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3.8 out of 5 stars39
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 3 February 2006
I was bought this book as a present. I hadn't heard of it before, and so came to it with a (fairly) open mind (but I have loved all other Margaret Atwoods I have read).
It is an exploration of the gender divide and expectations on both men and women. It's set (and was written) in the 60's, and it can on occasion feel dated. However, as a woman born in the 70's it is interesting to see how far things have moved forward for women is such a relativly short time. This doesn't mean, however, that there are no lessons to be learnt. I found Marian's (the central charater of the book) need to appease all the men in her life something that I can still see in myself and my friends, even in this day and age!
I think that some people will be disappointed with this, on a plot and structure level. There is no doubt that it is not another 'Alias Grace'. But the symbolism and imagery used make it a satisfying read, especially for those with an interest in the growth and history of feminism.
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on 27 August 2005
I am an Atwood fanatic, so for my birthday I received this book. I really wanted to read it, being one of her earliest books. The book I must say is rather good, even if it does lack the intrigue of her other, later and some would argue (I being one of them) better books.
As usual, Atwood is engaging in her witty narrative. There is humour, irony, sarcasm and pathos which is hard to find in other writers. Marian, I found to be an extremely interesting character as did I find Ainsley, although I couldn't help compare her to Moira in the first few chapters.
Some reviewers have pined that there is little action in this novel, and whilst this is an understandable objection to the book, what would they think if they ever read Woolf? Like Woolf (and even Lawrence for that matter), the object is not so much plot but rather character development. We come to know the characters intimately, with Atwood employing both 1st person narrative then 2nd person narrative, and come to an understanding of the protaganist's, Marian, sentiments and actions. This book is not meant to be a thriller (for that read Da Vinci COde) but rather an exploration into the female mind in the context of marriage, relationships, guilt, fornification and feminism.
So, in short, not as good as say Alias Grace or the sublime Handmaid's Tale, but definitely worth a read.
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on 31 May 2000
Despite this being the last of Atwoods books I have read, I found it the most refreshing , if lacking in the seriousness of her latter works. It takes a witty magnifyed look at eating disorders, empty relationships and looks into the beauty of banality, from which buds a new, more real world. It is very much a coming of age book and an exploration of self realisation, where you see our main character fall out of love with the common ideal, and right into the boho life of another.Anyway I'll stop harping on about the plot, and just leave you to discover this amazing novel which left me with muchos satisfaction!
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on 24 February 2012
Although I consider Margaret Atwood one of my favourite authors, I had only previously read three of her 20 novels (which are but half of a body of work which includes, children's books, several volumes of poetry and a number of non-fiction works).

The Edible Woman was her first novel, published in 1969. It's main protagonist is Marian, a single woman in a changing, but male dominated, world. Unlike her single colleagues (the office virgins) or the older spinsters amongst whom she works, Marian is taken, and on the road to being engaged and married. This apparently conservative approach to life is contrasted by her flatmate, Ainsley (who wants a child but without the ties) whilst her future is envisaged in the form of another friend, Clara, who is married and pregnant with her third child.

All is not as it seems in her ideal world. As the novel progresses, Marian finds herself being torn between her future with Peter and a complicated relationship with Duncan, a student who remains un-named through much of the book. Her life changes out of it's routine and staid pattern becoming increasingly erratic as she is forced to confront what she really wants out of life.

This is a book of three parts - the first and third are written in the first person whilst the second is in the third person as Marian becomes somewhat detached from herself. I found I raced through the first part but that the book became less engaging in the second and as the novel went on - indeed, as Marian became more detached from her ideal life, I found myself becoming detached from engaging with the book.

It's a novel about identity and society, about love and expectation. About how our circumstances shape what society expects of us and how we, in turn, then choose to act. About how our expectations of life shape our behaviour and how our behaviour changes our expectations. Specifically, though (and in common with much of Atwood's work), it is a book about female identity; in particular, it is about individual feminine identity in a masculine world and the costs of asserting this against the grain of with societal norms.

