Handmaid’s Tale was the first book by Margaret Atwood that I read, and as I posted in my review, I was a riveting work. As I resolutely put back a Peter Mayle and an André Gide I mentally crossed my prayers that I wouldn’t be disappointed by Bluebeard’s Egg. That this was a collection of short stories assured that I wouldn’t abandon the book mid-way, letting it languish uncompleted on my bookshelves because it failed to excite my literary palate.
I needn’t have worried, for I was hooked from the very first story and devoured the book quickly. The dozen short stories in the collection delivered in a distinctive Atwood style, captured my imagination, intellect (and yes, even feminist sensibility at times) with an easy élan. Themes ranged from childhood memories to the reality of the cruel adult world. Atwood successfully guides you along the journey of emotions that range from warm and nostalgic to faintly disturbing, from humorous to starkly horrifying.
As before, here is a random collection of excerpts from the collection, to tease your curiosity:-
“Some of these stories, it is understood are not to be passed onto my father, because they would upset him. It is well known that women can deal with this sort of thing better than men can. Men are not to be told anything they might find too painful; the secret depths of human nature, the sordid physicalities, might overwhelm or damage them…Men must be allowed to play in the sandbox of their choice, as happily as they can, without disturbance; otherwise they get cranky and won’t eat their dinners. There are all kinds of things that men are simply not equipped to understand, so why expect it of them?”
“She started out re-doing people’s closets, and has worked that up into her own interior design firm. She does the houses of the newly rich, those who lack ancestral furniture and the confidence to be shabby, and who wish their interiors to reflect a personal taste they do not in reality possess.
“What they want are mausoleums,” Marylynn says, “or hotels,” and she cheerfully supplies them. “Right down to the ash-trays. Imagine having someone else pick out your ash-trays for you.” ”
“Why an egg? From the night course in Comparative Folklore she took four years ago, she remembers that the egg can be a fertility symbol, or a necessary object in African spells, or something the word hatched out of. Maybe in this story it’s a symbol of virginity, and that why the wizard requires it unbloodied. Women with dirty eggs get murdered, those with clean ones get married” *
“Should civilization as we know it destroy itself, he informs us, ladling the gravy – as is likely, he adds – it will never be able to rebuild itself in its present form, since all available surface metals have long since been exhausted and the extraction of deeper ones is dependant upon metal technologies, which as you will remember, will have been demolished. There can never be another iron age, another bronze age; we will be stuck – if there is any we, which he doubts - with stone and bone, no good for aeroplanes and computers.”
The London Free Press says that this is “a book to be read and re-read, to be talked about and savoured.” I see no reason not to concur.
* Related reading to this statement, and ofcourse the Bluebeard fable - here