I'll admit that while Surfacing was slow going and a tad mundane by Atwood standards, this is one of those books that I appreciated more after I finished it and gave it some thought. Surfacing is Atwood's second novel, a mystery and physiological thriller of sorts, one that examines the paranoia, displacement and weaknesses that result from isolation and fear. Our unnamed narrator ventures back to her birthplace, a remote island near Quebec, with her boyfriend and a married couple to search for her missing father whom everyone believes to be dead. What ensues is a story of one woman's regression into a fragmented self and her struggle to uncover her true identity.
Descriptions of rural Canada and it's industrialization and commercialization parallel the decline of our unnamed narrator's sanity in a way that makes the setting seem like a character in itself. Per usual Atwood, the book is occupied with feminist themes; how our bodies and our gender confine us and create boundaries. Surfacing also explores how our past continually permeates our present and how our memory of the past can dilute and corrupt over time, allowing our subconscious to create alternate memories and emotions.
I have to be more careful about my memories. I have to be sure they’re my own and not the memories of other people telling me what I felt, how I acted, what I said: if the events are wrong the feelings I remember about them will be wrong too, I’ll start inventing themI'm making it a personal goal to read all of Atwood's published fiction, and this marks my seventh (of thirteen). I'm not rushing myself, because I don't want it to be over. If you are interested in reading Atwood, I wouldn't suggest starting with this one. I'd recommend Cat's Eye, The Handmaids Tale or Oryx and Crake over Surfacing. The thing that bothered me most about the book is that even there was a lot going on, the majority of the time I was reading it I felt like nothing ever happened. Again, this is one of those instances when I enjoyed the book more after thinking about it than I did when I was actually reading it.
Publisher: Anchor, 1972