Friday, March 18, 2011
Hate traps us by binding us too tightly to our adversary.
Beautiful little buds in the Autumn. St Johns Park, New Town. March 2011.
Surfacing is Margaret Atwood’s second published novel. Like a lot of Atwood’s work, it tackles notions of national and gendered identity, with a strong environmental theme. Plot-wise, we join a woman – who is never named – returning to her hometown in rural-Quebec to try and find her reclusive father who has gone missing. Without giving to much away, we explore the notion of ‘the past’ and experience her decent ‘wildness’ and madness.
However, the mental disintegration of an already unreliable narrator presents a tough ask of the reader. Initially ‘flaky’, our unnamed protagonist's mental reasoning deteriorates sharply and enters a full-blown psychosis. Atwood constructs this in the first person, through monologues and the experience of action through the lens of the protagonist. While this allows for a thorough portrayal of a mind 'undoing itself', it doesn’t half make a tricky read on the Glenorchy express!
The book works, but you would be forgiven for confusing the narrator’s mental breakdown with an inconsistent plot and underdeveloped characterisation. Not for the faint-hearted but if you’re looking for a challenge you could do worse…