Tuesday, May 7, 2013

“... all this talking, this rather liquid confessing, was something I didn't think I could ever bring myself to do. It seemed foolhardy to me, like an uncooked egg deciding to to come out of its shell: there would be a risk of spreading out too far, turning into a formless puddle.”

The Edible Woman – Margaret Atwood
310 pages 
Genre: Literature; Feminism 

Summary: Marian McAlpin, an ordinary twenty-something woman, is about to get married. While she should be elated about the prospect, she finds herself unable to eat. First, it’s only meat, but gradually, she can no longer eat vegetables, eggs, or even cake! Can she find out what is going on before it’s too late? 

Review: First, a quick story: I have made it no secret that Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors. Anytime I see one of her books at a book sale, my hands act upon their own volition and grab said book, and I eagerly carry it around like it’s a pot of gold. I acquired my copy of The Edible Woman from a used book sale, and though the copy was old and worn, I decided to go ahead and buy it anyway. When I went to read it the other day, I noticed that it was signed by the author, and I definitely squealed with delight. Thank you, random person who got rid of her old book, for completely making my day! 

Wait, what was I doing, aside from contemplating the wonder that is Margaret Atwood? Oh yeah, writing a review!

I have read a good amount of Atwood’s body of work, and each time, I marvel at what a wonderful writer she is. Atwood has an amazing ability to make profound statements and draw realistic characters that make the reader feel as if she is part of the story, too. The Edible Woman, Atwood’s first published novel, was exactly what I’ve come to expect from this author, and like the title suggests, I absolutely ate this up. 

One of the primary ideological concepts of this book was feminism. Throughout the course of the book, the characters made philosophical statements on parenthood, marriage, and other social mores that still resonate today. Oftentimes, it was hard for me to remember that this book was written in the 1960s, as so much of what was being discussed is also part of society’s current discourse. For example, one of the characters was reflecting upon being a parent, and noted that she sometimes regretted her choice. While this is quite a controversial way to feel, even in this day and age, she was being honest, and it was refreshing to see that represented in literature.

Single parenthood and promiscuity were also addressed, and it was interesting to see how the characters handled both issues, as varying viewpoints were represented throughout the text. Marriage as an institution was also called into question, and the way in which it affected everyone, especially the main character, was quite compelling indeed. 

Marian, our narrator, is a character that, while rather unremarkable, is someone that many women can relate to. When the subject of marriage came up, something she thought she really wanted, her appetite and countenance began to change, which directly correlated to the dilemma she was having internally. She didn’t want to lose herself, but by not eating, she was wasting away to nothing. 

In the same vein, I could really identify with Marian when she stopped eating meat. The way in which she was visualizing it is exactly how I see it, and while she didn’t relish in the feeling and referred to vegetarians as “cranks,” it was interesting to see my internal thoughts echoed in a piece of writing. 

Duncan was also a fascinating character, and as more was revealed about him throughout the course of the text, I grew to like him even more. At times, Duncan reminded me a bit of Holden Caulfield, just because of all of his eccentricities, and finding out what drove him was quite a ride. 

As is the case with all of Atwood’s novels, the writing in The Edible Woman was absolutely exquisite. I often found myself lingering over certain passages to grasp what was being said, and then re-reading them a bit later on. 

If you like magnificent prose with a feminist edge, give The Edible Woman a try. 

Rating: 4/5 

Read-alikes: The Awakening – Kate Chopin, The Yellow Wallpaper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman


  1. Hmm, I think I'll not put this one at the top of my Atwood list. It doesn't sound like something I'll be able to fully appreciate yet.

    1. Yeah, you might want to wait a few years :)