The Edible Woman

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The Edible Woman

by Margaret Atwood

McClelland & Stewart | October 5, 2010 | Trade Paperback |

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Marian has a problem. A willing member of the consumer society in which she lives, she suddenly finds herself identifying with the things being consumed. She can cope with her tidy-minded fiancé, Peter, who likes shooting rabbits. She can cope with her job in market research, and the antics of her roommate. She can even cope with Duncan, a graduate student who seems to prefer laundromats to women. But not being able to eat is a different matter. Steak was the first to go. Then lamb, pork, and the rest. Next came her incapacity to face an egg. Vegetables were the final straw. But Marian has her reasons, and what happens next provides an unusual solution. Witty, subversive, hilarious, The Edible Woman is dazzling and utterly original. It is Margaret Atwood's brilliant first novel, and the book that introduced her as a consummate observer of the ironies and absurdities of modern life.


From the Paperback edition.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 344 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.79 in

Published: October 5, 2010

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0771008848

ISBN - 13: 9780771008849

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– More About This Product –

The Edible Woman

The Edible Woman

by Margaret Atwood

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 344 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.79 in

Published: October 5, 2010

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0771008848

ISBN - 13: 9780771008849

Read from the Book

1     I know I was all right on Friday when I got up; if anything I was feeling more stolid than usual. When I went out to the kitchen to get breakfast Ainsley was there, moping: she said she had been to a bad party the night before. She swore there had been nothing but dentistry students, which depressed her so much she had consoled herself by getting drunk.   “You have no idea how soggy it is,” she said, “having to go through twenty conversations about the insides of peoples’ mouths. The most reaction I got out of them was when I described an abscess I once had. They positively drooled. And most men look at something besides your teeth , for god’s sake.”   She had a hangover, which put me in a cheerful mood – it made me feel so healthy – and I poured her a glass of tomato juice and briskly fixed her an Alka- Seltzer, listening and making sympathetic noises while she complained.   “As if I didn’t get enough of that at work,” she said. Ainsley has a job as a tester of defective electric toothbrushes for an electric toothbrush company: a temporary job. What she is waiting for is an opening in one of those little art galleries, even though they don’t pay well: she wants to meet the artists. Last year, she told me, it was actors, but then she actually met some. “It’s an absolute fixation. I expect they all carry those bent mirrors around in their coat pockets and peer int
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From the Publisher

Marian has a problem. A willing member of the consumer society in which she lives, she suddenly finds herself identifying with the things being consumed. She can cope with her tidy-minded fiancé, Peter, who likes shooting rabbits. She can cope with her job in market research, and the antics of her roommate. She can even cope with Duncan, a graduate student who seems to prefer laundromats to women. But not being able to eat is a different matter. Steak was the first to go. Then lamb, pork, and the rest. Next came her incapacity to face an egg. Vegetables were the final straw. But Marian has her reasons, and what happens next provides an unusual solution. Witty, subversive, hilarious, The Edible Woman is dazzling and utterly original. It is Margaret Atwood's brilliant first novel, and the book that introduced her as a consummate observer of the ironies and absurdities of modern life.


From the Paperback edition.

About the Author

MARGARET ATWOOD is the author of more than twenty-five books, including fiction, poetry, and essays. Her most recent works include the bestselling novels Alias Grace and The Robber Bride and the collections Wilderness Tips and Good Bones and Simple Murders. She lives in Toronto.

Editorial Reviews

“Articulate and sophisticated.…Extraordinarily witty, and full of ironic observation.…A tour de force.…” – Toronto Star “[Atwood is] one of the most intelligent and talented writers to set herself the task of deciphering life in the late twentieth century.” – Vogue “Remarkable.… The Edible Woman assumes the force of a banal dream that has turned, without the dreamer quite noticing, into a nightmare.…[It] conceals the kick of a perfume bottle converted into a Molotov cocktail.” – Time “Delightful – spare, precise, mordantly witty.…Exquisitely written.” – Journal of Canadian Fiction “[ The Edible Woman ] is chock-full of startling images, superbly and classically crafted.…” – Saturday Night “Few writers are able to combine wit and humour.…Margaret Atwood is a poet and novelist who seems to be able to do anything she wants.” – Newsweek “A pleasure.” – Kirkus Reviews “Funny, sharp, witty, clever.” – The Times (U.K.) “Marked by a keen eye for evocative details which cohere into vivid incidents.” – Canadian Forum “[Atwood is] a subtle and penetrating observer of relationships between men and women.” – Sunday Times (U.K.) “Reflections on marriage, guilt and the relationship between the sexes – classic Atwood territory.” – The Gua
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Bookclub Guide

1. Do you see a relationship between the kind of work Marian does in consumer research with the particular way her life begins to disintegrate?

2. Peter is afraid of being captured by a woman, of losing his freedom; Marian begins to feel hunted, caught in his gaze; eventually she even confuses his camera with a gun. In what ways can all the characters seem at once to be hunter then predator, master then slave, subject then object?

3. Two parties take place in the book, the office party and the engagement party. Discuss what these parties do for the structure and development of the novel.

4. Sexual identity lies at the heart of much of the story. Discuss the role Marian''s roommate Ainsley, her friend Claire, and finally the "office Virgins" play in helping define Marian''s dilemma. Discuss the men: Why is Marian drawn to Duncan? Contrast him with Peter.

5. The novel is narrated in first person in parts one and three, third person in part two. What is the effect on the reader of the change in voice?

6. Margaret Atwood has described The Edible Woman, her first novel, as an "anti-comedy," with themes many now see as proto-feminist. Give examples of Atwood''s clever use of food images throughout the book.

7. First Marian drops meat from her diet, then, eggs, vegetables, even pumpkin seeds. Can you point to the incidents that precede each elimination from her diet? How does her lack of appetite compare or contrast with Duncan''s unnatural thinness, his stated desire to become "an amoeba?"

8. What is the meaning of the cake Marian serves Peter at the novel''s end? What is the significance of her eating the cake?

9. Margaret Atwood is a writer who often plays with fair-tale images in her work. "The Robber Bridegroom" (which she much later turns on its head with The Robber Bride) was likely an inspiration for The Edible Woman: the old crone warns the bride-to-be " . . . the only marriage you''ll celebrate will be with death. . . . When they have you in their power they''ll chop you up in pieces . . . then they''ll cook you and eat you, because they are cannibals." What images of cannibalism does Atwood use? Do you see traces of other fairy tales in this novel?

10. At the time The Edible Woman was written in 1965, food, eating, and weight issues had not yet attracted wide attention as feminist concerns. Three decades later, in The Beauty Myth, author Naomi Wolf observes that the obsession with thinness began to become a serious national problem for women America around 1920, coinciding with women''s right to vote; studies indicate that today nearly half of American young women have had at one time or other had an eating disorder. What are the symbolic meanings of food, and why does it become the focus for so much anxiety?


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

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