one, Joe, is sitting beside me chewing gum and holding my hand, they both pass the time. I examine the hand: the palm is broad, the short fingers tighten and relax, fiddling with my gold ring, turning it, it’s a reflex of his. He has peasant hands, I have peasant feet, Anna told us that. Everyone now can do a little magic, she reads hands at parties, she says it’s a substitute for conversation. When she did mine she said “Do you have a twin?” I said No. “Are you positive,” she said, “because some of your lines are double.” Her index finger traced me: “You had a good childhood but then there’s this funny break.” She puckered her forehead and I said I just wanted to know how long I was going to live, she could skip the rest. After that she told us Joe’s hands were dependable but not sensitive and I laughed, which was a mistake.
 
From the side he’s like the buffalo on the U.S. nickel, shaggy and blunt-snouted, with small clenched eyes and the defiant but insane look of a species once dominant, now threatened with extinction. That’s how he thinks of himself too: deposed, unjustly. Secretly he would like them to set up a kind of park for him, like a bird sanctuary. Beautiful Joe.
 
He feels me watching him and lets go of my hand. Then he takes his gum out, bundling it in the silver wrapper, and sticks it in the ashtray and crosses his arms. That means I’m not supposed to observe him; I face front.
 
In the first few hours of driving we moved through flattened cow-sprinkled hills and leaf trees and dead elm skeletons, then into the needle trees and the cuttings dynamited in pink and grey granite and the flimsy tourist cabins, and the signs saying GATEWAY TO THE NORTH, at least four towns claim to be that. The future is in the North, that was a political slogan once; when my father heard it he said there was nothing in the North but the past and not much of that either. Wherever he is now, dead or alive and nobody knows which, he’s no longer making epigrams. They have no right to get old. I envy people whose parents died when they were young, that’s easier to remember, they stay unchanged. I was sure mine would anyway, I could leave and return much later and everything would be the same. I thought of them as living in some other time, going about their own concerns closed safe behind a wall as translucent as jello, mammoths frozen in a glacier. All I would have to do was come back when I was ready but I kept putting it off, there would be too many explanations.
 
Now we’re passing the turnoff to the pit the Americans hollowed out. From here it looks like an innocent hill, spruce-covered, but the thick power lines running into the forest give it away. I heard they’d left, maybe that was a ruse, they could easily still be living in there, the generals in concrete bunkers and the ordinary soldiers in underground apartment buildings where the lights burn all the time. There’s no way of checking because we aren’t allowed in. The city invited them to stay, they were good for business, they drank a lot.
 
“That’s where the rockets are,” I say. Were. I don’t correct it.
 
David says “Bloody fascist pig Yanks,” as though he’s commenting on the weather.
 
Anna says nothing. Her head rests on the back of the seat, the ends of her light hair whipping in the draft from the side window  that won’t close properly. Earlier she was singing, House of the Rising Sun and Lili Marlene, both of them several times, trying to make her voice go throaty and deep; but it came out like a hoarse child’s. David turned on the radio, he couldn’t get anything, we were between stations. When she was in the middle of St. Louis Blues he began to whistle and she stopped. She’s my best friend, my best woman friend; I’ve known her two months.
 
I lean forward and say to David, “The bottle house is around this next curve and to the left,” and he nods and slows the car. I told them about it earlier, I guessed it was the kind of object that would interest them. They’re making a movie, Joe is doing the camera work, he’s never done it before but David says they’re the new Renaissance Men, you teach yourself what you need to learn. It was mostly David’s idea, he calls himself the director: they already have the credits worked out. He wants to get shots of things they come across, random samples he calls them, and that will be the name of the movie too: Random Samples. When they’ve used up their supply of film (which was all they could afford; and the camera is rented) they’re going to look at what they’ve collected and rearrange it.
 
“How can you tell what to put in if you don’t already know what it’s about?” I asked David when he was describing it. He gave me one of his initiate-to-novice stares. “If you close your mind in advance like that you wreck it. What you need is flow.” Anna, over by the stove measuring out the coffee, said everyone she knew was making a movie, and David said that was no fucking reason why he shouldn’t. She said “You’re right, sorry”; but she laughs about it behind his back, she calls it Random Pimples.
 
