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Bluebeard's Egg (1998)

Bluebeard's Egg (1998)

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3.73 of 5 Votes: 5
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0385491042 (ISBN13: 9780385491044)

About book Bluebeard's Egg (1998)

I'll start off by admitting that I'm a great fan of Atwood's writing but absolutely cannot stand her as a person. This being her earlier work I expected to run into some of the vitriolic, man-hating feminism of hers that I can't tolerate. However, I only came to heads with her a couple of times. I found this collection quite satisfying. Due to my opinion of the author feel free to read my following comments with interest, amusement or offense. These are the thoughts that ran through my mind after reading each story.A couple of the stories were previously published, but the copyright page gives no further details.1. Significant Moments in the Life of My Mother - The narrator reminisces about the stories her mother used to tell about her own childhood between the wars. The mother is a wonderful storyteller but, even though the stories are told dramatically and humorously I noticed that each one was really in some way unpleasant. There is talk of what life was like back then when men were men and women were ladies. There is some deeper feminist significance to this that I won't go into. Overall, a very engaging historical fiction. (5/5)2. Hurricane Hazel - No time is given, but it felt like the fifties to me here as the narrator describes the year she was 14 and had her first boyfriend, a 17yo mechanic. She doesn't have any feelings for him or dating in particular, but does all the things that she feels are expected of her at this stage of her life. It is an innocent relationship that the rather mediocre boy feels will eventually lead to permanence but our narrator never sees it as being anything more that a way to spend her time. A well-written tale I enjoyed reading, with an always rather morose feeling hanging over it. (5/5)3. Loulou; or, The Domestic Life of the Language - This is a character study of a woman of undetermined age, possibly 40, still good looking in a muscular, earthy way. She is a potter and lives in a cottage with five men: her ex-husband, three ex-lovers, and her current husband; all of them poets. A lot of wordplay goes on amongst this group of people, but Loulou does start to wonder if she needs to move on and experiments with this when she hires a local village man to be her accountant. I think Loulou strings the men along, got what she wanted from them but was not scheming in any way; there was some innocence in her subduction. An interesting peek inside a strange family unit. (4/5)4. Uglypuss - A depressing tale about a woman scorned. Told from the man's perspective we can take him to be an unreliable narrator but towards the end the woman takes over the narrative and both of them prove they were/are in a dysfunctional relationship. Well-written of course. I don't like Atwood's version of feminism, it doesn't work on me. Here I found the man to be a jerk but the woman was a crack-pot (of her own doing, not by his.) (3/5)5. Betty - The story of a devoted wife and her charismatic husband who inevitably ends up leaving her for his secretary. An unreliable narration from a woman who knew her as a child and final sentiments on the callousness of all cheating men. A well-paced, well-written story but I disliked both the man and woman and couldn't have cared less. (3/5)6. Bluebeard's Egg - The titular story of this collection is the longest one so far but is a very fast read. The story flowed very quickly and kept me engrossed. It is a strange tale though. Told by an unreliable narrator, the wife; she starts off talking about her husband and how "stupid" and simple-minded he is up to the point where we think he may be mentally challenged she then discloses he is a heart surgeon. Then she goes on with her story telling how much she loves this man she has been with for quite some time and how endearing his naive and childish character are to her until one day she suspects he might just possibly have been unfaithful to her. Then she has the audacity to say her husband must have been putting on an act and deluding her all these years! A very unlikeable woman indeed! Nevertheless, an engrossing story. (4/5)7. Spring Song of the Frogs - This is quite depressing, but I like depressing. Told from a man's perspective but not in the first person. We get to know him a bit through three separate occasions. First he is on a first date with some expectations but when he catches the woman looking at herself in the glass of a picture behind him he can't wait for it to be over. Then he visits his niece who is in the hospital with anorexia nervosa. Finally, an old lover visits him for a dinner date at his house. There is a theme of thin, sickly women; this man wanting love but not knowing how to find it and finally his probability of having found it once with the ex-lover but not seizing the moment and now it's too late. (4/5)8. Scarlet Ibis - This is my favourite story so far. Narrated by a woman who is on a vacation with her husband and youngest, preschool, child in Trinidad because the husband is "under pressure" and "needs rest". She complains a lot about their relationship; of how the husband is irritable and she feels invisible. Being an Atwood story and the way previous relationship stories have turned out in this collection, it is a nice surprise to see them encounter a crisis which ends up revealing to the woman that marriages can have patterns of ups and downs over time. (5/5)9. The Salt Garden - I think I liked this even better than the last story. Very complicated relationships going on here. First of all the narrator, Alma, has visions of the nuclear explosion (this was written during the Cold War), she also fantasizes about how she and her daughter would survive the end of the world as we know it. Meanwhile, Alma is having an affair with her own husband, as he secretly slips out to meet her away from the girlfriend he is living with. At the same time, Alma has a lover, whom she cares for deeply and her husband knows about. Ultimately Alma would be perfectly happy if things could stay the way the way they were forever. She likes having two men, but being the realist and doomsayer she is she knows they will eventually want change one way or another, or their other women will force it. What Alma fails to realize is that each man is hinting, gently implying that they want her, only her, but she mistakes these gentle proddings of the men trying to discover her true feelings for them as signs that they intend to break off with her. She is a negative person who seems to like having the constant threat of doom hanging over, but she isn't unlikable. An interesting story, to say the least! (5/5)10. The Sin Eater - Another story I enjoyed. Somewhat different from the rest. A woman is telling us about her interactions with her therapist/psychiatrist (it's never really made clear). He eventually tells her the story of the sin eaters in Wales from long ago who would eat a meal upon the coffin of the deceased. I liked the therapist's methods and his attitude: Life sucks so we must find a way to deal with/cope with it rather than the common attitude of shrinks who say well life is what it is, this is what's wrong with you, now you must change or adjust. Joseph is an interesting man, nice, I liked him but in the end we wonder if he was using his patients for his own therapy. (5/5)11. The Sunrise - A very readable story but I can only take away from it how incredibly sad and alone this woman is. I didn't really have feelings for her as a real person. (3/5)12. Unearthing Suite - This is a relaxing, harmonious story with a theme of communing with nature. Not heavy-handed or really even eco-centred, mainly of living off the land from pure want. The narrator is the daughter of a couple; the wife is always on the move, agile, outdoorsy while the husband is some sort of biologist (scientist or teacher) that is never made clear, but he lives outdoors continuously at awe with the minute wonders of plant and small animal life. The daughter grew up this way, but she is inactive, a watcher her whole life. She sees herself continuing to live this way but questions will she be able to make the move from bystander to participant? A pleasant, atmospheric mood to end this collection. (4/5)

