Good Bones – Margaret Atwood

Good Bones is a book by Margaret Atwood that I had never heard of before and indeed found by accident. I always think it’s a delight when you are wandering aimlessly along shelves of books (though as book lovers I am also sure you will understand the awful crick in your neck you get from browsing book spines at an angle) looking for something delightful to take your fancy and this was such an occasion. It wasn’t in a book shops as November is my trial ‘no book buying month’ it was in the library. As soon as I spotted this, I always have a look at what Atwood’s they have, adored the cover and so grabbed it. I also thought it was a novella and have been trying to read more, but this book is something quite, quite different.

Good Bones is a selection of twenty seven short works by Margaret Atwood. I say short works as some of them read as fiction, some seem to be essays, some are fable like and others just seem to be the wanderings of the author. It’s like a note book filled with Atwood-like idea’s is possibly the best way to describe it, like a scrap book of possible idea’s for books and longer tales as the longest of this collection is fourteen pages.

The themes of the tales seem to be fables, fairy tales and dare I mention it ‘speculative’ pieces. You have a tale of the Little Red Hen who can’t quite work out what all the fuss is about that she grew a loaf of bread and the furore it caused. You have Hamlet’s mother Gertrude who actually wanted to call him George and who was not ‘wringing her hands’ but ‘drying her nails’. Wicked Stepmothers and Ugly Sisters fight their corner and for feminism (in fact feminist themes glimmer between these tales) as they stand up for themselves and make the point that tough love always seems to get the bimbo princess her man in the end doesn’t it? Despite moments of utter laughter such as when the Little Red Hen says ‘Then I’ll do it myself, I said, as the nun quipped to the vibrator’. It’s not all fairy tales and giggles though.

There is the very short but intense, sexy and passionate ‘In Love With Raymond Chandler’. The feminist ‘The Female Body’ when Atwood is actually discussing Barbie’s and other dolls and the image they project to young girls. There is the look at men with ‘Making a Man’ which includes the Gingerbread Method and the Clothes Maketh the Man Method which looks at the difference between the sexes. It’s all so cleverly done and you feel that though these two or ten page stories are fully formed there could be several books in here that just haven’t be written yet.  

With twenty seven tales in 153 pages it is a marvellous selection of, as the wonderful cover says ‘pure distilled Atwood’. It’s funny in parts, sexy in parts and dark in parts, but then aren’t most Atwood novels all of these things? I think fans of Atwood will love the darkness and the wry slightly knowing humour and for anyone new to Atwood it’s a way of getting to know what wonderful fiction you are getting into in digestible pieces.

Has anyone else read this collection? What are your thoughts on authors re-writing fairy tales? Have you been in a book shop (so jealous if you have) or library of late and found there is a gem of a novel/book that you had never heard of by one of your favourite authors and if so what was it?


Filed under Books of 2009, Margaret Atwood, Review, Short Stories, Virago Books

27 responses to “Good Bones – Margaret Atwood

  1. novelinsights

    This sounds fascinating. The bit where you mention Gertrude not wringing her hands but drying her nails made me smile.

  2. ive never heard of this before but it sounds fabulous. thanks for alerting me to it! ❤


  3. I have as of yet to read anything of Atwood’s. I think this might make me some kind of literary reject!!! She is on my list. Maybe I should start with this one, as some of her other popular works scare me a little.

    • This could be a great way into reading her work as it shows her humour, her darkness and her ‘speculative’ writing. It’s a very good mix. i just wish didnt have to give it back to the library.

  4. I have this volume but as yet haven’t read anything from it. I love the rewriting of fairy tales and “Bluebeard’s Egg” by Margaret Atwood is particularly good (from the volume with the same name).

    • Oooh I have Bluebreards Egg, well I think I do, and will definately give that a whirl. I do think the next Atwodo for me will be The Year of the Flood as have had that on my TBR since before it came out which is shameful.

  5. Mae

    I’m ashamed to call myself an Atwood fan. I’ve never heard of this title either!

  6. I have read this and enjoyed it. The everything but the kitchen sink inclusive nature of the “works” in the book make it similar to Murder in the Dark, which is the same kind of collection–althought the themes are more related to writing.

    If the author is as good as Atwood I enjoy fairy tales being rewritten. Just like I enjoyed her take on Penelope in the Penelopiad.

    • Oh good some one else has read it as I was worried it was just me for a little while which I know wouldnt actually be true. Murder and Dark is another Atwood book I have never heard of, I am wondering if I am the fan that I think I am???

  7. I like her sci-fi better than her fiction!

    I’ve never heard of this book. I’ll keep an eye out for it.

    Treasures – I am trying to stay away from bookstores for the next few months. Too much temptation.

    • Oh don’t let her hear you call it Sci-fi. I bet its just a rumour that she hates that label or the publishers have built up on some small tale and made it huge to shift copies.

      I have been avoiding book shops too, thats why me and the library have suddenly become best friends.

  8. Eva

    That is a good cover. 🙂 And your review made me want to read it right away! I hope my library has it. 😀

  9. I haven’t heard of it, but it sounds fascinating, almost satirical. I do enjoy a good satire.

  10. I love fairy-tales and I loved them re-imagined so this goes on my wishlist immediately. Love the idea of the Hamlet one in particular.

  11. justicejenniferreads

    i had not heard of this collection, but now I’m definitely going to go out and find it! I love Atwood’s work and from your description, i feel like I would also love this. Great find.

    • Oooh what an interesting article. Thanks for sending me the link for this. I wouldnt say this book is sci-fi in any way though, it has some speculative elements but nothing quite sci-fi. Actually I might be lying because there is a tale or two with the odd alien in it.

  12. Pingback: The Book Buying Ban… The Update « Savidge Reads

  13. Pingback: Murder in the Dark – Margaret Atwood « Savidge Reads

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