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Surfacing [Paperback]

Margaret Atwood
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Sep 1997
A young woman returns to northern Quebec to the remote island of her childhood, with her lover and two friends, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of her father. Flooded with memories, she begins to realise that going home means entering not only another place but another time. As the wild island exerts its elemental hold and she is submerged in the language of the wilderness, she sees that what she is really looking for is her own past.

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Surfacing + The Edible Woman + Cat's Eye
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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (1 Sep 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0860680649
  • ISBN-13: 978-0860680642
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 50,389 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


Utterly absorbing and satisfying (Sunday TIMES)

One of the most important novels of the twentieth century...utterly remarkable (New York TIMES)

A deep understanding of human behaviour (Marilyn French)

A novelist and poet of great gifts (GUARDIAN)

Book Description

Atwood's second novel, hailed by the New York Times as 'one of the most important novels of the twentieth century'.

An exceptional novel from the winner of the 2000 Booker Prize

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Absorbing Depths of Surfacing 5 Mar 2002
A first-person narrative of a woman diseffected by the casual destructive savagery of humanity, Surfacing is essential and thought-provoking reading, though probably too subtle and bleak to find itself listed among Atwood's more famous and popular novels.
In flight from the dreary confines of human conventions and institutions, the protagonist is slowly 'becoming-animal' as she becomes enchanted with the natural order of the wild. It is a narrative that would appeal to any fans of Angela Carter's lycanthrope (werewolf) stories, as Atwood attempts to express the appeal of being beast (of feeling properly alive) rather than merely subsisting, dulled & compromised, in the hollow roles society offers us.
The narrative is vivid, politics and personalities are easily familiar to us - though they are never one-dimensional or stereotypical - which is important because we are meant to empathise with how the protagonist becomes estranged from her companions as well as civilisation.* They are to read her 'sortie' as her going mad, we are to understand the reasons for her outlook and for her breakdown and withdrawl into the wilderness.
This is an accessible but serious novel you'd probably want to purchase for someone who has already read one or two of the more celebrated Atwood titles - but in time it will stand out as one of the most evocative and satisfying...
(* Note: this isn't in any way to imply that 'Surfacing' is somehow a cross between 'The Good Life' and 'Grizzly Adams'!!)
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow and powerful. 10 Oct 2003
The story of a Canadian woman, newly divorced and returning to her family home to explore her past and future isn't the first thing I'd run to read. However, I'm very glad I acquired this book and read it cover to cover. I found the beginning of the story slow and confusing - it felt to me as though the first three chapters that another author might include, had been chopped away to land the reader straight away at the point of important story flow.
As I read on I found myself slightly exasperated at the pace, and the bewilderment I felt, trying to work everything out at once. This may well say more about me as a reader than the book, though! But by the end I was completely hooked and reread the last few pages because it was SUCH a satisfying ending. It's not especially neat - you won't be told what the characters will be doing for the next two hundred years. But that's not the style of this anyway - and I don't care to know! The plot for the 'heroine' was sufficiently resolved and I came away from this book calm, impressed and ready to read some of Atwood's other books which previously I've sidled round as "a bit hard". Well-worth the time spent on reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Less than satisfactory..... 8 Sep 2014
In Margaret Atwood’s second novel she explores themes of separation and loss. A young unnamed woman returns to the family cabin in northern Quebec in search of her father who has been reported missing. As she looks for clues about her missing father past memories arise and begin to fill her thoughts. Gradually she is driven into a psychological meltdown as she attempts to become at one with the environment.

On the whole I found this novel less than satisfactory. Parts were so subtle I had a job working out exactly what was happening. The best parts were those dealing with the relationships between the main character and her lover, Joe and their friends Anna and Dave. Dave in particular was a finely drawn individual whose misogyny and extreme nationalism were unbearable. Margaret Atwood is particularly good when describing bullying. The scene when Dave inveigles Anna to strip off for the camera is really disturbing. (In Cat’s Eye she further explores bullying between children quite brilliantly)

The ending was very disappointing – very much a cop-out!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic exploration of canadian identity 13 Aug 2009
I love this novel as it explores Canadian identity through a poetic use of prose. Nothing really happens but its just a pleasurable read. The central character gets in touch with the wild and undergoes a mental breakdown and as she gets more confused so does the narration.I think as this deals with ecofeminism then this book would certainly appeal to women.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book (on hindsight) 2 Feb 2007
By Lydia
I also read this book during my English A-Level studies. I have to agree that it is a hard book to understand but, now that a few years has lapsed since I read it, I do still think back to it and understand it more now.

