Book Review: Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

stonemattress

A recently widowed fantasy writer is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband. An elderly lady with Charles Bonnet’s syndrome comes to terms with the little people she keeps seeing, while a newly-formed populist group gathers to burn down her retirement residence. A woman born with a genetic abnormality is mistaken for a vampire. And a crime committed long-ago is revenged in the Arctic via a 1.9 billion year old stromatalite.

In these nine tales, Margaret Atwood ventures into the shadowland earlier explored by fabulists and concoctors of dark yarns such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Daphne du Maurier and Arthur Conan Doyle – and also by herself, in her award-winning novel Alias Grace. In Stone Mattress, Margaret Atwood is at the top of her darkly humorous and seriously playful game  –   from Goodreads

My Rating:  ★★★★★

My Thoughts:  

I can’t recall the last time I read a collection of short stories; in fact, I’m not sure I ever have. Usually I prefer the longer drawn out narrative, with gradual plot and character development.
This collection is a revelation in writing, for it’s shown me just how much can be achieved in terms of plot and character in a relatively short span. There are some wonderful creations within these pages, and I don’t for one moment regret having given something new a try.

Meet, for example, the woman who may pull off the perfect murder after a chance encounter with a face from the past, or the literary man with murder in mind, who could never have anticipated what fate had in store for him. Or the man who unwittingly buys himself an auction lot which may be far dodgier than he initially imagined.
So many different people, so many unique situations make this an attention-holding read.

A recurring theme in these stories is a desire for revenge, although sometimes the conclusion doesn’t come about in the way you may anticipate; the twists are delicious, and left me marvelling at the originality.

The first three stories can be linked together, as they focus on a particular group of characters, and the first is absolutely beautiful in its evocation of the fantasy world, Alphinland. I could happily read a full length novel devoted to Constance and her fantastical world populated with so many unique characters.
I loved the eventual conclusion to the first trio of stories, and the resolution found for at least some of the players.
I also really enjoyed the title story, which went off in a direction I never imagined but drew me right along for the ride. What a great tale!

I really enjoyed the variety of settings, characters and themes on offer here, and the writing is wonderful. I enjoyed this book so much that I really must check out more by this author in the future.

 

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