Old Babes in the Wood
by Margaret Atwood
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Pub Date 07 Mar 2023 | Archive Date 05 May 2023
Doubleday Books, Doubleday
"If you consider yourself an Atwood fan and have only read her novels: Get your act together. You’ve been missing out.” —The New York Times Book Review, Rebecca Makkai, best-selling author of The Great Believers
Margaret Atwood has established herself as one of the most visionary and canonical authors in the world. This collection of fifteen extraordinary stories—some of which have appeared in The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine—explore the full warp and weft of experience, speaking to our unique times with Atwood’s characteristic insight, wit and intellect.
The two intrepid sisters of the title story grapple with loss and memory on a perfect summer evening; “Impatient Griselda” explores alienation and miscommunication with a fresh twist on a folkloric classic; and “My Evil Mother” touches on the fantastical, examining a mother-daughter relationship in which the mother purports to be a witch. At the heart of the collection are seven extraordinary stories that follow a married couple across the decades, the moments big and small that make up a long life of uncommon love—and what comes after.
Returning to short fiction for the first time since her 2014 collection Stone Mattress, Atwood showcases both her creativity and her humanity in these remarkable tales which by turns delight, illuminate, and quietly devastate.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 82 members
Old Babes in the Wood from Margaret Atwood is a charming and at times startling collection of short stories.
This is a collection of some previously published stories along with new stories. I had read two of these when they were in periodicals and found them to be, as I have come to expect from her short work, wonderful. The rest of the pieces here did not disappoint.
I admit to being one of those who enjoy Atwood's work in both long and short form, so there is a little bias here. But these largely exceeded what I was expecting. Part of the enjoyment for me, I think, may have been hearing her voice from her MasterClass lectures while I was reading.
Whether you want a bit of darkness or a chuckle or two, this collection delivers. There are characters here who will stay with you, even if they didn't even make it through the story. You'll also see yourself in many of these characters. Not completely, of course, but little things.
Highly recommended for both Atwoods fans and those who simple enjoy good short stories. Lucky for me I qualify under both umbrellas.
Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
Old Babes in the Woods is Atwood's first collection of short stories since 2014 so I was thrilled to delve into this. The stories range from strange and wonderful to disturbing and heartbreaking. Highly recommended. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC>
I am a huge fan of Margaret Atwood, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read this advance copy from the publisher.
In this collection of new and old stories, she continues with her themes of futurism juxtaposed with traditional/retro societal expectations, family dynamics, always weaving in a bit of the macabre. One thing that really stood out to me in this collection was the overall focus on relationships between people, both romantic and platonic, and how they deal with aging. Using themes around career, physical and mental health, cancer, and others, she really does a beautiful job at showing the complexities in growing older, and how relationships evolve during this time. She also does a few interesting stories that rely on telling background stories/memoir type of descriptions on some aging characters, showing how different they were in their younger years that I really enjoyed.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book whether you're a big Atwood fan or just looking for some really engaging short stories to enjoy.
I love short stories, and of course when written by Atwood, they’re a treat. A great collection filled with dark humor.
Loneliness, loss, and a sense of incredulity and amazement: that’s what getting old really feels like. For those who are far from those aging milestones, Margaret Atwood’s latest short story collection may seem almost like an anthropological study. But for those of us who are rapidly reaching (or have already reached) our Medicare years, these stories ring with a poignant and authentic truth.
Margaret Atwood is 83. Her husband and life partner, the writer Graeme Gibson, died a few years back. Ms. Atwood believes she was descended from a woman lynched for supposedly being a witch. It’s important to keep all this in mind while delving into these stories, which, at their heart, are at least a little bit autobiographical.
About half the stories revolve around an aging married couple named Nell and Tig. Particularly worthy for me is the one entitled Widows, where Ms. Atwood writes that, “Time has ceased to be linear, with life events and memories in a chronological row like beads on a string. It’s the strangest feeling or experience, or rearrangement. I’m not sure I can explain it to you.” Some of the Nell and Tig stories lose their emotional attachment through the details of everyday life; others shine.
Others that are sandwiched in provide a bit of comic relief mixed with irony and headshaking. Chief among these is Airborne, where professional women gather together to work on creating a panel. During their time together, they reminisce about the devolvement of language, joke about passwords and political correctness and feminism, and ruefully consider the changes that have taken place. Another good one is Metempsychosis, about a snail who is reincarnated within the body of a female bank teller. The Dead Interview, a dialogue between Ms. Atwood and George Orwell (one of her influences), is illuminating and well-crafted.
Although this is not the strongest of Margaret Atwood’s short story collections, it is perhaps her most personal, and as such, a must-read. I am grateful to Doubleday and NetGalley for enabling me to be an early reader in exchange for an honest review.
This was my very first Margaret Atwood novel, and it definitely will not be my last! I highly recommend it.
A collection of short stories ranging from an alien telling fairytales, to an evil mother who tell her daughter her father became a garden gnome after he left, to a married couple experiencing the day to day dulls. The themes explore everything from aging, romantic and platonic relationships, family dynamics and societal expectations.
Having only known Margaret Atwood from Handmaids Tale and Alias Grace, it is refreshing story telling in snippets.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
A lovely and nostalgic look at how relationships change as we age and how we change as we age and as our lives change. There are a few stories that are outside of these narratives but that still kind of challenge the way we view ourselves and our culture. Impatient griselda - where aliens are telling some abductees a story to try to keep them calm maybe? is a gem among these, as is a short science fiction exercise freeforall, in which a sexually transmitted infection has changed the landscape of the world drastically.
Tig and Nell are two characters woven throughout the book at different periods in their lives. Atwood does a skillful job at ruminating on the things we leave behind, and what they say about us. A wonderful collection that is insightful and cozy, and sometimes laugh out loud funny, and sometimes very sad.
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