Surfacing

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Surfacing

by Margaret Atwood
Afterword by Marie-claire Blais

McClelland & Stewart | September 15, 1994 | Mass Market Paperbound

5 out of 5 rating. 1 Reviews
Part detective novel, part psychological thriller, Surfacing is the story of a young woman who returns to northern Quebec, to the remote island of her childhood, with her lover and two friends, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of her father. Flooded with memories, she begins to realize that going home means entering not only another place, but another time. As the wild island exerts its elemental hold and she is submerged in the language of the wilderness, she discovers that what she is really searching for is her own past. Permeated with an aura of suspense, complex with layered meanings, and written in brilliant, diamond-sharp prose, Surfacing has grown in reputation as a novel unique in modern literature for its mythic exploration of one woman's spiritual pilgrimage.


From the Hardcover edition.

Format: Mass Market Paperbound

Dimensions: 200 Pages, 3.94 × 6.69 × 0.39 in

Published: September 15, 1994

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0771098995

ISBN - 13: 9780771098994

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Surfacing

Surfacing

by Margaret Atwood
Afterword by Marie-claire Blais

Format: Mass Market Paperbound

Dimensions: 200 Pages, 3.94 × 6.69 × 0.39 in

Published: September 15, 1994

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0771098995

ISBN - 13: 9780771098994

Read from the Book

CHAPTER ONE   I can’t believe I’m on this road again, twisting along past the lake where the white birches are dying, the disease is spreading up from the south, and I notice they now have sea-planes for hire. But this is still near the city limits; we didn’t go through, it’s swelled enough to have a bypass, that’s success.   I never thought of it as a city but as the last or first outpost depending on which way we were going, an accumulation of sheds and boxes and one main street with a movie theatre, the itz, the oyal, red R burnt out, and two restaurants which served identical grey hamburger steaks plastered with mud gravy and canned peas, watery and pallid as fisheyes, and french fries bleary with lard. Order a poached egg, my mother said, you can tell if it’s fresh by the edges.   In one of those restaurants before I was born my brother got under the table and slid his hands up and down the waitress’s legs while she was bringing the food; it was during the war and she had on shiny orange rayon stockings, he’d never seen them before, my mother didn’t wear them. A different year there we ran through the snow across the sidewalk in our bare feet because we had no shoes,  they’d worn out during the summer. In the car that time we sat with our feet wrapped in blankets, pretending we were wounded. My brother said the Germans shot our feet off.   Now though I’m in another car, David&rsquo
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From the Publisher

Part detective novel, part psychological thriller, Surfacing is the story of a young woman who returns to northern Quebec, to the remote island of her childhood, with her lover and two friends, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of her father. Flooded with memories, she begins to realize that going home means entering not only another place, but another time. As the wild island exerts its elemental hold and she is submerged in the language of the wilderness, she discovers that what she is really searching for is her own past. Permeated with an aura of suspense, complex with layered meanings, and written in brilliant, diamond-sharp prose, Surfacing has grown in reputation as a novel unique in modern literature for its mythic exploration of one woman's spiritual pilgrimage.


From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa in 1939, and grew up in northern Quebec and Ontario, and later in Toronto. She has lived in numerous cities in Canada, the U.S., and Europe.

She is the author of more than thirty books - novels, short stories, poetry, literary criticism, social history, and books for children.

Atwood's work is acclaimed internationally and has been published around the world. Her novels include The Handmaid's Tale and Cat's Eye - both shortlisted for the Booker Prize; The Robber Bride; Alias Grace, winner of the prestigious Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy, and a finalist for the Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; and The Blind Assassin, winner of the Booker Prize and a finalist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her new novel is Oryx and Crake (2003). She is the recipient of numerous honours, such as The Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence in the U.K., the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature in the U.S., Le Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France, and she was the first winner of the London Literary Prize. She has received honorary degrees from universities across Canada, and one from Oxford University in England.

Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto with novelist Graeme Gibson.


