by Margaret Atwood

#readingwomenreadingchallenge prompt 10: a book about a woman artist

I love Atwood almost without reserve and this book simply deepens my love.

This book tells of Elaine Risley, an artist who returns to Toronto for a showing of her work. She spent time in Toronto as a young girl and this trip, together with the viewing of many of her paintings which are of people and moments from her childhood sends her down memory lane. The memory lane of teenagers, and in this instances, teenage girls, is often not a pleasant one for all participants. Bullying, danger, some dodgy decisions and some truly unpleasant moments are what Elaine has to face and make peace with.  

Elaine is all of us at the same time as unique enough to be interesting. She is such a completely rounded character I cannot believe she is not real. Atwood creates such a wonderfully complete, complex, believable characters the reader can see, smell, taste and touch them.
Some of Elaine’s experiences are trying to lodge themselves into my brain as memories.

I found Elaine’s deeply held oddly sexist ideas quite interesting within the context of her avowed feminism. These odd blind spots make her even more complex and real.

Through the parallel telling of the present and the past the effect one’s upbringing and childhood experiences have on who one becomes as an adult is drawn. Watching Elaine grow up and make some odd decisions, for the vantage point of her future, makes for some deeply emotionally connected reading.

I loved this book and even the unlikable characters garnered sympathy. People are complicated – nothing is quite as simple as we might like to think.