The bottle house is built of pop bottles cemented together with the bottoms facing out, green ones and brown ones in zig-zag patterns like the ones they taught us in school to draw on teepees; there’s a wall around it made of bottles too, arranged in letters so the brown ones spell BOTTLE VILLA.
 
“Neat,” David says, and they get out of the car with the camera. Anna and I climb out after them; we stretch our arms, and Anna has a cigarette. She’s wearing a purple tunic and white bellbottoms, they have a smear on them already, grease from the car. I told her she should wear jeans or something but she said she looks fat in them.
 
“Who made it, Christ, think of the work,” she says, but I don’t know anything about it except that it’s been there forever, the tangled black spruce swamp around it making it even more unlikely, a preposterous monument to some quirkish person exiled or perhaps a voluntary recluse like my father, choosing this swamp because it was the only place where he could fulfil his lifelong dream of living in a house of bottles. Inside the wall is an attempted lawn and a border with orange mattress-tuft marigolds.
 
“Great,” says David, “really neat,” and he puts his arm around Anna and hugs her briefly to show he’s pleased, as though she is somehow responsible for the Bottle Villa herself. We get back in the car.
 
I watch the side windows as though it’s a T.V. screen. There’s nothing I can remember till we reach the border, marked by the sign that says BIENVENUE on one side and WELCOME on the other. The sign has bullet holes in it, rusting red around the edges. It always did, in the fall the hunters use it for target practice; no matter how many times they replace it or paint it the bullet holes reappear, as though they aren’t put there but grow by a kind of inner logic or infection, like mould or boils. Joe wants to film the sign but David says “Naaa, what for?”
 
Now we’re on my home ground, foreign territory. My throat constricts, as it learned to do when I discovered people could say words that would go into my ears meaning nothing. To be deaf and dumb would be easier. The cards they poke at you when they want a quarter, with the hand alphabet on them. Even so, you would need to learn spelling.
 
The first smell is the mill, sawdust, there are mounds of it in the yard with the stacked timber slabs. The pulpwood goes elsewhere to the paper mill, but the bigger logs are corralled in a boom on the river, a ring of logs chained together with the free ones nudging each other inside it; they travel to the saws in a clanking overhead chute, that hasn’t been changed. The car goes under it and we’re curving up into the tiny company town, neatly planned with public flowerbeds and an eighteenth century fountain in the middle, stone dolphins and a cherub with part of the face missing. It looks like an imitation but it may be real.
 
Anna says “Oh wow, what a great fountain.”
 
“The company built the whole thing,” I say, and David says “Rotten capitalist bastards” and begins to whistle again.
 
I tell him to turn right and he does. The road ought to be here, but instead there’s a battered chequerboard, the way is blocked.
 
“Now what,” says David.
 
We didn’t bring a map because I knew we wouldn’t need one. “I’ll have to ask,” I say, so he backs the car out and we drive along the main street till we come to a corner store, magazines and candy.
 
“You must mean the old road,” the woman says with only a trace of an accent. “It’s been closed for years, what you need is the new one.” I buy four vanilla cones because you aren’t supposed to ask without buying anything. She gouges down into the cardboard barrel with a metal scoop. Before, the ice cream came rolled in pieces of paper which they would peel off like bark, pressing the short logs of ice cream into the cones with their thumbs. Those must be obsolete.
 
I go back to the car and tell David the directions. Joe says he likes chocolate better.
 
Nothing is the same, I don’t know the way any more. I slide my tongue around the ice cream, trying to concentrate on it, they put seaweed in it now, but I’m starting to shake, why is the road different, he shouldn’t have allowed them to do it, I want to turn around and go back to the city and never find out what happened to him. I’ll start crying, that would be horrible, none of them would know what to do and neither would I. I bite down into the cone and I can’t feel anything for a minute but the knife-hard pain up the side of my face. Anaesthesia, that’s one technique: if it hurts invent a different pain. I’m all right.
 
David finishes his cone, tossing the carton-flavoured tip out the window, and starts the car. We go through a part that’s spread out from the town since I was here, freshly built square bungalows like city ones except for the pink and baby blue trim, and a few oblong shacks further along, tar-paper and bare boards. A clutch of children playing in the wet mud that substitutes for lawns; most of them are dressed in clothes too big for them, which makes them seem stunted.
 
