Assembling My Atheneum: Margaret Atwood
If I had unlimited funds, which authors would I want to see filling my bookshelves? That question originally arose from my musings about my home library, and I decided to start a new series to answer it. In Assembling My Atheneum, I’ll discuss the authors whose entire works I’d love to possess, as well as which books of theirs I’ve read, which I already own, and which I’d recommend to those wanting to give them a try. If you’re curious, you can see everyone I’ve featured so far.
I first read Margaret Atwood in 2002 the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. I was sixteen, and for my upcoming English class I needed to read a Booker Prize winner; hence, The Blind Assassin was my introduction to her writing. And what an introduction it made! I absolutely loved it (in fact, just thinking about it makes me realise it’s time for a reread), and pretty soon after that I read The Handmaid’s Tale. I think I picked it because it was published the year that I was born, and despite my usual distaste for dystopian novels, it also blew me away. I was in a short story phase at the time, so my next choice was Dancing Girls (her first collection), about which I only have the vaguest impression of being satisfied by but not completely in love with.
Then I managed to forget about Atwood for a few years until a group blogging read of Cat’s Eye. Honestly, I didn’t much care for it; it was good, but definitely my least favourite Atwood. I didn’t give up, though, and Alias Grace soon won me back to the gold! Since then I’ve also read The Penelopiad, The Edible Woman and The Robber Bride, all of which I just adored. I’ve also dipped my toe into her nonfiction by reading her latest essay collection, In Other Words, which definitely impressed me. At this point, I’m a confirmed Atwood fangirl and definitely plan to read everything she’s written! Luckily for me, she has quite a backlist: I’ve still got six novels, eight of her short story collections, and most of her nonfiction writing as well (she’s also a poet, but sad to say, I’m not really a poetry girl). I love it when I fall for a prolific author! ;)
Of course, I know how hopeless I can feel when I want to try out a new-to-me author and they have so many titles that I can’t pick where to start. So let me offer my advice to the Atwood neophyte. If you’re a dystopian lover (I know many bloggers are), you obviously have to try The Handmaid’s Tale: it’s a modern classic for a reason. Historical fiction fans, meanwhile, will find much to enjoy in Alias Grace. If you’re more a fan of literary books, The Blind Assassin has a wonderful metastory structure that will especially appeal to fans of, say, Possession. If you’ve become addicted to Mad Men, The Edible Woman would be a great ‘companion read.’ And for readers who can’t resist a good fairy tale retelling, The Robber Bride will delight you.
Ironically, a stranger looking at my bookshelves would never guess my Atwood love; I don’t own a single copy of any of her books! Of course, if I owned them all they’d definitely need their own shelf, maybe even two, but since this is a hypothetical, ideal personal library I’m constructing, I’ll still put myself down for one of each.
What’s your favourite Atwood? Which title would you recommend first to someone who’s never read her?