An exceptional novel from the winner of the 2000 Booker Prize.
Elaine Risley, a painter, returns to Toronto to find herself overwhelmed by her past. Memories of childhood - unbearable betrayals and cruelties - surface relentlessly, forcing her to confront the spectre of Cordelia, once her best friend and tormentor, who has haunted her for forty years.
'Not since Graham Greene has a novelist captured so forcefully the relationship between school bully and victim... Atwood's games are played, exquisitely, by little girls.' - Listener.
About the Author
Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa in 1939. She is Canada's most eminent novelist and poet is the author of more than thirty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays. The Handmaid's Tale, Cat's Eye and Alias Grace have all been shortlisted for the Booker Prize and she has won many literary prizes in other countries. Her work has been translated into thirty-three languages. Her latest novel, The Blind Assassin won the 2000 Booker Prize.
Elaine Risley, a prominent artist, is in Toronto for a retrospective of her life's work. Alone in the city of her childhood, her past intrudes as memories involuntarily and intensely come to the surface. The novel becomes multi-layered as everything becomes 'drenched in time'. Elaine is haunted by her childhood bully, Cordelia, but in this captivating novel the essence of childhood becomes more complex than the power struggles of bully and victim. Both Cordelia and Elaine are shown to be victims - blame becomes slippery in a society that is bent on bettering the self. Atwood's protagonists internalize the ideologies of class and gender, and both suffer as these forces mis-shape and reduce their identities and instincts. Elaine falls into self-mutilation, as she fails to fit in, unsupported by her family, though they are loving, charming and eccentric. Convention denies her very essence as she cuts out magazine images of disembodied women and receives lifeless, unnaturally shaped dolls for Christmas. Her very identity becomes blurred, disembodied, as she cultivates her tendency to faint when it becomes too unbearable: 'My eyes are open, but I'm not there. I'm off to the side.' As adulthood gives Elaine self-knowledge and success as an artist, it is Cordelia who now becomes 'off to the side', disappearing as women do as their maiden names are discarded and they become harder to pinpoint. This is a powerful novel on childhood power struggles, placed in the bigger picture of adulthood, and again in the wider context of time and place - of post-World War II Canada, a country also divided in its identity. It is also a love story to the ambivalent bonds of family and friendship, and the revelations and release given by art. It is a story of the dysfunction in all humans haunted as always by bonds of guilt, love and loss. Atwood achieves heightened emotion in great distance - as Elaine sees herself as 'happy as a clam; hard shelled, firmly closed'. There is a darkness in opening up, in trusting, as Atwood shows us that we are all the victims of others, but worse than that, we are also the persecutors. (Kirkus UK)
Number Of Pages: 512
Published: 10th January 1996
Dimensions (cm): 19.7 x 12.5 x 3.2
Weight (kg): 0.4