'Lady Oracle' tells the story of serious feminist writer Joan Foster, (the Lady Oracle of the title) and her secret life as gothic-romance writer Louisa Delacourt, from Joan's life from a chubby child, her conflict with her mother who wants the perfect daughter, her battle to lose weight, bizarre affairs, (one with a Polish Count and another with an artist named 'The Royal Porcupine',) eventual marriage to the pasteboard Arthur, and the bizarre way in which she leaves the mundanity of her marriage to quite literally begin a new life.
The novel opens with the fantastic line 'I planned my death carefully; unlike my life, which meandered along from one thing to another, despite my feeble attempts to control it' and goes on to explain that the narrator has faked her own death in order to escape both her stillborn marriage and a blackmail attempt by the mysterious Fraser Buchanan.
It then continues with vivid, moving, and highly amusing accounts of her childhood. The narrator was a fat person until her late adolescense, and here Atwood gives a voice to the underrepresented and oppressed overweight of today's society. Joan's battles with her mother, of which her body was the battleground, are telling of a society where it is unacceptable to be anything except a perfect ten.
Atwood then alternates the narrative of the story with extracts from the gothic romance her narrator is writing: 'Stalked by love.' It is in these extracts, and the narrator's thoughts on them, that Atwood's trademark insightfulness truly flourishes, as even the most militant feminist finds herself confessing that what they really want is a Rochester. I particularly like the quotation 'Escape wasn't a luxury for (my readers), it was a necessity ... and when they were too tired to invent escapes of their own, mine were available for them at the corner drugstore, neatly packaged like the other painkillers.'
What more can I say? This gives a fantastic insight into the world of the fat woman in modern society, and makes the reader of romance novels consider their guilty pleasure in a new light. Atwood at her thought-provoking best.