Life Before Man - Margaret Atwood

September 28, 2018

4 / 5 Stars 


Exquisitely written, but less engaging than some of her other books.

Margaret Atwood is one of my favourite books. In fact, I think Oryx and Crake is my favourite novel of all time, and The Blind Assassin is definitely Top 5. So when I spotted this tome in a charity shop, I swooped upon it with great eagerness.


I'm presuming it's one of her earlier ones, because it has that sort of feel about it - it displays her incredible attention to detail and use of symbolism, but doesn't have the sophistication or refinement of some of her other works. 

Basically, it focuses on Elizabeth, a languorous woman who doesn't do much apart from mope around the house and think about bowls and things like that, Nate, who is with Elizabeth but fancies Lesje, and Lesje herself, who is a dinosaur expert. 

There were some moments of outstanding writing here. The rape scenes, though disturbing to read, challenge readers to reassess what sexual assault is - whether it's with a partner or a man you picked up in a restaurant. There were also some highly astute observations about the nature of relationships themselves. And Lesje's dinosaur fantasies were pure Atwood at her best - that weirdness, blended with familiarity, that she does so well. 

Where it fell slightly flat for me was the actual storyline itself. I was compelled to read on because she's such an amazing author, but to be honest, I didn't care much about the characters. Elizabeth was clearly depressed, but didn't come across in any way sympathetic, and Nate was an annoying wet toad of a man. Lesje had a bit more to her, but then even she got a bit frustrating as the book went on.

However - I am judging the author by the very high standards she set in her other books. And she's still one of my all-time favourite writers by a mile.


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