“They must fuck a lot here,” Anna says, “I guess it’s the Church.” Then she says “Aren’t I awful.”
 
David says “The true north strong and free.”
 
Beyond the houses, two older children, darkfaced, hold out tin cans toward the car. Raspberries perhaps.
 
We come to the gas station where the woman said to turn left and David groans with joy, “Oh god look at that,” and they pile out as though it will escape if they aren’t quick enough. What they’re after is the three stuffed moose on a platform near the pumps: they’re dressed in human clothes and wired standing up on their hind legs, a father moose with a trench-coat and a pipe in his mouth, a mother moose in a print dress and flowered hat and a little boy moose in short pants, a striped jersey and a baseball cap, waving an American flag.
 
Anna and I follow. I go up behind David and say “Don’t you need some gas,” he shouldn’t use the moose without paying, like the washrooms they’re here to attract customers.
 
“Oh look,” Anna says, hand going to her mouth, “there’s another one on the roof,” and there is, a little girl moose in a frilly skirt and a pigtailed blonde wig, holding a red parasol in one hoof. They get her too. The owner of the gas station is standing behind his plateglass show-window in his undershirt, scowling at us through the film of dust.
 
When we’re back in the car I say as though defending myself, “Those weren’t here before.” Anna’s head swivels round, my voice must sound odd.
 
“Before what?” she says.
 
The new road is paved and straight, two lanes with a line down the middle. Already it’s beginning to gather landmarks, a few advertisement signs, a roadside crucifix with a wooden Christ, ribs sticking out, the alien god, mysterious to me as ever. Underneath it are a couple of jam jars with flowers, daisies and red devil’s paintbrush and the white ones you can dry, Indian Posies, Everlasting, there must have been a car accident.
 
At intervals the old road crosses us; it was dirt, full of bumps and potholes, it followed the way the land went, up and down the hills and around the cliffs and boulders. They used to go over it as fast as possible, their father knew every inch of it and could take it (he said) blindfolded, which was what they often seemed to be doing, grinding up past the signs that said PETITE VITESSE and plunging down over the elevator edges and scraping around the rockfaces, GARDEZ LE DROIT, horn hooting; the rest of them clamped onto the inside of the car, getting sicker and sicker despite the Lifesavers their mother would hand out, and finally throwing up groggily by the side of the road, blue asters and pink fireweed, if he could stop in time or out the car window if he couldn’t or into paper bags, he anticipated emergencies, if he was in a hurry and didn’t want to stop at all.
 
That won’t work, I can’t call them “they” as if they were somebody else’s family: I have to keep myself from telling that story. Still though, seeing the old road billowing along at a distance through the trees (ruts and traces already blurring with grass and saplings, soon it will be gone) makes me reach into my bag for the Lifesavers I brought. But they aren’t needed any more, even though the new road turns from pavement into gravel (“Must’ve elected the wrong guy last time around,” David says jokingly) and the familiar smell of road dust fuming behind and around us mixes with the gas-and-upholstery smell of the car.
 
“Thought you said this would be bad,” David says over his shoulder, “it’s not bad at all.” We’re nearly to the village already, the two roads joining here but widened – rock blasted, trees bulldozed over, roots in the air, needles reddening – past the flat cliff where the election slogans are painted and painted over, some faded and defaced, others fresh yellow and white, VOTEZ GODET, VOTEZ OBRIEN, along with hearts and initials and words and advertisements, THÉ SALADA, BLUE MOON COTTAGES ½ MILE, QUÉBEC LIBRE, FUCK YOU, BUVEZ COCA COLA GLACÉ, JESUS SAVES, mélange of demands and languages, an x-ray of it would be the district’s entire history.
 
But they’ve cheated, we’re here too soon and I feel deprived of something, as though I can’t really get here unless I’ve suffered; as though the first view of the lake, which we can see now, blue and cool as redemption, should be through tears and a haze of vomit.

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Foreword

1. Throughout the novel, we never learn the name of our narrator. Why might Atwood choose anonymity for her heroine?

2. This novel is replete with dis- and re-appearances: fathers vanish, babies are lost, marriages erode, long-banished memories return, pregancies occur. Discuss the implications of disappearing and reappearing.

