Critical Overview

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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 611

In 1961, at the age of nineteen Margaret Atwood wrote a collection of poems that she self-published. The collection was called Double Persephone and it won her the prestigious E. J. Pratt Medal. In 1966, another Atwood poetry collection, The Circle Game, won her the Canadian Governor General's Award. This was how she launched her career as a writer.

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The Edible Woman was the first novel that Atwood wrote. At the time of its publication, Atwood was considered a poet. This may have played a part in the somewhat discouraging reviews of her first published attempts at prose. The book is described as being thin and tedious by several reviewers. Many of these reviewers do, however, see the potential in Atwood's writing and hold out hope that her next attempt at writing prose will be much better.

For example, in 1969 in a review in the Times Literary Supplement, Andre Deutsch writes that "at its best the novel exactly catches [Marian McAlpin's] compulsive behaviour and her unspoken difficulties ... but the author's tendency to shy away from her own interests and her failure of nerve quite spoil these moments." In a 1970 review in the Saturday Review, Elizabeth Easton says, "Margaret Atwood, a Canadian poet, tries hard to be whimsical about all this [the plight of Marian McAlpin] but what might be briefly amusing becomes tedious when presented lengthily in rambling fashion ... Sharp imagery cannot make up for trite characterization and lack of plot."

John Stedmond in the Canadian Forum in 1970 states that:

the novel as a whole does not live up to the promise of its parts. The characters, though clearly sketched, do not quite jell and the narrative techniques creak a little ... The novel's approach to the 'position of woman' question is fresh and the method of dealing with it is full of possibilities. But the potentialities are disappointingly unrealized. The author's second book should be better.

In the Library Journal in 1970, John Alfred Avant says:

Atwood, a young Canadian poet, can do nice things with a prose style; some of her phrases work themselves out in perverse little ways ... but the material here is terribly thin. The characters are essentially uninteresting; and the situation ... might do for a short story but just isn't enough for a novel. I can't recall a book more padded with tedious, irrelevant detail. There's no reason to...

(The entire section contains 611 words.)

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