In 'Life Before Man', Margaret Atwood presents us with several lead characters, displays their troubled souls and lets their worlds overlap. No-one would envy any one of these characters but perhaps we can identify with some of their traits. In Elizabeth we witness the self-destruction that comes from excessive self-control - I wanted to slap her, shake her, anything to make her speak out. I watched with sadness Lesje's innocent quest to find love that will not suffocate her, although she risks becoming the one who smothers. Nate is almost docile. He tries to find happiness but is pulled apart between Elizabeth's oppressive coldness and Lesje's neediness.
This is not a cheerful book, but nor is it overly morose. I found that I could see what was going to happen, how each character would feel about it and how they would try to deal with it. But being able to foretell the consequences does not mean that the book is dull or predictable, rather that the characters seem so real that I could second guess them. Margaret Atwood has written these people so well that they feel as familiar as friends or colleagues - a skill demonstrated by only the best of writers. You will look upon them as you would a friend who is ignoring your wise advice and heading for a downfall! If you are a fan of Atwood's work then this is represents a worthy addition to your bookshelf.