3. Our narrator frequently refers to herself as an "accomplice": to the killing of the fish, to the accruing of "random samples" for the film. Over the course of the novel, she not only ceases her collusion but also becomes an active saboteur. What catalyzes this shift?

4. Early in the novel, the narrator attempts to draw clear battle lines: men versus women, the city versus the country, the Americans versus Canadians. In time, however, many of these opposing camps blur together: supposed Americans are revealed to be Canadians, Anna shifts her allegiance and sides with the men. What is the result of these new alliances?

5. The narrator must literally dive into the lake in order to dredge the swamp of her memory and recover her buried past. Throughout the novel, the lake serves as both a literal and symbolic centerpiece. Discuss its role and importance.

6. What can we see from the novel's discussion of "truth" or "lies?"

7. What clues in the novel suggest that the narrator is struggling to supress memories of an abortion?

8. What role does the discovery of her father's drawings play in her ability, as a daughter and as a fellow artist, to understand his life better?

9. Each of the two couples employ different strategies for wounding and communicating with oneanother. Do relationship strategies differ more on gender lines or from couple to couple? What are the distinctive strategies employed by each couple/person?

10. Does the heroine remain a reliable narrator throughout? Do her perceptions ever deviate from reality? At what point, if ever, do you discount her version of reality?

11. Does your opinion of Joe alter as the novel progresses?

12. Our heroine describes her habitual process of observing, memorizing, and copying emotions she has seen in others in lieu of having actual feeling herself. Discuss.

13. What is the role of animals in the novel? The role of technology?

14. In describing childhood games of hide and seek in the forest, the narrator recalls her fear "that what would come out when you called would be someone else". When she later escapes into the forest, she does in fact emerge transformed. What happens on her odyssey?

15. Consider this final manifesto: "This above all, to refuse to be a victim . . . I have to recant, give up the old belief that I am powerless." Does a shift in self-perception have the power to reverse one's destiny? What factors determine who is and is not a victim? What gives her the power to break free?

Discussion questions provided courtesy of Anchor Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. All rights reserved.

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Reading Group Guide

1. Throughout the novel, we never learn the name of our narrator. Why might Atwood choose anonymity for her heroine?

2. This novel is replete with dis- and re-appearances: fathers vanish, babies are lost, marriages erode, long-banished memories return, pregancies occur. Discuss the implications of disappearing and reappearing.

3. Our narrator frequently refers to herself as an "accomplice": to the killing of the fish, to the accruing of "random samples" for the film. Over the course of the novel, she not only ceases her collusion but also becomes an active saboteur. What catalyzes this shift?

4. Early in the novel, the narrator attempts to draw clear battle lines: men versus women, the city versus the country, the Americans versus Canadians. In time, however, many of these opposing camps blur together: supposed Americans are revealed to be Canadians, Anna shifts her allegiance and sides with the men. What is the result of these new alliances?

5. The narrator must literally dive into the lake in order to dredge the swamp of her memory and recover her buried past. Throughout the novel, the lake serves as both a literal and symbolic centerpiece. Discuss its role and importance.

6. What can we see from the novel's discussion of "truth" or "lies?"

7. What clues in the novel suggest that the narrator is struggling to supress memories of an abortion?

8. What role does the discovery of her father's drawings play in her ability, as a daughter and as a fellow artist, to understand his life better?

9. Each of the two couples employ different strategies for wounding and communicating with one another. Do relationship strategies differ more on gender lines or from couple to couple? What are the distinctive strategies employed by each couple/person?

10. Does the heroine remain a reliable narrator throughout? Do her perceptions ever deviate from reality? At what point, if ever, do you discount her version of reality?

11. Does your opinion of Joe alter as the novel progresses?

12. Our heroine describes her habitual process of observing, memorizing, and copying emotions she has seen in others in lieu of having actual feeling herself. Discuss.

13. What is the role of animals in the novel? The role of technology?

14. In describing childhood games of hide and seek in the forest, the narrator recalls her fear "that what would come out when you called would be someone else". When she later escapes into the forest, she does in fact emerge transformed. What happens on her odyssey?

