Thursday, June 01, 2006

Lady Oracle – Margaret Atwood (1976)

The third Margaret Atwood I’m reading after Handmaid’s Tale and Bluebeard’s Egg, it has lived upto my expectations. When I started the novel I didn’t expect it to hold my attention for long – I was sure that one author couldn’t possibly churn out novel after novel, all of which would succeed in pulling me into the intricate mesh of its plot, make my chuckle, smile, shed the occasional tear…feel. Margaret Atwood is apparently a pro at that, for when I finally did give Lady Oracle the attention it deserved, I devoured it in one sitting, one long cozy Sunday afternoon.

If Handmaid’s Tale sent shivers down my back, and Bluebeard’s Egg captured my imagination, Lady Oracle took me spinning along the fantastic world of Joan Foster, a closet-writer and bored wife of a confused communist. Going back and forth in time, the novel traces Joan’s life right from her strange, lonely childhood, her love-hate relationship with her own body/image to her adult life, her love life and her career. Her trysts with blackmailing reporters, strange lovers, a serious literary career in place of her more successful career as a Costume-Gothic novelist, not only gripped my attention, but had me chuckling and yes, at times, even rolling with laughter. And yet, the novel isn't meer candy floss material - there lies beneath the main text a very obvious subtext with a very obvious feminist text and a tongue-in-cheek parody of literary forms and hence literary snobbery. (But then, that's evident, since this is an Atwood oeuvre we're discussing!) Atwood’s descriptions are par excellence, the way she twists the plot is sheer genius – there isn’t a single moment in the book where I could predict what would happen next, and definitely not even a nano-second when ennui could possibly set in vis-à-vis the narrative.

The Globe and Mail says in its review:-
“Read it for its gracefulness, for its good story, and for its help with your fantasy life.”

Read it for all that – but read it mainly for Atwood’s genius!