Books·Canadian

Surfacing

Margaret Atwood's second novel is part detective novel and part psychological thriller. It was published in 1972.

Margaret Atwood

Part detective novel, part psychological thriller, Surfacing is the story of a young woman who returns to northern Quebec, to the remote island of her childhood, with her lover and two friends, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of her father. Flooded with memories, she begins to realize that going home means entering not only another place, but another time. As the wild island exerts its elemental hold and she is submerged in the language of the wilderness, she discovers that what she is really searching for is her own past. Permeated with an aura of suspense, complex with layered meanings, and written in brilliant, diamond-sharp prose, Surfacing has grown in reputation as a novel unique in modern literature for its mythic exploration of one woman's spiritual pilgrimage. (From Emblem Editions)

From the book

I can't believe I'm on this road again, twisting along past the lake where the white birches are dying, the disease is spreading up from the south, and I notice they now have sea-planes for hire. But this is still near the city limits; we didn't go through, it's swelled enough to have a bypass, that's success.

I never thought of it as a city but as the last or first outpost depending on which way we were going, an accumulation of sheds and boxes and one main street with a movie theatre, the itz, the oyal, red R burnt out, and two restaurants which served identical grey hamburger steaks plastered with mud gravy and canned peas, watery and pallid as fisheyes, and french fries bleary with lard. Order a poached egg, my mother said, you can tell if it's fresh by the edges.


From Surfacing by Margaret Atwood ©1972. Published by McClelland & Stewart.