CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

Margaret Atwood.

Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, c1983.
285pp, cloth, $18.95.
ISBN 0-7710-0808-2.

Grades 12 and up.
Reviewed by James Kingstone.

Volume 12 Number 5
1984 September

Bluebeard's Egg, Margaret Atwood's second collection of short stories (Dancing Girls was her first), offers an impressive selection of short and longer stories. These stories are modest, unobtrusive, the writing splendid and controlled, so that glimpses of originality and ingenuity are subtly limned in a mature and carefully shaped manner. The two opening stories in Bluebeard's Egg, "Significant Moments in the Life of My Mother" and "Hurricane Hazel," are consoling; the narrator's voice is measured, delivering her discoveries and insights effortlessly. In these stories, the reader meets a comfortable, accessible landscape and feels secure. "Loulou; or The Domestic Life of the Language" explores a different world: a woman who has taken in poets as boarders discovers that her creative sensibility-she is a successful potter-is different from theirs. She measures the distance between her world, sketched out in practical earthy terms, and the poets' and feels insecure. In the end, however, her perspective seems the more reliable. We observe wider possibilities in this story and are thus prepared for the vaguely grisly view dramatized in the subsequent story, "Uglypuss." This story examines relations between a man and a woman who have broken up and the ensuing revenge perpetrated by the woman when she senses the dimensions of her lover's betrayal. The imaginative reader will find this story provocative and much different from the earlier three, but it shows Atwood penetrating a cold and calculating world, and her unsettling recognitions are particularly interesting.

The title story, "Bluebeard's Egg," is this reader's favourite: its language is more consciously poetic; the characters more subtly drawn; and the story's imaginative centre—a fairy tale is told-shows Atwood gaining control of a wider assortment of material. It is polished and shines with charming integrity. This passage, describing the protagonist's husband, reveals her control and the subtle edge to her insight into character:

      On bad days though, she sees his stupidity as willfulness, a stubborn
      determination to shut things out. His obtuseness is a wall, within which he
      can go about his business, humming to himself, while Sally, locked outside,
      must hack her way through the brambles with hardly so much as a transparent
      raincoat between them and her skin.

This is a very fine collection of stories, and it has been a pleasure and a privilege to share these few thoughts about Atwood's most recent work.

James Kingstone, Ridley College, St. Catharines, ON.
line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works