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Atwood, Margaret.

Toronto, Seal Books, c1983, 1984. 258pp. paper, $4.50, ISBN 0-7704-1868-6.

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Joan VanSickle Heaton

Volume 13 Number 4
1985 July

In a series of twelve short stories, Margaret Atwood sketches a portrait of one woman's growing up in post-World War II Ontario. Each of the stories outlines an experience that provides a significant influence in a life that the reader is led to interpret as being an Atwood autobiography.

The settings are commonplace, northern Ontario, cottages on lakes or on rivers, small towns with people recovering from wartime privations, and Toronto landmarks. It is Atwood's densely evocative description of these places that elevates their importance, and establishes their mythic value.

Throughout the book, the theme of the changing role of the woman is developed under the careful supervision of the Atwood persona. Starting with the model provided by her mother, Atwood begins to build an image of a woman who is inquisitive, energetic, and pragmatic, resisting foolishness or victimization by men. Her approach is not projected with the same metaphors of revulsion as she has used in her earlier novels. She unites women, calm, fulfilment, and maturity with symbols of the Earth, starting at early childhood and finishing with the earliest shadows of death.

The tension between blissful innocence and the painful growth to independent thinking is exemplified throughout. Women betrayed in traditional roles offer their unwitting mistakes as guidance. Men whose smug power insults their innate sensitive intelligence, are portrayed as pitiably as the women. Only the child with her freedom to make her own choice, emerges from the book in an admirable form.

Bluebeard's Egg is recommended on many levels, as Canadian literature, to complete an Atwood collection, and as literature related to women's rights. It should be read by senior students.

Joan VanSickle Heaton, Bayridge S.S., Kingston, Ont.
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