Book Review – Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood

First published 1976
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Now, I’m going to have to go into quite ludicrous detail about why I loved this novel so much. It was a birthday present to me from friends when I was around twenty. I have no excuse other than – life – to explain why it’s taken me this long to get to it.
The story centres around Joan, a wickedly humorous, occasionally clumsy and (an unkind person would say cowardly, so I’ll just say) weak-kneed fantasist who takes on more convenient personas whenever her life gets too complicated or flaccid, depending on how she’s living it.
Joan has lived in the shadow of her oppressive mother, for whom she was never good or thin enough and her near-silent father. She has only known true kinship with her overweight and happy aunt. Joan has strived for friendships which were largely one-sided. She has drifted into relationships without ever totally losing or really giving herself.
She has a terror that the people in her life will discover she’s a fraud. She has been fat – they can never know. She has written umpteen costume fiction books – they would be mortified. She has lived with a man who saw of her only what he wanted to see – the damsel in distress, the broken little virgin. And with one lie spilling into another, and the increasing complexity of the lives she lives in tandem, she has little choice but to walk away from the lot of it.
Joan has created herself. Perhaps she is too close to her creation and, consequently, longs to step away. Aspects of her life that are beyond her control – her crusading husband, her lovesick boyfriend, the quasi-friend who used to torture her when they were children and who, maddeningly, has no recollection of this fact – are distractions to her work (about which they cannot know) and herself (who they simply do not know). She fluffs up elements of her history and romanticises things that, perhaps could have happened, but never did because: if it makes a better story, it’s not really a lie.
Now, you might be saying to yourself, she’s gone and told me a lot of the plot here. Is it really worth reading?
Are you serious?
It’s Margaret Atwood. Put down everything you have and go get the book. She’s tremendous.
Also, the friends who bought this for my birthday, knocking on for twenty years ago, wrote in the flyleaf to say – “Read this and thought of you.”
You might be wondering if my friends were right, if there is any similarity between the main character and me.
Read the book. If you know me, you’ll know.