15. Consider this final manifesto: "This above all, to refuse to be a victim . . . I have to recant, give up the old belief that I am powerless." Does a shift in self-perception have the power to reverse one's destiny? What factors determine who is and is not a victim? What gives her the power to break free?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 12 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2003

    Surfacing- A psychological trip

    I must confess, I bought Surfacing because it was the shortest of Margaret Atwood's novels and I had only a few days before my deadline. But after reading The Blind Assassin, I was excited to be picking up another Margaret Atwood book. Surfacing has quite a different feel, however, and meanders for the first 160 (of 200) pages. As the book winds down, you wonder if the main character is mentally sane, or, in fact, if Margaret Atwood is. The book twists and turns, puzzles the reader, but ultimately all comes together for a satisfying (but fairly tragic) ending.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 18, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Feminism and Post Colonialism

    Feminist and post colonial theories share common qualities since they have consistently held the position of the ¿other¿ in society, making the protagonist¿s plight a mere microcosm of the reality of what exists. The nameless protagonist is exploited in various ways by society as well as her married lover; paralleling the exploitation of Canada and other post-colonial societies by other dominant cultures. Atwood highlights the damage caused to those exploited and colonized as she shows the loss of identity experienced by the individual whose history: 'I must be more careful of my memories, I have to be sure they're my own and not the memories of other people telling me what I felt, how I acted, what I said'; language and culture have been dominated. <BR/><BR/>Feminist and post-colonial theories have also always been concerned with the language, both the native language of the colonized land as well as the language forced on the individuals as speech is part of the basis for identity. They can also be used subversively to thwart patriarchal powers. When the protagonist emerges from the lake liberated, she no longer feels the need to use the language of the `conquerors¿ and instead retreats into animal grunts. Her culture is perpetually threatened by the `enemies¿, The Americans; and also her own countrymen as the condition of degeneracy as well as what is considered `normal¿ by the enemies have been internalized and Canadians themselves have become the very thing they loathe.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2003

    Very different

    My first Atwood book was Alias Grace, and I loved it so much I wanted to read more by this author. Surfacing was very different, I was gently lulled along by lovely descriptions to a violent and unexpected end. Satisfying and disturbing both!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 24, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    The more I read of Atwood the more convinced I become that she s

    The more I read of Atwood the more convinced I become that she should be ranked up with Naipaul, Rushdie, Grass as one of the world's greatest living authors (RIP Gabo). Surfacing is one of her early works, and as such has more of a raw quality about it than say The Handmaid's Tale. This is not a bad thing; there is power in the rawness. One of the main complaints I see in the negative reviews about Surfacing is the lack of plot. To this I say, if you're reading Atwood for the plot you're missing the point. This novel is not about getting from point A to point B; it's about understanding, or trying to understand. Trying to understand the roles we play, the masks we wear, the lies we tell ourselves. This is a novel about the connections between innocence and victimhood, guilt and survival. This is a novel about breaking down, and becoming whole. Do yourself a favor and read this book. Atwood here captures the essence of what it is to be human in the modern world.

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  • Posted March 3, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Very, very dated. Some books written 40+ years ago still remain

    Very, very dated. Some books written 40+ years ago still remain relevant. This one did not, thank goodness it was a short book. I have loved many other Atwood books, this one is not very good at all.

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  • Posted July 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Atwood is a great storyteller

    am not going to say much about this novel at the moment... I can't decide what to say beyond the fact that it is powerful, thought provoking but sometimes slightly man-hating... I suggest reading it strenuously, but be warned that it is a very subtle novel filled with symbolism rather than concrete things.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2005

    Hard to stop thinking about

    I have now read all of Margaret Atwood's novels except for one and I'm drawn into her characters each time. I think she has a remarkable way of setting a believable stage that captivates the audience and then slowly starts to shape it into something entirely different. I can relate to it so easily that by the end, I'm afraid of what I'm relating to. Only after I put the book down and start to think about it in my every day life am I able to say, 'that's not healthy'. Surfacing is a prime example of Atwood's ability to do that to a reader. Go for it!!

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    Posted December 29, 2009

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    Posted January 10, 2010

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    Posted April 13, 2010

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    Posted December 13, 2010

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    Posted January 19, 2010

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