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Moral Disorder [Paperback]

Margaret Atwood
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Nov 2010

Atwood entices us to flip through the photo album of a Canadian woman who closely resembles herself. Come here, sit beside me, she seems to say. Then she takes us on an emotional journey through loneliness, love, loss and old age' Sarah Emily Miano, THE TIMES

Short stories that trace the course of a life, and the lives intertwined with it - MORAL DISORDER is Margaret Atwood at her very finest.

'Funny, touching, beady-eyed, slouchily elegant, giving us family life in all its horrors. The secret resentments and alignments - difficult siblings, unfair parents, hopeless yearnings and rage - are funny to read about, hellish to experience. Atwood makes it look so easy, doing what she does best: tenderly dissecting the human heart . . . A marvellous writer' Lee Langley, DAILY MAIL

'A model of distillation, precision, clarity and detail . . . Atwood writes with compassion and intensity not only about her characters but also about the 20th century itself' Mary Flanagan, INDEPENDENT

'MORAL DISORDER is an infinitely ingenious and perceptive study, as intimate as a self-portrait but with an epic breadth of vision. It deserves to become a quiet classic' Charlotte Moore, SPECTATOR

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Virago (4 Nov 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844080331
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844080335
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 192,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Margaret Atwood is the author of more than thirty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays.

In addition to the classic The Handmaid's Tale, her novels include Cat's Eye, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy, The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize and Oryx and Crake, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, was published in 2009. She was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature in 2008.

Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto, Canada.

(Photo credit: George Whitside)

Product Description


A model of distillation, precision, clarity and detail . . . Atwood writes with compassion and intensity not only about her characters but also about the 20th century itself (INDEPENDENT)

Ingenious and perceptive. . . deserves to become a quiet classic (SPECTATOR)

An emotional journey through loneliness, love, loss and old age. . . This snapshot collection is a study of memory, to be cherished (THE TIMES)

Vivid, crispy focused, full of depth and beguiling detail (SUNDAY TIMES MAGAZINE)

Book Description

* A superb collection of short stories from one of our best-loved writers - now reissued with a striking new jacket along with other newly jacketed titles from Margaret Atwood's backlist

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
What an unusual book! On the surface it is a series of short stories, almost thrown carelessly together and telling the life of a Canadian woman from childhood through to old age.

Along the way, various themes are introduced, some glancingly and others returned to from varying viewpoints in a number of different stories. Children and their parents are visited at the beginnings of life for one and nearing the end for the other. There is a wonderful account of a teenage girl becoming immersed in the study of literature with `a lot of ground still to cover' before the crucial end-of-school-years examination. Atwood skewers the 1970s - from the penniless central character, Nell, painting a second hand dining table orange through to `adultery' being `not a cool word' where `to pronounce it was a social gaffe'. A sister's mental health problems appear at times severe and deteriorating irreparably whilst at others they impress more as a misperception or a temporary fluctuation.

Perhaps the most persistent theme is the centrality of stories, either in the form of established literature or as fondly repeated favourite anecdotes from real life. But what is really distinctive about this book is its structure - eleven short stories, not all arranged chronologically, some written in the first and some the third person. The position in time of the `author' of some of these is also unusual; a story can end with a paragraph or two saying in effect that the events just described had taken place years ago and that things are now very different.

One interpretation of this strange structure is that the stories, some of which were published separately over a number of years, have merely been shoe-horned to hang untidily together in book form.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intertwining lives 30 Sep 2007
The previous reviewer has summed this up quite nicely actually. It is a lovely book and well worth reading but I didn't enjoy the last two 'stories' as much as the others, hence 4/5 rather than 5/5.

The book will be enjoyed by Margaret Atwood fans and I think readers new to her work might enjoy it as a starting point because it's a simple but fascinating read. Nothing complicated, no morals as such. It's purely a story about family life. This edition doesn't say that it's a series of stories on the front whilst others do. Therefore if you want a complete novel I'd select something else. Whilst it isn't short stories as such, in that the same characters keep surfacing; the stories are complete units of life. Having said this, they all link together somehow.

Short enough to read in one sitting or spread out longer depending on how much you like to take in or deliberate as you're reading. Having finished this I could easily go straight on to another book by her which is testament to how different each of her books are; usually I'd have to have a break in between authors.

Well worth reading!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fragments of memory 5 Feb 2010
Margaret Atwood is my go-to girl when I want to read a book I know will be good. This is a structure I'm interested in--interconnected short stories. Together, they have an overarching theme and arc, but they're complete each in their own right.

Moral Disorder at first glance seems almost haphazard. There's a story set in contemporary times, an d then an ancestor of that main character voices the rest of the collection. The stories weave their way through the decades, from the 30s to the present day. Nell describes her aimless vagabond youth, where she traveled from city to city, never able to settle down. When she finally does settle down, it's in a creaky old farmhouse in the Canadian countryside with another woman's husband. She grows and develops through the story, although she's always a slightly sad, pitiful character.

The stories have an odd feeling to them...whimsical or dreamy, perhaps? They're like memories, with flashes of vivid details, and others that are hazy. Sometimes the endings snap to a close, or they fade and fizzle.

It's a story about family history. Usually, I find those boring. But Atwood writes so well that she could write about the history of carp migrations and I would probably read it.
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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moral Disorder. 6 Feb 2007
'Moral Disorder' has an interesting structure - it's not quite a novel, but nor is it a collection of short stories. Perhaps it's best described as a fictional life story told in bursts, some in the first person, some in the second. We follow the central female character from early childhood through adolescence through marriage to older age, with the plight of her mentally ill sister hovering in the background.

From a purely plot-based point of view, 'Moral Disorder' isn't especially original or exciting, although Atwood's decision to make the central character's most important relationship a controversial one (she is her husband's second wife, before that his live-in partner and prior to that a mistress - all in the 1970s) is interesting. It is all told in Margaret's wonderful poetic style and fans will not be disappointed, although newcomers to her work may be better off with a more traditionally planned novel.
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