From the Hardcover edition.

From Our Editors

From the island Quebec cabin where she spent her childhood, a nameless twenty-something woman searches for her father. Despite the company of her lover and friends, these days are painful and excruciatingly lonely. Unbeknownst to them, the truth about her own life is surfacing inside her. Powerful and often frightening, this haunting quest for self is Margaret Atwood's second novel.

Editorial Reviews

“One of the most important novels of the twentieth century…utterly remarkable.” – New York Times Book Review “Atwood probes emotions with X-ray precision. All in all, it’s an exhilarating performance.” – Globe and Mail “A brilliant tour-de-force.” – Winnipeg Free Press “Atwood’s powers of observation are disconcertingly acute, combining an ear for the vernacular with an eye for the jugular.” – Time “The depth and complexity of Atwood’s critique of contemporary society are stunning.” – Ms . “It is excellent in so many ways that one cannot begin to do justice to it in a review. It has to be read and experienced.” –Margaret Laurence, Quarry “Margaret Atwood is one of the most intelligent and talented writers to set herself the task of deciphering life in the late twentieth century.” – Vogue “In this disturbing book, Margaret Atwood has written a fascinating, sometimes frightening novel about our Canadian landscape, about our paranoia, about what we are and what we are becoming.…Astonishing.” – Edmonton Journal “ Surfacing is likely the best piece of fiction produced by Atwood’s generation in North America or anywhere.” – Canadian Forum “[Atwood is] a superb storyteller who brings intelligence and wit to bear in a compelling personal vision.” – Toronto Star “It
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Bookclub Guide

1. Throughout the novel, we never learn the name of our narrator. Why might Atwood choose anonymity for her heroine?

2. This novel is replete with dis- and re-appearances: fathers vanish, babies are lost, marriages erode, long-banished memories return, pregancies occur. Discuss the implications of disappearing and reappearing.

3. Our narrator frequently refers to herself as an "accomplice": to the killing of the fish, to the accruing of "random samples" for the film. Over the course of the novel, she not only ceases her collusion but also becomes an active saboteur. What catalyzes this shift?

4. Early in the novel, the narrator attempts to draw clear battle lines: men versus women, the city versus the country, the Americans versus Canadians. In time, however, many of these opposing camps blur together: supposed Americans are revealed to be Canadians, Anna shifts her allegiance and sides with the men. What is the result of these new alliances?

5. The narrator must literally dive into the lake in order to dredge the swamp of her memory and recover her buried past. Throughout the novel, the lake serves as both a literal and symbolic centerpiece. Discuss its role and importance.

6. What can we see from the novel''s discussion of "truth" or "lies?"

7. What clues in the novel suggest that the narrator is struggling to supress memories of an abortion?

8. What role does the discovery of her father''s drawings play in her ability, as a daughter and as a fellow artist, to understand his life better?

9. Each of the two couples employ different strategies for wounding and communicating with one another. Do relationship strategies differ more on gender lines or from couple to couple? What are the distinctive strategies employed by each couple/person?

10. Does the heroine remain a reliable narrator throughout? Do her perceptions ever deviate from reality? At what point, if ever, do you discount her version of reality?

11. Does your opinion of Joe alter as the novel progresses?

12. Our heroine describes her habitual process of observing, memorizing, and copying emotions she has seen in others in lieu of having actual feeling herself. Discuss.

13. What is the role of animals in the novel? The role of technology?

14. In describing childhood games of hide and seek in the forest, the narrator recalls her fear "that what would come out when you called would be someone else". When she later escapes into the forest, she does in fact emerge transformed. What happens on her odyssey?

15. Consider this final manifesto: "This above all, to refuse to be a victim . . . I have to recant, give up the old belief that I am powerless." Does a shift in self-perception have the power to reverse one''s destiny? What factors determine who is and is not a victim? What gives her the power to break free?

Discussion questions provided courtesy of Anchor Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. All rights reserved.

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