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Surfacing Paperback – Sep 15 1994

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: New Canadian Library; Reprint edition (Sept. 15 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0771098995
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771098994
  • Product Dimensions: 10.7 x 1.1 x 17.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 45 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #261,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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First published in 1972, Surfacing was Margaret Atwood's second novel, following the critically acclaimed The Edible Woman. Atwood had already made her mark as a one of the most exciting new voices in Canadian poetry, winning the Governor General's Award in 1966 for The Circle Game, while her groundbreaking book of criticism, Survival, had started the process of redefining the meaning of Canadian literature.

In Surfacing, poetry and prose brilliantly come together in a heart-wrenching novel that focuses on a woman's desperate attempt to put the ghosts of her past to rest. With three friends, she's returned to the remote cabin in Northern Quebec where she spent her childhood. She's overwhelmed, almost to the point of emotional paralysis, by memories of her father and his death by drowning, her failed marriage and painful divorce, and an abortion that haunts her waking dreams. While she appears to be ambivalent about the landscape, it is the landscape that in fact will provide her with the means of healing herself and her broken spirit. Like Atwood's poetry of this period, Surfacing is a deeply psychological novel. Atwood uses the recurring image of surfacing from beneath the waves of an icy northern lake as a symbol of this woman's struggle to regain control of her life, to refuse to be a victim of her past. Surfacing is a poignant novel filled with the power of the Canadian wilderness to cleanse the soul, an image of the wilderness that has remained a preoccupation for Atwood throughout her writing career. --Jeffrey Canton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“One of the most important novels of the twentieth century…utterly remarkable.”
New York Times Book Review

“Atwood probes emotions with X-ray precision. All in all, it’s an exhilarating performance.”
Globe and Mail

“A brilliant tour-de-force.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“Atwood’s powers of observation are disconcertingly acute, combining an ear for the vernacular with an eye for the jugular.”

“The depth and complexity of Atwood’s critique of contemporary society are stunning.”

“It is excellent in so many ways that one cannot begin to do justice to it in a review. It has to be read and experienced.”
–Margaret Laurence, Quarry

“Margaret Atwood is one of the most intelligent and talented writers to set herself the task of deciphering life in the late twentieth century.”

“In this disturbing book, Margaret Atwood has written a fascinating, sometimes frightening novel about our Canadian landscape, about our paranoia, about what we are and what we are becoming.…Astonishing.”
Edmonton Journal

Surfacing is likely the best piece of fiction produced by Atwood’s generation in North America or anywhere.”
Canadian Forum

“[Atwood is] a superb storyteller who brings intelligence and wit to bear in a compelling personal vision.”
Toronto Star

“It is quite simply superb.…She writes with the ease of total acceptance, from right inside the culture, authenticating our experience, holding up a mirror so that the image we get back is not distorted by satire or made unreal by proselytizing…but real.”

“The sophistication of its telling, the power of observation and imagination make the book remarkable.…It’s a masterful encounter with the way we live now.”
Kingston Whig-Standard

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge on Aug. 14 2000
Format: Paperback
Margaret Atwood, Surfacing (Popular Library, 1972)
availability: in print

This is a book that wanted to be IMPORTANT. It's full of ideas that are important, anyway. Problem is, the characters therein seem as if they're there in order to advance the ideas, instead of the characters driving the novel and the ideas being introduced incidentally to the characters. This, of course, violates the one supremely inviolable rule of literature: the medium, to borrow slightly inaccurately from Mr. McLuhan, is the message. When the message (the theme) overwhelm the medium (the novel, which at its heart must contain at least some kind of conjunetion of plot and character), the work suffers. It is true of music, it is true of art, but most of all it is true of the novel, for a novel whose main goal is to put forth an idea, rather than to give the reader characters with whom s/he can sympathize, is necessarily doomed to fail.

