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Surfacing [Paperback]

Margaret Atwood
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 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 + Alias Grace
Price For All Three: 20.57

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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: 12.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 106,179 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

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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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25 of 28 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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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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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars STODGY AND CRUSHINGLY DULL 25 Nov 2011
Didn't enjoy this book at all - it was a monumental chore to read. I think I understood the premise of the book but did not get any insights into life from reading it. I appreciate that I didn't "get it" when some reviewers on this site did "get it" - but regardless I still considered it to be a particularly dull read. I am so tired of having to figure books out so that I "get them". Books should be enjoyed and be uplifting, and even enlightening. But this? Naw - it was none of those things.

I did not believe that anything was going to happen and I was right - apart from the heroine having a back to nature evening where she ran around naked pretending she was a wolf - or some wolfy type animal. That was all a bit alarming. But she hears a boat and eventually sorts her head out and gets her knickers back on.

What was most depressing was that all of the characters were distasteful,drab and meanspirited. Even our wolf lady lacked empathy and any emotional connection. But I think this was something to do with an abortion that was forced upon her. There was references throughout to her erstwhile husband - so there was a bit of throw-back psychobabble to spice things up. But not enough to hang your hat on, or your silky wolf ears.

Okay - so this book was a statement of something - and it was worthy on that account - but not sure I grasped what that statement was supposed to be - and I am not that interested to "work it all out". Perhaps it's: get back to nature - run around like a wolf for a night - and then resurface as a re-born creature.

Glad when it ended. I did feel that the author wsa trying a little bit to hard to come across as a fine writer - and it all got very stylised.

Not a lot I wish to add to this - which in itself speaks volumes.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars So Much Lies Beneath The Surface 25 Jun 2010
By Simon Savidge Reads TOP 500 REVIEWER
`Surfacing' was Margaret Atwood's second novel released way back in 1972 and has become something of a cult classic particularly in her homeland of Canada. It tells of an unnamed narrator whose father has disappeared and who has come back to her homeland, a place she visits as rarely as possible, in order to try and find out what has happened to him. She doesn't come alone but with two close friends, a married couple, Anna and David and her first lover since her divorce Joe. It's in part the divorce and the shame her family feel that has kept her away though in truth she hates the city she resides in now as much as where she came from.

During her stay in her former childhood home, which is a remote island on a large lake in Northern Quebec and is beautifully drawn for the reader, she inevitably looks back in a mixture of nostalgic joy and regret at her childhood and those formulative years. She then starts to take a greater look at herself, why she only seems to coast in life slightly aimless and never truly contented. That's at least what you get on the initial surface of the book and yet being Atwood there is so much more to it. It's a look at what it was to be a woman in Canada after the war and we don't just see one view, we also get glimpses into Anna's `happy marriage'. It's a book about nature and what impact it has on the people we are. It's also about discovery, or rediscovery, of oneself.

It's a small book with a huge amount to say but Atwood is a true master of getting the most out of a sentence and will produce gems like "that was before we were married and I still listened to what he said" a simple line that conjures up a situation and mood in just those words. She also has the same knack with characters.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
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 17 days ago by Shirley Morley
1.0 out of 5 stars Pointless, dull, baffling and with dislikeable characters - great...
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. Read more
Published 10 months ago by BookWorm
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 10 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 11 months ago by Mr. David Mason
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing
Just started reading - could have been written the other day. Very fresh thoughtfully written ...... who needs to read more
Published 12 months ago by simmy
2.0 out of 5 stars Dated, unsubtle, and occasionally boring
I have read many but by no means all of Margaret Atwood's novels over the years starting with The Handmaid's Tale (1985) which I studied at A Level in 1999 and followed by Alias... Read more
Published on 4 Feb 2012 by R. A. Davison
5.0 out of 5 stars life-changing
I first read Surfacing at University in 1992 and it was highly influential. It put into words much of how I felt as a woman at the time. Read more
Published on 31 July 2011 by atypicalpen
2.0 out of 5 stars Tries too hard
I am a big Atwood fan, but this is the first of her books I've disliked.

Surfacing is centred around a young woman who has returned to her family home in order to find... Read more
Published on 22 July 2011 by Rebecca
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking poetry
How to review this wonderfully poetic book? It is not so much the story of a period of days in a young woman's life as the story of life itself. Read more
Published on 21 Aug 2010 by Anthony Peter Swallow
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book.
This was my first experience of Atwood, bought on a whim after a vague recommendation, and I was not entirely sure what to expect. Read more
Published on 6 Aug 2009 by T. Boardman
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