Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood


Jill's take on Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

I love Margaret Atwood and have had a love affair with her writing since I was in my teens. As with most, my introduction to her work was The Handmaid’s Tale, which I read in an English class in high school. I was hooked from that initial read and continued to seek out her novels whenever I could. Sadly, it has taken me longer to get around to her short stories, given my resistance to short story compilations.  

So when Zac found and presented me with Stone Mattress (a collection of short stories) in Joburg I both quickly snatched it up and sort of sighed in disappointment. I was excited to be reading Atwood again, but not excited that it was short stories. I know, I just need to get over my issue. All I can say, is that I’m working on it. And with the help of funny and cutting stories like these, I think I might just get there.

None of these stories are groundbreaking. None of them will change your life. None of them capture the magic that is present in Atwood’s novels. But these are fun and have something to say. I always associate Margaret Atwood with feminist writing. These stories fall right into that category for me.

The one that stands out in particular is a woman who had been date raped when she was young, exacting revenge decades later on the perpetrator. He never saw what was coming and the main character relished her task at hand. It wasn’t gruesome or superfluous. The revenge was well plotted and well executed. She’s seemingly justified in her actions. It feels like Atwood gives the man a chance (Jim, I believe) to have made some changes over the years, but he just doesn’t seem to. There’s no redemption there, and thus, well, his life has to end.

Most of the stories in this book are about revenge in some way or another. I thoroughly enjoyed most of them and found I was looking forward to re-opening the book each day. As with all short stories, they were over too soon and I found I wanted more. Luckily, Atwood is so prolific that i think I can always get more when I want.

If you want something light hearted, vengeful and a “fun” Margaret Atwood read, I would recommend Stone Mattress. If you want something that’s going to rock your world, I would recommend many of her novels, instead.


Zac's take on Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

Sometimes I feel that Atwood just likes to write. Doesn’t matter what, or how, but just so she is keeping her fingers on the keys, she is happy. And for the most part, that makes me happy. We reviewed her novel The Heart Goes Last - spoiler: it was a total miss for me.

I too, fell in love with her in high school, and for the same reasons. But on occasion she just feels like she is captivated by an idea and is going to make that into a novel come hell or high water. Almost like she needs the money or is bored or lost the plot.

The Stone Mattress isn’t like that. Sure there were a few moments where she is describing sex and it’s just a little too…made for TV? Is there ever a good way to write about sex? I don’t want to sound like a prude because I’m surely not, but she comes across as a horny teenager - it’s not subtle and it’s off putting to me.

But the plots are strong. The characters are strong. The language is beautiful, especially in the story about the dead/not dead girl. Loved it. Pick it up if you are a fan of Atwood. It’s good for a laugh or two.