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on March 3, 2001
I'd give this 3.5 stars, for the record...
I was pleasantly surprised by this book, especially after reading the blurb which loudly declared "The Edible Woman" to be a book about wild sex. Luckily it actually turned out to have more substance than that: if anything, the sex scenes are so low-key as to be nonexistent. Instead the focus is upon the psychological aspects of Marian's relationships with her fiancee and with Duncan, and most of all upon the way she views herself. While on the surface "The Edible Woman" can be viewed as a feminist rant against marriage and commitment, this would be in my opinion a reductive perspective to take. "The Edible Woman" is primarily the charting of one woman's loss of identity as she attempts to mold herself to conform to the expectations of others.
Despite the serious and even dark undercurrents, this is a light, fun read. The characters are almost caricatures, even the main character, saying and doing things that no one in their right minds would ever do in real life. Fortunately this cartoonish treatment of the characters works in the novel's favor: it makes Marian's strange disorder more believable, and ultimately the message of the book being carried through in such a manner makes it--dare I say--more palatable. Atwood may have an axe to grind, but she does it with such delicate strokes that one can only appreciate the elegant subtlety she employs.
Atwood's prose is lucid and witty, and she takes some playful jabs at academia that are truly hilarious. The assembled cast of characters, even while they are too zany to be real, are also vastly entertaining. This book is not incredibly deep or substantial; though it does deal with some complex themes, it is in the end exactly as it comes across on the surface: a fun read. I probably wouldn't read it again, but I'm glad to have read it once.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon November 13, 2007
This is the first book I read by Margaret Atwood, it was written in 1965 but I believe that the only aspects giving away the years depicted are the absence of modern technology in the narrative (i.e. mobile phones, computers etc. -not that this is a "technological" read anyway, just the opposite)and perhaps, only perhaps -that's the way I perceived it- a certain candour in some of the characters/situations which conveys "something" dated.

It's the tale of Marian, a quiet, well-brought up girl in her early 20s who's struggling to conform to the demands and unwritten rules of modern society. This is not because she does not want to, in fact, she would like to, but she realises that her inner self craves more than a proper, suitable and predictable routine (a good job, a respectable marriage, children in due time etc.), as it was expected -and often still is, if you think about it-. Something in her rebels, in a subtle but undeniably determined way. Will she manage to tackle and overcome her gnawing uneasiness, consistently on the rise, rapidly becoming a true torment and assailing her own being? (A fact that her "cool" but obtuse boyfriend completely fails to see). That's for you to find out if you get this book.

Bearing in mind the year in which it was written, some considerations about our modern society arise. Have women's -and men's- roles changed much since then? Of course they have, in many ways. Still, could and can a demanding society have such an impact in the configuration of our lives -or, in what we thought/think our life should be like- that sometimes we felt and feel crushed under the pressure? Has the vortex of speed in which the world has changed in this past century -with its good and bad consequences- changed the core of human nature? These are questions which came to mind as soon as I turned the last page.

