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Wow, I’m 3 for 3, and I even took a photo for your delectation!

Book 40 – Lady Oracle, by Margaret Atwood.  Joan Foster is a complicated woman, with a complicated history. After faking her own death she runs away to a small village in Italy to start a new life away from the fear and complexities of her own.  Alone and out of control, she thinks about the stages of her life and the people who have shaped her experiences. From fat child who used her weight as a weapon against her mother to loneliness in London; from a life with a Polish Count to bored housewife; from slush writer to acclaimed novelist, Joan has lost sight of her own identity.

However, she soon realises that running away is not quite as easy as she thought, and she knows someone is coming for her…

This book is actually really hard to explain, and in reading what I have written there I am not sure I have captured the essence of the story.  To me, this book is all about self, as in finding what exactly ‘self’ is to someone who has no clear idea who they are.

Despite her many accomplishments Joan still sees herself as the fat child: bullied and cajoled by others, fighting a battle of wills with her mother, even when her mother has passed away.  Her successful writing career is a secret from her husband because he won’t find her work sufficiently intellectual, and yet when she does finally make a literary impact he doesn’t support her anyway.  She hides her history, creating a new and more satisfying story for herself and in the meantime losing the opportunity to explain why she feels or behaves as she does.

Joan is not herself, and even when reading the book you wonder if her narrative is entirely accurate because there is so much of the world she chooses to hide, or ignore.

lady-oracle

I really enjoy reading Margaret Atwood because her characters drive the stories. There might be nothing in particular happening in a scene but their internal monologue is so convincing that you believe their dramatic explanations of events. They create drama even in the most simple of situations.

In this particular case you feel for Joan too – her lonely childhood punctuated by visits to an aunt who died in her teens, the naive way she accidentally ends up as a mistress, her desperate need to be loved fully and without judgement.  In creating a separate identity for her commercial writing she put part of herself behind a curtain and her husband never pulled it back.

This book was hard for me to put down once I started reading; I found the ending a bit odd but it was in keeping with the out of kilter nature of the story so worked in that context.  The characters were engaging, the story complicated but satisfying, and the style of writing full of depth and quality but fluid and easy to read – I never feel like I’m reading a thesaurus when reading Atwood, despite her clever and rich use of language.

As someone who enjoys this style of writing I would definitely recommend the book; I always enjoy books about the human experience.  This has more to it than just the one theme, but it’s the element which most interests me and therefore the one I absorb!

Happy reading,

EJ

🙂

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