This is not to say that said symapthetic (or antipathetic, certainly) characters cannot advance ideas; sure they can. But for a character to advance an idea in an effective manner, the character MUST be someone that the reader finds believable; otherwise; the novel stops being a novel and becomes a polemic. And that is exactly what we have here: four characters in search of an exit (or, perhaps, an author). None of them is sympathetic; none is well-drawn; none has enough depth to couch the ideas and beliefs that Atwood wants to give them, because their depth lies in those ideas, and it doesn't-- it can't-- work that way.

The main thing that kept me reading, was of course, the Deep Dark Secret(TM).
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Format: Paperback
"Surfacing" is the second Atwood book I've experienced, and to be honest, I found her narrative style in this one more accessible than in "The Handmaid's Tale". The first 165 pages evoke a cynicism rooted deep in the apathy of 1970's North American culture, especially from a Canadian perspective. While Americans may find the references to the "flag-waving Yankees" the narrator loathes so much a bit distasteful in the light of recent events, the book must be taken as a narrative of one woman's personal struggle. While many of the narrator's opinions may find readers slightly offended, they provide a vehicle for her own personal frustration. The last few chapters seem a bit far-fetched compared to the others, but then again, I don't recommend reading the entire book in one sitting for that very reason. Though turned off by some elements of "weirdness" (the very same reason I didn't get into "The Handmaid's Tale"), I found "Surfacing" to be one of the most psychologically-challenging novels I've read, and perhaps the discomfort I felt while finishing the last page is post-magical-realism at its finest-- "There's no way this could happen...I think. Well...maybe?"
Try it out for yourself, but please don't judge its value on a few anti-American references. Remember, she's Canadian, and the book was written in the 70's.
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By A Customer on July 7 2001
Format: Paperback
READ THIS NOVEL. This is the only book that I have read recently that should be required reading for the human race. I was first drawn to Atwood by her lilting, poetic descriptions; the beautiful and often enchanting way that she weaves words in to masterpieces...
...But "Surfacing" goes far beyond that. It is intensely psychological, brimming with wise social commentary. Atwood herself once stated that the novel is about the social "machine"-in this world, one is either predator or prey. Destroy, or be destroyed. And those who are alive have obviously-either conciously or subconciously-chosen the former. The question addressed is "why isn't there a third choice?"
Another thing that I pulled from the novel, personally, was having to actually accept that we HAVE chosen the former--that we are not the innocents that we would love (and would be easier) to believe. To me, "surfacing," the actual term, represents coming out of some sort of darkness (like the lake in the novel), by claiming your whole being. By accepting the darkness in you, and accepting that you are not innocent; these parts of you which you are not entirely proud of (your shadow)-- Seeing all of yourself, in a different (and more objective) light.
So yes--this is probably my favorite novel created. Or at least my favorite contemporary. If read with an open mind, it is definitely a big third-eye-opener.
But be forewarned: wonderful as "Surfacing" is, if you are looking for Nora Roberts-like material and such, this is no romance, not even the "part detective thriller..." yada yada yada that it claims to be.
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Format: Paperback
For me the essence of this novel is the journey undertaken by a young woman as she returns to her inner self. Coming home to the island wilderness of her youth in Quebec in search of her missing father, the young artist is accompanied by her lover and a vacuous married couple. All are her recent acquaintances in a life where she has buried many painful experiences subconsiously. Her true self begins to emerge as the remembered becomes familiar and compelling. She finds herself on a solitary journey and the people with her are an impediment to her awakening. She disappears from sight when they leave the island, confidant that she carries a pure new life from her companion-lover, Joe. Now, she is finished with him. Layer by layer, she begins to cleanse her psyche, finally uncovering the woman essential to the nurturing of her unborn child. There are multi-levels of awareness in this novel: progress, pollution, man's encroachment upon nature. Margaret Atwood offers much food for thought. But this book may not be for everyone. It doesn't seem at first as sophisticated as Atwood's later works. I find myself returning again and again to SURFACING, as if each time I am able to wear the skin of the young woman's discovery, surfacing myself.
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