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Surfacing (1972)

by Margaret Atwood

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,927972,367 (3.38)326
A young woman returns to northern Quebec to the remote island of her childhood, with her lover and two friends, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of her father. Flooded with memories, she begins to realise that going home means entering not only another place but another time. As the wild island exerts its elemental hold and she is submerged in the language of the wilderness, she sees that what she is really looking for is her own past.… (more)
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» See also 326 mentions

English (94)  Swedish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (97)
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
I was prepared to dash through this short novel but quickly realized I ought to slow down, then slower still, one chapter per day. It is tightly woven like a short story, without the extraneous bits, full of great descriptions ('cow-sprinkled hills ... cuttings dynamited in pink and grey granite'). I'm more familiar with Ontario than Quebec, but I know this backcountry with its lakes and mist, its quiet woods and islands. Atwood fully convinces me that she knows it too.

There are two mysteries in play, the surface action and also a deeper psychological story. A woman's father who lives alone in his island cottage goes mysteriously missing. After being notified, she rounds up her boyfriend and some friends to transport her, so she can look for clues. At the same time, the reader is left to wonder why she's bothering. She displays no particular attachment to her father in her first-person narrative - nor to her boyfriend, or to her shallow friends, nor is she triggered by nostalgia during this trip back to her childhood stomping grounds (it was never her home, she keeps telling us.) She isn't attached to anything, or anyone. References to drowning creep in, to being underwater.

I'm of two minds about stories that delve into different realms of logic where I can't follow, but there's something satisfying in how it's managed here. Before you can surface you must first submerge, to the only place where you can find the answers you seek. ( )
  Cecrow | Sep 16, 2021 |
Wow.. I actually found this one quite.. frustrating in parts. Still great, it's just the sentence structure which kept throwing me but that's probably just because I like to read and write very concisely.
Otherwise, great book. I would have loved a bit more info and a couple of scenes to be extended but the mystery kind of makes it more likable in the sense of being intriguing and making you kind of wonder where certain themes and experiences of the character are being pulled from.
It makes me want to get back to nature, oddly enough.. ( )
  SarahRita | Aug 11, 2021 |
Five kids were chosen to be the stars of a reality documentary, showing them in their regular lives doing what they do. It’s time for another movie, but Justine isn’t sure she wants to do another one. It’s been five years since the last movie, but now she feels like a disappointment and like she hardly knows most of the other kids who were so important to her early life. The new movie gives them a chance to reunite again, but after years of hurt and having personal things from their lives being shared with strangers, they aren’t very willing to try being friends again. When one of them disappears to go on a journey to find the mother that abandoned her, however, the kids team up again to become friends and realize that sometimes the best way to see themselves is through the eyes of someone else.

The most interesting aspect of the story is not the movie aspect, but the characters. The flashbacks and scenes from the previous movies slowly let the reader know how the characters went from being best friends to not speaking. Each character has their own struggles and challenges, and they all struggle with how to communicate with the friends they used to be so close to. The romance in the end seemed a little bit random, but the gradual progression of each person working through their challenges is interesting. Justine as the narrator was not as likeable as she could have been, but she is appealing as the girl who is the glue of the group and the other characters make up for her shortcomings. While it focuses less on the being famous aspect than someone might be expected from the jacket description, the character interactions are fun to read about. ( )
  vivirielle | Aug 4, 2021 |
Surfacing by Margaret Atwood (1998) ( )
  arosoff | Jul 10, 2021 |
This might grow on me more, as I think about it. I did enjoy reading it, just not as much as some of her other work. It goes without saying that it is written well, and I understand the points that are being made. But perhaps I was expecting something different. ( )
  JCanausa | Feb 1, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (59 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Atwood, Margaretprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blais, Marie-ClaireAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
du Plessix Gray, FrancineIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Geeve, SallyDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gibson, GraemeContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pulice, Mario J.Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sawyers, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Werner, HoniCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I can't believe I'm on this road again, twisting along past the lake where the white birches are dying, the disease is spreading up from the south, and I notice they now have sea-planes for hire.
Quotations
His drowning never seemed to affect him as much as I thought it should, he couldn't even remember it. If it had happened to me I would have felt there was something special about me, to be raised from the dead like that; I would have returned with secrets, I would have known things most people didn't.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

A young woman returns to northern Quebec to the remote island of her childhood, with her lover and two friends, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of her father. Flooded with memories, she begins to realise that going home means entering not only another place but another time. As the wild island exerts its elemental hold and she is submerged in the language of the wilderness, she sees that what she is really looking for is her own past.

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Book description
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.
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