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.

Do You like book Bluebeard's Egg (1998)?

I normally don't like short stories. With the exception of horror stories, which don't really require it, I dislike them because there's so little characterization. You get a few pages to learn all you can about a person, and then it just cuts off. I want miles and miles of information about a person; their thoughts and habits and dreams and flaws and all the good stuff that makes me want to read a story. Margaret Atwood is such a talented writer that she creates the opposite problem for me. She manages to squeeze so much about a person into just a few short pages that they don't even feel like short stories. They feel like the beginnings of a novel that I would love to read, if she would write just a little more!Bluebeard's Egg contains a variety of stories, mostly about women and their inner lives. I still prefer novels in general, but I was very impressed by Atwood's ability to pack so much into such a small format. I plan to seek out her other short story collections a result.

If you're a woman, and you're having a shitty relationship with a man, this book will either depress the hell out of you or it will make you feel better to know that someone else knows how it feels to be a woman in a shitty relationship.But not every story was centered around relationships between women and men. "Significant Moments in the Life of My Mother" and "Unearthing Suite" focus on parents seen through the eyes of their progeny. It's interesting to note how the entire book which largely deals with women and their relationships with men, is sandwiched between two stories that deal with parents. There's definitely a sense of a generation gap when you compare stories. In "Unearthing Suite," the parents have their relationship down. They're together. They make it work. The rest of the stories reflect how shitty relationships between men and women are at present. These stories are harsh and brutal, almost agonizing to read. "Uglypuss" and "Bluebeard's Egg" in particular deal with unfaithful men and their betrayal of their relationships with their significant others. In "Uglypuss," I was thinking it was awesome how Becka was seeking her revenge, but at the same time, it wasn't. It was sad and terrible how it really turned out. "The Sunrise" was probably my favorite of all the stories. I think I relate to this one the most. Yvonne's an independent female artist who has become so disillusioned with men that she can't love anymore. She just doesn't have the energy. She keeps a razor blade in her paintbox. Her landlords speculate about her personal life. It's really nothing what they imagine.Margaret Atwood is a stellar writer and this book pulls you into the sights, sounds, and scents of cottages in the woods or disordered urban apartments. I would only say that the stories, while beautiful, are also a bit of a downer (or at least most of them are). Atwood deeply understands with the utmost sensitivity the disappointment and heartache of failed relationships and the lapse in communication between people. Writing with this much depth of perception, she must have had many personal experiences of her own.

Bluebeard's Egg / 0-385-49104-2This collection of Atwood stories includes:- Significant Moments in the Life of my Mother- Hurricane Hazel- Loulou- Uglypuss- Betty- Bluebeard's Egg- Spring Song of the Frogs- Scarlet Ibis- The Salt Garden- The Sin Eater- The Sunrise- Unearthing SuiteMost of the stories revolve around the superb Atwood device of women in comfortable, "correct" lives, yet who are unbearably sad and alone. Many of these women have relationships outside of themselves - husbands, lovers, mothers, children - yet, they do not have anyone with whom they truly connect with. Though they devote much of their time, energy, and life to caring for the needs of others, no one else cares for their own needs, particularly their emotional needs.However, Atwood does not limit herself purely to emotionally bereft women - "Uglypuss" tells the story of a disintegrating relationship from both the male and female points of view, and manages to make the reader both sympathetic and non-sympathetic to both parties. This sort of literary skill is highly rare and must be experienced to be believed. The trip is not always enjoyable - many of these stories exude a profound sense of loss and sadness - but it is meaningful and worthwhile.~ Ana Mardoll
—Ana Mardoll

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