I'm glad I read this book, but I cannot honestly place it among my favourites. For instance, in the beginning it almost completely failed to engage me and I kept on only because I always do (as a principle). Thankfully the tale got more interesting later on, which helped, even though I think the author was overly-descriptive especially, but not only, in connection with Marian's issues, rendering the read a bit tedious. Still, and it may sound like a contradiction, I do think it was worth reading it, because it triggers questions and comparisons with today's Western society, and it was certainly worth it for the quality of its prose, essentially studied and quite elegant.
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on December 26, 2001
I've got a few Atwood books and this is by far the oldest one, so if it's not her writing debut (as opposed to poetry, which I think she did as well) it's pretty close and I have to say that I was pretty impressed with how strong her narrative voice was and how confident the book feels. Reading it you get a sense that the author knows exactly what she's doing and how to go about it. That sense makes the book that much more fun to read, even if it's not going to be recognized as one of her absolute masterpieces. The story concerns a woman named Marian, presumably in her mid-twenties, who after getting engaged starts to lose her desire to eat most kinds of food. But even that description is a tad misleading because the eating aspect doesn't even come into play until almost halfway through the book. Indeed those looking for a feminist version of "Thinner" should probably go the other way right now. Instead it's an examination of a woman's role in both society and marriage and that gives the story more weight, balancing the often silly and humorous situations Marian finds herself in. It's definitely the lightest book I've read by Atwood, it's hard to believe this is the same woman who did the ultra-depressing Life Before Man. But the main focus isn't even on Marian's quasi-eating disorder but on her interactions with her fiancee, her roommate (the subplot with her wanting a baby is absolutely hilarious in a darkly absurd way) and an odd graduate student she meets while out doing a survey for her job. That graduate student and his monologues was my favorite part of the chapter and probably represents Atwood's poke at the academic world, but definitely shows off her gift for words. But be on the look out for metaphors, just about everything means something else it seems, even the switch from first to third person struck me as odd until I realized even that represented something. In the end the metaphors get stretched a bit too far and the only truly silly moment is right at the end. But it's immensely enjoyable for an Atwood novel and one of the few that you'll find yourself laughing more than feeling glad you aren't the characters.
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on October 10, 1999
The best feature of this book is its ability to enthrall. Clearly, Margaret Atwood's style in this novel is still green, as she wrote this book when she was only about 24, but I think that it contributed to my enjoyment of this book. While it is slightly reminiscent of some of her later fiction, it differs significantly in the narrational flow, allowing the reader to be gently assimilated into the message of the book without feeling as if he or she should always be "on the lookout" for pithy hidden messages. Some may claim that this book is superficial and a run-of-the-mill attempt at distinctive women's lib literature, but this is not so. It is simply subtle insight into human nature in all aspects--including the aspects of both women AND men. Also be reminded that Atwood actually wrote the book before the brunt of the women's lib movement, but unfortunately, it was not published until 1970, marking it as correlative to the movement. I highly recommend this book, especially, in fact, for those who are dissatisfied with Atwood's prose style and writing techniques. Perhaps this book will equalize your perception of her. Although I enjoy Atwood across the board, this book is one of the most refreshing and engrossing reads I've encountered.
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on September 26, 1999
This is only the third Margaret Atwood novel I have read--having picked them all up at various flea markets and discount stores on a whim. I am a woman who usually does not identify with female authors, most of whom seem too aware of being "female authors" to tell a straightforward story without feminist propaganda. _The Edible Woman_, however, really hit me on a visceral level. Marian is the same age as I and has a similar perspective. She has a kitchen sink with molding dishes and a refrigerator whose innards seem to be growing. She has a college education and a job that she has no emotional attachement to, in fact she is horrified when forced to sign on to a retirement package, feeling tied to forever to an apathetic existence. She occasionally feels invisible when in a room with others, particularly it seems around her fiancee, at one point sliding between a bed and a wall while her friends quaff gin and play with camera equipment, never noticing she is gone until she is squashed under the bed as one of them sits down. She seems to be wandering through life without a purpose and clings onto the idea of being a wife by becoming almost accidentally engaged to an "ideal" man. Soon after this she finds herself slowly being nauseated by different sorts of food.
If the young ladies in this book didn't dress up so much and drink alcohol and smoke while pregnant it would seem very much a generation X novel! Starring apathetic protagonists Marian and Duncan, who both manage to be vivid characters in spite of the fact that they seem to spend most of their time just floating through life. A large part of the novel's strength is its well rounded secondary characters from Ainsley, Marian's single connivingly procreating room-mate, to Clara a somewhat disgruntled mother, to Duncan's slightly deranged grad-school room-mates.
This was a very fun book filled with characters I can imagine meeting among my own group of friends.
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on January 7, 1998
Marian - a public researcher in a dead end job. She feels restless and unfulfilled, not realising that this is due to having no prospects and no true place as a woman in society.
Into the bargain steps Peter a trainee lawyer, her boyfriend and a devotee of society. In a fit of expressive melancholic madness Marian agrees to marry him, dragging herself further into her self delusion and unhappiness.
This novel is concerned with the roles society offers us and what happens when we either do not fit in or openly avoid them. Written at the peak of 'women's rights', Atwood takes a moral stance with her character - Marian - denying both male superiority and the need for social acceptance. She does this superbly, adapting the gritty realism of the real world into a humourous relationship where nothing seems to work out just right! The snide jabs at society are all first class right down to the last chapter, where (for all those that want a sneak preview) Marian goes one up on Duncan after realising he is as trapped as she is. In short: An excellent book that should not be missed!
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on April 3, 2001
I thought I had lost my faith in 20th century writing, but this novel proved just how well a feminist can write. The book isn't even preachy, in fact, it reminds me of a story by Charlotte Gilman Perkins called "The Yellow Wallpaper". It's almost like both characters are literally being eaten, or consumed, by male driven society. Rich in metaphors, the novel illustrates how women can regain control of their lives, not necessarily through the bounds of matrimony, but through the rejection of it. Marian does not seem to have a life her own, but follows paths shaped by other's expectations of her as a woman. I really enjoyed the end of the book, it seemed fitting and makes the book a whole metaphor for the moral crisis that Marian goes through, particularly when her mind is rebelling from the society that influences her daily life. In other words, read this book.
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on April 26, 2002
As an avid reader, I don't find time to read books more than once, but I'm currently on my fourth read of this one! It is my all time favorite. Margaret Atwood is by far one of my favorite authors and I think this is her best work! The characters are real enough to believe, yet odd enough to keep you entertained! It is a great book for anyone who enjoys superb writing and characters they can both relate to, become shocked by, yet understand! It's hard to describe how amazing this work is, it explores so much about the human experience. You relate to characters unsure of their true feelings until they grow to discover the true meaning behind their actions! It runs you through all the emotions and leaves you thinking! It's great! I recommend it to everyone I know and now, even those I don't!
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on August 2, 1999
Margaret Atwood always depicts fascinating, well-rounded women, but Marian and company are the best of the bunch. Each is torn in a different direction by her female identity and ideas of her obligation to normalcy. Marian plans to marry but shows no real enthusiasm for the idea and begins to disappear as the engagement continues. Ainsley is determined to bear a child to fulfil her biological destiny, but sees men purely as a means to an end. Clara, married and a mother, is bewildered and somewhat disgusted at having three children and appears to Marian as a queen termite figure, giving birth over and over. The book is full of deliciously mean humor as the women wander baffled through the stages of traditional womanhood and attempt to save their senses of self on the way.
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on April 14, 2004
After many unfortuanate instances of having CanLit forced down my throat in high school, it took a lot of pursuading to convince me to read this. The result? Thank you for it.
I can't compare this to any of Atwood's other books, but what I can say is that it is worth the read and that it has encouraged me to read more of her work. The characters are entertaining and quirky. Yes, they are odd, but they aren't so strange that you can't picture them living next door. {In fact, my fomer flatmate had an obsession with ironing and would always iron during exams when he got stressed out.}
Overall, I'd recommend this to anyone who wants a good, amusing read. It would be a great read during long, cold, and dark Canadian winters.
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