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Surfacing Paperback – March 16, 1998

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Editorial Reviews


“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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

Part detective novel, part psychological thriller, Surfacing is the story of a talented woman artist who goes in search of her missing father on a remote island in northern Quebec.  Setting out with her lover and another young couple, she soon finds herself captivated by the isolated setting, where a marriage begins to fall apart, violence and death lurk just beneath the surface, and sex becomes a catalyst for conflict and dangerous choices.  Surfacing is a work permeated with an aura of suspense, complex with layered meanings, and written in brilliant, diamond-sharp prose.  Here is a rich mine of ideas from an extraordinary writer about contemporary life and nature, families and marriage, and about women fragmented...and becoming whole.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 199 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reissue edition (June 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385491050
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385491051
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #145,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

MARGARET ATWOOD, whose work has been published in over thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid's Tale, her novels include Cat's Eye, shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; and her most recent, Oryx and Crake, shortlisted for the 2003 Booker Prize. She lives in Toronto with writer Graeme Gibson.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Nana Annie on June 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
Average of Three STARS? That is an indication that some reviewers don't 'get' this book.
This book, one of Atwood's earlier works, was written with a great deal of metaphor symbolism etched so skillfully into the content of the book, you may not realize that until you've reached the end, and have an "aha" experience, in some ways similar (though without the visual shock effect) to the way I felt at the end of watching Sixth Sense (the movie).
If you like Margaret Atwood, you will greatly enjoy seeing her young mind at work, as she shows us the unraveling mind of a young woman looking for something in the Canadian woods one week-end.
This book is effective and touching if you can move with it - but it isn't a linear-read. The missing plot and underdeveloped characters are not missing or underdeveloped at all -- read without that analytical side of the brain, and the treasures will 'surface'. Undo expectations and flow emotionally with it -- you won't be disappointed.
(my original paperback version has $1.50 marked on it!). The original version is falling apart, and I wanted to own another - glad to see it is still here (oh, my but look at the price now!)
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful By belladena on July 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have a feeling that those who rated this book with three or less stars have no idea what the book is about. If you're searching for a bit of fluff, this is not the book to turn to. Although it isn't a difficult read, it also is not a shallow one. In fact, Margaret Atwood's searing and relentless eye for detail is in its earliest stages here. Any fan will appreciate _Surfacing_.
In _Surfacing_, Margaret Atwood addresses the issue of identity as reflected by the artifice around you - both in the people you know and the person you are instructed to become. Nothing in this book is what it seems, but rather, it is a clever facade meant to impart meaning to the reader.
The nameless narrator of _Surfacing_ engages in a deep journey into the wild bush of Northern Quebec, which becomes a metaphor for her process of recovering self and identity. The land is used as a backdrop for the renunciation of a distorted self-image. What this book ultimately does is provides us with insight into how we also function as individuals and just what is it that makes us who we are? Is each human being just a pastiche?
Atwood gives you four fascinating characters that are peeled apart to the core and, even though it is only the main protagonist that goes through a physical journey in finding herself, we also witness the psychic journeys of those around her and realize what it means to be a man, woman, artist, a mother, father, wife, husband, and sister. No role is left untouched.
_Surfacing_ is also a very entertaining book and can be read on many levels. Highly recommended!
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Cipriano on January 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
On the exterior many lives are impetuously lived, in constant motion, constant flux, demanding change... while on the inside, important wheels have long since stopped turning. Crucial questions languish, not so much from being already answered as from never having been asked. Another type of person floats along fairly steady, and constant diversion is not really an issue... but on the inside, they are a whirligig. Always asking and re-asking, backpedalling, and here in the unseen realm the action is taking place, like a duck's feet underwater.
The nameless protagonist in Atwood's Surfacing is of this latter variety, contemplative and introspective. Together with three friends of the former type of personality (a married couple and her boyfriend Joe), these four drive off into the remote Quebec wilderness for a few days of R & R. This whirligig character however, has a far greater purpose in mind. She is returning here to her childhood home in search of her father who has mysteriously vanished without a trace. While these other three suntan, fish, and bicker, she is on a quest that calls forth a recollection of her entire upbringing and childhood. We sense that if she finds her father at all, it will be in a way that is as surprising to the reader as it will be to herself.
She's a great character. If it wasn't for her the others would seemingly starve to death, seated at the table and surrounded by victuals but unaware of how to prepare lunch. She's the organizer, the fish-filleter, the decision-maker... hourly explaining to her friends what will happen next. She is the individual who surfaces, thinks for herself, and finds an identity within. In stark contrast are her friends who seem to only find sustenance in the pieces they can bite off of each other and ingest.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 14, 2000
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. Personally, 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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