This book is about a woman (who purposefully remains nameless) who is visiting her parents home after the disappearance of her father. Once there she starts to go through a delayed grieving process. On the surface it would seem that she is going crazy, however this is simply not the case.

I acknowledge that I wouldn't have understood the basics of this book had I not studied it but I would certainly say that this is a book that one can appreciate, I loved it.
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This book will shake you to its core. It is intense and might be too much for some readers as the female leads thought processes and consequent actions are a bit extreme, but how can we go through life without ever exploding or in this case imploding? Well done, one of my favourite books of all times!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By BookWorm TOP 500 REVIEWER
Throughout this book I kept reminding myself that this is a Margaret Atwood, and I like Margaret Atwood. She's written some great books. So I hung on, expecting it to get better. But it didn't. 'Surfacing' is told in the first person present tense, in almost unbearable detail. The language is clever and full of wordplay and imagery, but that can't really disguise the fact it's talking about lighting stoves and brushing hair and pretty mundane stuff. Even Atwood can't make this kind of minutely detailed tedium interesting to read for so long. It's also oddly narrated. The protagonist is an unreliable narrator, contradicting herself and veering at times into pretty weird territory. She constantly alludes to past events that are never properly explained and are difficult to follow. The narrative flicks from present to reminiscence with very little to alert the reader, which is disorientating. I spent a lot of the book irritated and confused.

One of the biggest problems for me with this book was the characters. They are possibly the most dislikeable bunch I've come across in a book for some time. And the narrator herself is not only unlikeable, but unknowable. By the end I felt I knew less about her than I did at the beginning. Nothing she did made sense. It's an incredibly introspective book, and perhaps someone who loves deep explorations of the human psyche would find something to enjoy here. But I just found it tedious and nonsensical. I lost all interest in the character and her bizarre behaviour, once I'd given up hope of it being properly explained. I got to the end of the book and I couldn't understand what the point was. It had told me nothing, revealed nothing, and gone nowhere.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars great writing. not some one you'd warm to in ...
hard going. great writing. not some one you'd warm to in real life.
Published 1 day ago by drew bridge
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 19 days ago by julietsmith
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
bit of a boring period in this excellent author's work
Published 1 month ago by Sigrun Huld Thorgrimsdottir
4.0 out of 5 stars I'm never sure if I actually like Margaret Atwood's work
I'm never sure if I actually like Margaret Atwood's work, but this is certainly a story that stays with you. Read more
Published 2 months ago by mandy whyman
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good quality. Fast delivery
Published 3 months ago by mrs paula rawlinson
2.0 out of 5 stars Weird and not too interesting
I had to read this for uni, and I found myself disappointed. Although the ending is interesting (to say the least), the majority of the book is, in my opinion, badly written and... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Charlotte Coles
2.0 out of 5 stars Was I missing something ?
I am a fan of Margaret Atwood and have read several of her books and thoroughly enjoyed them. (I've read 'The Edible Woman ' at least three times). Read more
Published 5 months ago by Joanna Brock
4.0 out of 5 stars Book was delivered very quickly.
This book has been well read but all the pages are still intact. Pages discoloured with age but still legible.
Published 7 months ago by Shirley Morley
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting....
Big fan of Atwood, in particular the two sci fi inspired novels. This is one of her earlier books set in an era of great change. Worth reading.
Published 17 months ago by H. A. Davey
5.0 out of 5 stars great book
I love this book. It is quite unsettling but draws you in, takes you down and keeps you there. It is uncomfortable in places and makes demands on you but the journey is worth it. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Mr. David Mason
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