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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Review: Moral Disorder and Other Stories by Margaret Atwood

In these ten interrelated stories Atwood traces the course of a life and also the lives intertwined with it, while evoking the drama and the humour that colour common experiences — the birth of a baby, divorce and remarriage, old age and death. With settings ranging from Toronto, northern Quebec, and rural Ontario, the stories begin in the present, as a couple no longer young situate themselves in a larger world no longer safe. Then the narrative goes back in time to the forties and moves chronologically forward toward the present.

Moral Disorder and Other Stories follows one woman named Nell through different periods of her life. In the form of several short stories we see her as a child taking care of those around her, as an adult finding her way on her own, as a mistress, and a wife and mother and everything in between. We glimpse at quirky pieces of furniture that come to define a part of her life, at a mattress on the floor of her lover’s home and how knitting a cover for it can quickly become an agreement, a choice made, a path taken. While reading this I felt like a bit of a voyeur; like I was seeing through Nell’s eyes as she was looking back over all of the moments she’d lived that were important to her, and all the time she had no idea I was there sharing her secrets; secrets that prove it’s not only the happy moments that define us and set us on our course. As Nell says when thinking back on a particular memory…

“Yet I think of that period as having been a happy time in my life… Happy is the wrong word. Important.”

Margaret Atwood is brilliant with words and captures perfectly an average life and all the emotions that come along with it. I haven’t read anything by her previous to this but I definitely plan to check out more of her work now that I’ve finished this collection. I’ve just started Oryx & Crake and I’m really enjoying it so far.

Rating: 4/5

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