Sunday, September 28, 2014

Book Review: "Stone Mattress: Nine Tales" by Margaret Atwood

It has been a long, long while since I've read anything by Margaret Atwood. In fact, the only two things I've read of hers have been The Handmaid's Tale and Cat's Eye years ago. Not sure why, exactly. However, my interest was piqued by her new story collection, Stone Mattress: Nine Tales, so I decided to remedy my long Atwood drought.

This is a (not surprisingly) well-written collection of stories which definitely intrigued me. In fact, there were several stories I wish ran even longer, because I so enjoyed the characters and wanted to know more about what happened to them when the stories ended.

The stories in Stone Mattress: Nine Tales are mostly about reasonably normal people dealing with unusual or emotionally challenging circumstances. My favorites included: "The Dead Hand Loves You," in which the author of a horror masterpiece, written to get him out of debt more than anything else, reflects on the circumstances in which he created the book, and the people who inspired him and fired his resentment; "Torching the Dusties," where an elderly woman in an assisted living facility is struggling both with the visions of little people she keeps seeing and the fact that an activist group has stormed her facility, threatening to burn it down and kill all the residents; "The Freeze-Dried Groom," about an antique dealer and thief who finds more than he bargained for when he bids on an unclaimed storage unit; and the title story, in which a woman rights a long-festering wrong, on an Arctic cruise, of all places. I also really enjoyed the trio of linked stories, "Alphinland," "Revenant," and "Dark Lady," which dealt with two writers battling the challenges of growing old and reflecting on their work, and a woman who once came between them.

I felt Atwood was at her best in this collection when her stories, dark as they may be, were slightly more grounded in reality than those which dealt with more fantastical subjects. I really enjoyed her writing, and reading this definitely has me thinking I'll need to read more of her books.

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