In many ways it was a typical first novel - a good idea, and interesting structure, some grand themes and a great deal of promise but slightly disappointing execution. Whilst I would say I liked it, it's not on my list of books I love. I do anticipate I will re-read this at some point in the future - but only on account of it being an Atwood and not for its own sake.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 30 June 2009
Atwood's first novel is, unsurprisingly, not as accomplished as her more famous later works. It also feels rather dated. But her skill as a writer is already becoming apparent and it does improve as it goes along.

The principal character is a determinedly sensible young woman, Marian, who decides to give up her career in order to marry. This is contrasted with her rather radical flatmate, who decides she wants a baby without the added encumbrance of a husband.

Atwood conjures up the stifling dullness of Marian's life well - too well in fact. It makes for a rather stiff, slow read. The story improved a lot towards the end when more was happening. I found the characters hard to relate to - even though it is set only forty years ago, I felt I had more in common with the women in Austen or Dickens. It didn't help that none of the characters were particularly likeable.

The secondary storyline with Marian's flat mate was rather silly and far fetched. I found the character unbelievable and the fact that she got pregnant so easily, whilst not impossible, certainly improbable. I also found the three English student flatmate characters a bit unreal. Probably the best character was actually Peter, Marian's fiance. Whilst not a sympathetic character, at least he seemed real.

So not a bad read, but not a good one either, and one I'm already forgetting the details of. Readers familiar with Atwood's later works should lower their expectations. Readers coming to Atwood for the first time should not be put off trying some of her other, groundbreaking novels.
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on 21 November 2002
TEW is a novel of its time (1960's) where ideas on marriage are not quite the same as they are today. It is still interesting though to see how times have changed and this novel has an important place in fem lit.
What makes this more than just a study of male/female relations is Atwood's clever and amusing story- this is especially true in the portrayal of the three students. This is a very good story and appealing to both men and women- highly recommended.
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on 26 April 2014
This is the first Margaret Atwood book I ever read and I haven't found one since that I have enjoyed as much. To me it is very different to her other books; and I found it very funny and at times moving. I don't re-read many books, but this one I have.If you enjoy a good descriptive story then read this book!
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on 31 December 2014
This is the first Margaret Atwood novel I have read, I saw the name and picked it up in a charity shop. I would like to read her later novels. It was fascinating, but I don't think enjoy is the right word. Marian writes of herself in first person and then in third person in part two. But the whole way through she seems to be outside herself and surely that is the impression we are meant to get. There is no warmth in her relationship with either Peter or the distinctly odd and unattractive Duncan. As a teenager, a schoolfriend and I were horrified that her older sister was marrying someone 'boring', who we assumed she couldn't possibly be in love with; to us there seemed no worse fate. I guess this novel is trying to portray Marian's subconscious fear that she will fade away, what little personality she has, drained out by Peter's equal lack of personality.
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on 30 September 2006
I've been reading Margaret Atwood for 15 years now, and I have been so moved by so many of her books (Cat's Eye, Handmaid's Tale & Surfacing, to name a few). I'm pleased to say that this book has not disappointed in any way. It is absolutely masterful, almost erotic in places, full of symbolism and intent. It's classic Atwood and has me wanting to haul out all of my older books and re-read them. (And I don't often re-read books). It is amazing to see how much her writing has changed as she has grown older, but it is equally astonishing that I'm well into my 30's now and her books still have the same hold on me, no matter in which stage of her life she was writing them.

This is an important author, as much now as she was in the 70's. Read all of her books.
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on 7 May 2012
I came across this in a charity shop, and bought it based on previous enjoyment of Margaret Atwood's books (The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake). I read a few reviews on here before starting, which lowered my expectations quite a lot. However, I thought it was fantastic!! I just found it a really enjoyable read. It is so witty and intelligent. I loved the character of Duncan and his graduate student friends. I really liked that it was about the mundane and normal life of an average woman, but done so beautifully as to make it a really great read. I don't imagine that it is for everyone, but I definitely intend to read even more Atwood now.
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