The Edible Woman

( 12 )

Overview

Ever since her engagement, the strangest thing has been happening to Marian McAlpin: she can't eat. First meat. Then eggs, vegetables, cake, pumpkin seeds—everything! Worse yet, she has the crazy feeling that she's being eaten. Marian ought to feel consumed with passion, but she really just feels...consumed. A brilliant and powerful work rich in irony and metaphor, The Edible Woman is an unforgettable masterpiece by a true master of contemporary literary fiction.
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Overview

Ever since her engagement, the strangest thing has been happening to Marian McAlpin: she can't eat. First meat. Then eggs, vegetables, cake, pumpkin seeds—everything! Worse yet, she has the crazy feeling that she's being eaten. Marian ought to feel consumed with passion, but she really just feels...consumed. A brilliant and powerful work rich in irony and metaphor, The Edible Woman is an unforgettable masterpiece by a true master of contemporary literary fiction.
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Editorial Reviews

Herald Magazine
As delightful a novel as has come along in ages; the kind of book you hate to put down and usually don't.
From the Publisher
“Articulate and sophisticated.…Extraordinarily witty, and full of ironic observation.…A tour de force.…”
Toronto Star

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

“Remarkable.…The Edible Woman assumes the force of a banal dream that has turned, without the dreamer quite noticing, into a nightmare.…[It] conceals the kick of a perfume bottle converted into a Molotov cocktail.”
Time

“Delightful – spare, precise, mordantly witty.…Exquisitely written.”
Journal of Canadian Fiction

“[The Edible Woman] is chock-full of startling images, superbly and classically crafted.…”
Saturday Night

“Few writers are able to combine wit and humour.…Margaret Atwood is a poet and novelist who seems to be able to do anything she wants.”
Newsweek

“A pleasure.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Funny, sharp, witty, clever.”
The Times (U.K.)

“Marked by a keen eye for evocative details which cohere into vivid incidents.”
Canadian Forum

“[Atwood is] a subtle and penetrating observer of relationships between men and women.”
Sunday Times (U.K.)

“Reflections on marriage, guilt and the relationship between the sexes – classic Atwood territory.”
The Guardian (U.K.)

“[Atwood] knows exactly what she is doing with every phrase.”
Vancouver Sun

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385491068
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/1998
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 296,239
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret  Atwood

Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa in 1939, and grew up in northern Quebec and Ontario, and later in Toronto. She has lived in numerous cities in Canada, the U.S., and Europe.

She is the author of more than forty books — novels, short stories, poetry, literary criticism, social history, and books for children. Atwood’s work is acclaimed internationally and has been published around the world. Her novels include The Handmaid’s Tale and Cat’s Eye — both shortlisted for the Booker Prize; The Robber Bride, winner of the Trillium Book Award and a finalist for the Governor General’s Award; Alias Grace, winner of the prestigious Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy, and a finalist for the Governor General’s Award, the Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; The Blind Assassin, winner of the Booker Prize and a finalist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; and Oryx and Crake, a finalist for The Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Award, the Orange Prize, and the Man Booker Prize. Her most recent books of fiction are The Penelopiad, The Tent, and Moral Disorder. She is the recipient of numerous honours, such as The Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence in the U.K., the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature in the U.S., Le Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France, and she was the first winner of the London Literary Prize. She has received honorary degrees from universities across Canada, and one from Oxford University in England.

Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto with novelist Graeme Gibson.

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:

Reading Group Guide

1. Do you see a relationship between the kind of work Marian does in consumer research with the particular way her life begins to disintegrate?

2. Peter is afraid of being captured by a woman, of losing his freedom; Marian begins to feel hunted, caught in his gaze; eventually she even confuses his camera with a gun. In what ways can all the characters seem at once to be hunter, then predator, master then slave, subject then object?

3. Two parties take place in the book, the office party and the engagement party. Discuss what these parties do for the structure and development of the novel.

4. Sexual identity lies at the heart of much of the story. Discuss the role Marian's roommate Ainsley, her friend Claire, and finally the "office virgins" play in helping define Marian's dilemma. Discuss the men: Why is Marian drawn to Duncan? Contrast him with Peter.

5. The novel is narrated in first person in Parts One and Three, third person in Part Two. What is the effect on the reader of the change in voice?

