‘Atwood always poses more questions than she answers. She takes pleasure in demolishing received wisdom’
Inevitably, the demands of work mean that I don’t get to read anywhere near as much as I’d like. But no matter how little time I have, or how many new authors I become acquainted with, I always find myself coming back to the Canadian author, critic, poet and social campaigner Margaret Atwood.
Atwood is well known as an outspoken campaigner for human rights, the environment and social justice and her deep commitment to these causes provides the emotional foundations for much of her work. But, politics aside, she also stands out in my mind as one of the leading wordsmiths of her generation.
She is an expert in crafting rich, sensuous, almost magical landscapes – then populating them with vibrant and complex characters, displaying an almost uncanny understanding of human nature. She takes on everything from the fantastical, using science fiction as her inspiration, to the historical, embellishing her novels with meticulously researched detail. Atwood isn’t always easy to read. Her eclectic narratives can take a while to get your head around. But once you do, you are endlessly rewarded.
The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian masterpiece about a terrifying totalitarian future and confirms the author’s place as a visionary, as well as revealing a distinctly feminist streak. Her 1996 novel, Alias Grace, shows her at her most mischievous, continuously blurring the line between “truth” and “fiction” and challenging the reader to make his or her own judgments. The author’s wit and self-awareness make her a true pleasure to read.
Like any great writer, Atwood always poses more questions than she answers. She takes pleasure in demolishing received wisdom. She is brave, subversive and, quite simply, a marvellous storyteller.