The Edible Woman

The Edible Woman

Book - 1998
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The novel that put the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Handmaid's Tale on the literary map

Margaret Atwood's first novel is both a scathingly funny satire of consumerism and a heady exploration of emotional cannibalism.

Marian McAlpin is an "abnormally normal" young woman, according to her friends. A recent university graduate, she crafts consumer surveys for a market research firm, maintains an uneasy truce between her flighty roommate and their prudish landlady, and goes to parties with her solidly dependable boyfriend, Peter. But after Peter proposes marriage, things take a strange turn. Suddenly empathizing with the steak in a restaurant, Marian finds she is unable to eat meat. As the days go by, her feeling of solidarity extends to other categories of food, until there is almost nothing left that she can bring herself to consume. Those around her fail to notice Marian's growing alienation--until it culminates in an act of resistance that is as startling as it is imaginative. Marked by blazingly surreal humor and a colorful cast of eccentric characters, The Edible Woman is a groundbreaking work of fiction.
Publisher: New York : Anchor Books, 1998.
Edition: 1st Anchor Books ed.
ISBN: 9780385491068
0385491069
Characteristics: 310 p. : 20 cm.

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m
mayog
Dec 17, 2018

The Edible Woman was Atwood's first book, and it reads like a tribute to second-wave white feminism. The question of white female individuation and identity governs all of the white female characters of this book (and they are all white and female), including the main character, Marian McAlpine. Will she find herself consumed by the norms of society, the expectations of her fiance, the way things are?

While I can understand how this novel would have sounded in North American society in 1969, it has not aged well. Today, it reads more like a period piece in an era when women often do not have to chose between graduate school and children, and expect to continue their careers well into marriage.

Still, one can hear Atwood's inventive voice even in this first novel, the voice that would later give us the more pointed and decidedly prescient Handmaid's Tale, a novel I deeply enjoyed and which thoroughly disturbed me.

I'm not sorry I took the time to read this, and I liked its denoument. However, it is not more than a three-star read for me.

b
Brontina66
Apr 08, 2018

I read The Handmaid's Tale and liked it, so - when I saw this novel on the shelf - I decided to borrow it. It has left me slightly dissatisfied, to be honest. But let's begin with what I liked: the humor and the style, definitely. Atwood writes with such elegance and subtlety, you don't immediately realize that what you have just read is actually very funny and something that we all have experienced. The characters grow on you and page after page you want to know what is Ainsley or Marion going to do next. However, that said, I should also notice that in some parts the story really slows down and you wonder what is exactly the point being made. The male characters seem to be all flawed, in some way or another, all of them self-absorbed and demanding. But women are not always much better, they seem mostly to be scheming to get a husband or a father for their future child. The end also left me perplexed. I will not share it, but it seemed to me to be a complete anticlimax, as if there were after all no great secret or revelation at all. Marion, the protagonist, is first person narrator in the first and third part of the story, the central section is told by a third person, omniscient narrator. I am not sure I get the reason for this switch. I preferred to have Marion as narrator. However, overall this is a good book and it certainly makes one think about relationships and marriage, and how they can sometimes devour women. But please don't put too much trust in the cover's description of the story - that is partially inaccurate and probably led me to expect something that was not in the novel.

m
mrprado
Dec 10, 2017

Reflections on relationships, identity and consumerism. I really enjoyed it.

m
meldaravaniel
Aug 24, 2012

I keep expecting there to be some element of fantasy throughout this book, but there never is. It's a strange take on relationships, marriage, engagement and how people change as their titles do. Pretty good.

debwalker Oct 27, 2011

Atwood wrote about eating disorders before anyone talked about eating disorders. Still think about the egg thing whenever I eat a boiled egg.

v
vcc
Oct 01, 2011

Atwood's first novel was not overly exciting and I did not feel compelled to finish the book, even halfway through.

o
oliviay
Dec 16, 2009

Great book.

a
annekim9
Feb 20, 2007

This is a true original.

Quotes

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m
mayog
Dec 17, 2018

“She's against it on principle, and life isn't run on principles but by adjustments”

m
mayog
Dec 17, 2018

“They all say, Go on to graduate studies, and they give you a bit of money; so you do, and you think, Now I'm going to find out the real truth. But you don't find out, exactly, and things get pickier and pickier and more and more stale, and it all collapses in a welter of commas and shredded footnotes, and after a while it's like anything else: you've got stuck in it and you can't get out, and you wonder how you got there in the first place.”

m
mayog
Dec 17, 2018

“I can tell you're admiring my febrility. I know it's appealing, I practice at it; every woman loves an invalid. But be careful. You might do something destructive: hunger is more basic than love. Florence Nightingale was a cannibal you know.”

m
mayog
Dec 17, 2018

“What else can I do? Once you've gone this far you aren't fit for anything else. Something happens to your mind. You're overqualified, overspecialized, and everybody knows it. Nobody in any other game would be crazy enough to hire me. I wouldn't even make a good ditch-digger, I'd start tearing apart the sewer-system, trying to pick-axe and unearth all those chthonic symbols - pipes, valves, cloacal conduits... No, no. I'll have to be a slave in the paper-mines for all time.”

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m
mayog
Dec 17, 2018

mayog thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

Summary

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m
mayog
Dec 17, 2018

Marian McAlpine, white single working woman in 1969 Canada worries whether her identity will be consumed upon her marriage to Peter.

Notices

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m
mayog
Dec 17, 2018

Sexual Content: Nothing graphic, but characters do have premarital sex

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