Margaret Atwood is one of the most brilliant and unpredictable novelists alive. She is always putting her past behind her: her novels share no family likeness. It is strange to recall her early books, such as Surfacing and The Edible Woman. They were slender and graceful – and very much a young writer’s work. But Atwood has gone on to greater things. Now even her style is impossible to second-guess: The Robber Bride (1993) was fast and loose; Alias Grace (1997) – short-listed for the Booker Prize – was more literary, decorous, researched. The two had only one thing in common: they were compulsive reads.