In this book, Margaret Atwood shares with us a set of short stories. The principal characters are all women. The narrative revolves around their self perception. Each story represents an episode from a life. Many of these episodes are ongoing and without conclusion regardless of coming to the end. However, this doesn’t matter because the stories are more about getting an insight into what makes each principal tick, rather than the story itself. This is an intimate and rewarding approach to sharing the motivation for some women’s choices. In a way, this approach makes discussion of the stories themselves superfluous. So, I am going to consider the writing style used to communicate these internal dialogues instead.
I like Margaret Atwood’s style. It is direct and concise. Atwood’s sentences are short and often punchy. She is descriptive in a precise and succinct way. She fills out her characters in a purposeful, almost business like manner, but without sacrificing personality. Quite an achievement really. There’s something empirical in the way she speaks to the reader. She writes from an evidence base. There is an explanation for everything so that the content becomes believable and thus compelling.
Internal dialogues are an important tool for Atwood. She utilises self consciousness to tell the character’s story in such a way you develop an intimate perspective. It feels partly voyeuristic. On the other hand, there is a concurrent application of third party detachment. This balance allows you to proceed without feeling too guilty about listening to private thoughts and observing private actions. This approach works well for the reader. It invites you in. As a consequence, each encounter feels primarily like a unique sharing of a personal psychological profile. Each story becomes something of a secondary tale, just a vehicle for achieving the author’s primary goal.
Recommended as an interesting and informative approach to gender specific short story telling.