If someone were to ask me to encapsulate Margaret Atwood’s writing style in three sentences or less, I would show them the first two lines of the first story in Bluebeard’s Egg:
“When my mother was very small, someone gave her a basket of baby chicks for Easter. They all died.”
BOOM. Welcome to Margaret Atwood, motherfuckers. You’re going to like it here. Oh, and happy Easter.
I’ve only read a few of Atwood’s short story collections, and I never find them quite as satisfying as her novels – I prefer it when she has a few hundred pages to fully explore her ideas and characters – but this collection was quite lovely. The stories are fairly long, so there are only twelve here (it made me kind of miss The Tent, which included stories that were less than a page long but still managed to pack a significant emotional punch). The title story was one of my favorites, as was the story that included the above line (“Significant Moments in the Life of My Mother”) and the one that followed it, “Hurricane Hazel.” I think I liked these two the most because, even if they weren’t fully autobiographical, they definitely felt like it, and I always like getting glimpses into Margaret Atwood’s formative years. Another good one is “Two Stories About Emma” which starts like this:
“There are some women who seem to be born without fear, just as there are people who are born without the ability to feel pain. The painless ones go around putting their hands on hot stoves, freezing their feet to the point of gangrene, scalding the linings of their throats with boiling coffee, because there is no warning anguish. Evolution does not favor them. So too perhaps with the fearless women, because there aren’t very many of them around. I myself have known only two.”
The writing is all beautiful, and also has little bits of unexpected humor to remind you that Atwood is actually really funny, as shown in these lines that are almost Dorothy Parker-esque:
“Religious people of any kind made her nervous; they were like men in raincoats who might or might not be flashers.”
“(Mort, on the other hand, introduced himself by asking if she knew that if you cut the whiskers off cats they would no longer be able to walk along fences, which should have been a warning of some kind to Alma, but was not.)”
All in all, a nice collection. Vintage, classic Atwood.