This was a strange book that I’m not sure how I feel about. I only started it because I had the audio book and I wanted something to listen to. The title intrigued me. I think ‘the edible woman,’ would peak a lot of people’s interest. Anyway, this was my first Margaret Atwood and even though I didn’t love it, I will try more of her work in the future. After all, this was her first book and I’ve heard that her later work is a lot stronger.
The story was told by Marian, a twenty-something woman who helps write surveys for food items. These surveys are then used as market research for the said items. She lives and works alongside Ainsley, another single twenty-something woman. Due to the time period of the novel (1960’s) the narrative is framed around feminism and considers how young woman in the era defined themselves.
Early on in the novel Marian becomes engaged to her partner Peter and soon finds that she’s unable to eat certain foods. As the narrative continues this aversion to food grows until she’s barely able to eat at all. While this strange phenomenon is occurring we get to know Ainsley, a woman who thinks she’s progressive but is really just a product of everything she’s consumed. The theme of consumption shows itself in various guises. Marian forms a friendship with a man (Duncan) who’s at the opposite end of the spectrum, in that he consumes very little. He and Marian would meet frequently and under strange circumstances. I came to the conclusion that he was merely a symbol of all Marian was possibly sacrificing in the name of marriage.
The novel started out in first person then changed to third person. This was done to highlight the degradation of Marian’s mind and was a great method.
Apart from Marian and Duncan I thought the characters were a bit flat. They did however have some strange idiosyncrasies, which spiced things up.
A big problem was that the mystery of why Marian couldn't eat wasn't cleared up until virtually the last page, which meant there was no exploration, which was disappointing.
As I said it was very strange, but it did have it’s charm.