6. First, Marian drops meat from her diet, then eggs, vegetables, even pumpkin seeds. Can you point to the incidents that precede each elimination from her diet? How does her lack of appetite compare or contrast with Duncan's unnatural thinness, his stated desire to become "an amoeba?"

7. What is the meaning of the cake Marian serves Peter at the novel's end? What is the significance of her eating cake?

8. Margaret Atwood is a writer who often plays with fairy tale images in her work. "The Robber Bridegroom" (which she much later turns on its head with The Robber Bride) was likely an inspiration for TheEdible Woman: the old crone warns the bride-to-be, " . . . the only marriage you'll celebrate will be with death . . . When they have you in their power they'll chop you in pieces . . . then they'll cook you and eat you, because they are cannibals." What images of cannibalism does Atwood use? Do you see traces of other fairy tales in this novel?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2009

    Slightly Disappointing

    Awkward events start to occur in The Edible Woman after Marian McAplin and Peter, her boyfriend of less than a year, get engaged. Canadian author Margaret Atwood uses this matter to depict women's rebellion against the male-dominated society in the 1960's. When Marian becomes engaged she disassociates herself from her friends, plans to quit work after she gets married, and allows Peter to dictate their relationship.
    Marian becomes overwhelmed. She loses her voice and the ability to tell her own story. It is from here that Book Two begins, and the story switches from first person to third person. This switch is a reflection of Marian's relationship with Peter in which she, as a person, is disappearing. In my mind, the switching of narrators took away from the story. I found it confusing not knowing Marian's thoughts, as I got used to that during Book One.
    Marian is the reason I liked this book, because her voice rings so clear when she is narrating. Not only does she make the reader see the things she sees, she also makes the reader feel the things she feels. There's a lot more going on than the engagement issue, and Marian is sure to tell the reader about it.
    When Marian ignores the consuming nature of marriage she finds herself rejecting food. Food acts as a metaphor for her rejection of the male-dominated society. The Edible Woman is rich in metaphor and irony. There were some metaphors that I did not fully understand until I finished the entire novel and it would have been nice if they were evident earlier.
    As I read, I was torn about my true feelings towards the book. At times I found myself lacking interest due to some of the characters being one dimensional. The one character that kept me interested was Marian. I wanted to keep reading to see what twist her life would make next.
    It was challenging at times to stay connected, as Atwood pulled the reader in so much and tried to put you in Marian's place. Society today is much different and I found it hard to connect with Marian and her emotions at times.
    In general, I give a lot of credit to Atwood. This was her first major novel, and I am interested in reading some of her other pieces after finishing The Edible Woman. I really enjoyed the links between women, marriage, and society in an era defined by male executives that Atwood made.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2004

    prescient

    Series like Ally Mcbeal and Sex and the City owe this book an incredible debt. Its portrait of a woman coming apart at the seams because men want her to be something she isn't is the first of its kind. As a book, it's deep but narrow. The characters are little more than ideologies with legs and arms, but they are nonetheless quite interesting.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2003

    This book? TERRIBLE!

    The premise of this book intrigued me; the book itself did not. The themes were poorly executed, the characters were one dimensional, and the prose was trite. I quit reading this book 2/3 of the way into it and just read the last chapter-the themes were reiterated and the characters lived happily ever after. Disappointing book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2003

    The Edible Woman

    It was the second book of her's that I've read. I loved every page,it wasn't a book that you can just read but one that you want to read. And of course you do.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2002

    triumph over evil

    recovering from anorexia, this book caught my eye and my morbid curiosity. i found i could relate alot to the heroine: being stifled in a buttoned up relationship, she slowly stops eating. it is a cry for help that not even she recognizes till the very end. oh, and the last few pages are the absolute best! atwood portrays a victorious and witty heroine, displaying the author's complete understanding of how surprising women can be! left me hungry for seconds.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2002

    More than meets the eye

    Margaret Atwood is a superbly intelligent writer. Her themes are woven deep within characters, situations, and the words on the page. The Edible Woman was a novel that took awhile to read, because it doesn't leave you riveted to its pages, but over time, and especially after finishing it, I was left with the meanings behind Atwood's words. Even though I finished this novel a while ago, I am left with overwhelming images of what Atwood lays out within her words. Underneath her characters droll lies so much more. Recommended highly.

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    Posted July 20, 2009

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    Posted December 29, 2009

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    Posted April 13, 2010

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    Posted August 11, 2009

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