Book Review: The Tent by Margaret Atwood

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The Tent is a collection of poems, drawings, and short stories (very short, some being only a paragraph long) from author Margaret Atwood.  If you enjoy Atwood’s writing, then you will definitely like this book. It’s evident that Atwood was simply having fun when putting this book togther. But while all of the passages are short – not a single one is more than a few pages – they are filled with meaning. The stories cover everything from the lives of orphans to what life was really like for a housewife back in the day to the relationship between an artist and her talent. At only 159 pages (including pictures), The Tent is a quick read. I was able to complete it in one day.

 

I have been in love with Margaret Atwood ever since I first read The Handmaid’s Tale. Her style of writing is amazing. There are still so many more of her books I need to read, but I am working on it. The Tent was a lot of fun to read and truly showcased Atwood’s talent. While all of the passages were enjoyable, some were better than others. The following were my favorites:

“Voice” – Clever, clever, clever. In this passage, I believe Atwood is talking about herself and her life as a writer. She writes about her “voice” as though it is another living entity. Her voice is responsible for all the success in her life; she just tagged along to all the parties and fancy hotels. She also confesses that once her voice is gone she will “be left alone, denuded – a dead shrub, a footnote.” I think every artist has felt this way at least once in her life: that she is nothing more than her talent.

“Orphan Stories” – As you can see below, four quotes from the book truly stood out for me and two of them came from this passage. This was definitely my favorite out of the entire novel. Atwood manages to portray the hardships of orphanhood in a light, almost comical way without trivializing the issue.

“Bringing Back Mom: An Invocation” – Boy was it hard being a housewife back in the 1950s. “Mom, whose husband left her for his secretary” and “on the clothesline you once briefly considered hanging yourself with” are just a couple of the lines in this poem that will make you cringe. The main focus of this poem is to showcase what life used to be like for a housewife; the days when her only duty was to take care of the house that she never felt was clean enough, see to a husband who never truly appreciated what she did, and raise children whose only wish was to never grow up to be their mother. It’s also written as an adult who is finally able to appreciate all that her mother was and all she did.

Notable Quotes:
“Human beings – I’ve observed – are hot-wired for scorekeeping, and since they like to win they’re always going on better than the other fellow.”

“A home filled with nothing but yourself. It’s heavy, that lightness. It’s crushing, that emptiness.”

“It’s a good excuse, though orphanhood. It explains everything – every mistake and wrong turn. As Sherlock Holmes declared, She had no mother to advise her. How we long for it, that lack of advice! Imprudence could have been ours. Passionate affairs. Reckless adventures. Of course we’re grateful for our stable upbringings, our hordes of informative relatives, our fleece-lined advantages, our lack of dramatic plots. But there’s a corner of envy in us all the same. Why doesn’t anything of interest happen to us, coddled as we are? Why do the orphans get all the good lines?”

When talking about the young in the section “Encouraging the Young” – “I won’t fatten them in cages, though. I won’t ply them with poisoned fruit items. I won’t change them into clockwork images or talking shadows. I won’t drain out their life’s blood. They can do all those things for themselves.”

Final Verdict: Being a fan of Atwood, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and gave it a 4-star rating on Goodreads.

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