Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing

So, this is a look back into Margaret Atwood’s book that I read a while ago – to be precise, 10 years ago. So much of what I’m discussing here is going to be impressions of my impressions about the book back when I read it, and my opinions about it were fresh on my mind.

Let me start at the end of the book. By the time I reached the last page of the book, I was in a miasma created by all the different emotions Surfacing wrought. To me, it felt like the book should have been more aptly titled The Descent or something like it. This is because Surfacing documents a woman’s journey to find her father, and all that happens to her in the meanwhile. It puts together all the events that lead to this woman’s descent into madness.

What’s worse, I don’t do too well with books that have cliff-hangers, unless I’m expecting it (as was the case with Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale; after my experience with Surfacing). And that’s mainly the reason for my rant and my dislike for the book.

Also, some of the topics addressed in the book are quite sad – loss, death and abortion – and unusual – like weird relationships and hallucinations. Speaking of hallucinations, after a point, for me, it felt like it was quite difficult to make the distinction between what the narrator was hallucinating and when incidents were actually happening (or took place in the past).

At the time when I read this, I was shocked. The simple reason being that most of the books that I had read up until then were those that made me feel good, because they were chosen based on my preferences. But that phase ended without much preamble when I entered college and ran smack into the world of being a literature student.

I think such courses should come with a caveat that “Get ready to read things that will disturb you, rob you of sleep, make you want to cringe and cry, and even possibly take you to the brink of the decision to never want to read again.” Well, it didn’t. And there I was, knee deep in a three year course, holding my copy of Surfacing and wondering what I did to deserve it.

But then I persevered, and well, here I am. I hated Surfacing, but my spirit as a book lover did not die. My sense of adventure did not end – I picked up another Atwood book (The Handmaid’s Tale) knowing full well what Surfacing did to me, and I loved the book.


3 thoughts on “Margaret Atwood’s Surfacing

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  1. I also enjoyed Handmaid’s Tale, but have not read any other Atwood novels. I also identify with your point about being surprised when we like a book that doesn’t necessarily leave us feeling good. It’s always difficult to grasp feelings and experiences that are alien to us, and a good writer can do just that. I appreciate them, but still love to read a good-old-happy-ending once in a while!

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    1. Yes, isn’t it.. 😊 Oh by the way there’s this one book by Margaret Atwood called Negotiating with the Dead, a book about writers and writing, which I am absolutely in love with.. So much so that I haven’t finished reading it cuz I don’t want to ever feel like it’s over..


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