Life Before Man by Margaret Atwood - review by Michael Herbert

Michael Herbert

A Canadian Mistresspiece

Life Before Man


Jonathan Cape 317pp £5.95 order from our bookshop

Margaret Atwood is a Canadian writer, and the archetypal Canadian concerns are there for all to fmd in her latest novel, from the pOlitics of the extreme centre to the paranoid schizophrenia that Ms Atwood herself (in her lively study of Canadian literature, Survival) diagnoses as the national illness of her fellow ‘exiles and invaders’, with their tensions and choices to pull them in opposite directions.

But this approach makes her sound like some earnest cultural-tract-maker whereas what is so impressive about Life Before Man is how all the themes are made totally personal, are totally absorbed into the personal stories of Elizabeth, Nate (short for Nathanael) and Lesje (a Baltic version of Alice, pronounced ‘Lashia’).

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