Summary and book reviews of Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

Stone Mattress

Nine Tales

by Margaret Atwood

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood X
Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Sep 2014, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2015, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lucy Rock
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About this Book

Book Summary

Margaret Atwood turns to short fiction with nine tales of acute psychological insight and turbulent relationships.

Margaret Atwood turns to short fiction for the first time since her 2006 collection, Moral Disorder, with nine tales of acute psychological insight and turbulent relationships bringing to mind her award-winning 1996 novel, Alias Grace.

A recently widowed fantasy writer is guided through a stormy winter evening by the voice of her late husband in "Alphinland," the first of three loosely linked stories about the romantic geometries of a group of writers and artists. In "The Freeze-Dried Bridegroom," a man who bids on an auctioned storage space has a surprise. In "Lusus Naturae," a woman born with a genetic abnormality is mistaken for a vampire. In "Torching the Dusties," an elderly lady with Charles Bonnet syndrome comes to terms with the little people she keeps seeing, while a newly formed populist group gathers to burn down her retirement residence.

And in "Stone Mattress," a long-ago crime is avenged in the Arctic via a 1.9 billion-year-old stromatolite. In these nine tales, Margaret Atwood is at the top of her darkly humorous and seriously playful game.

ALPHINLAND

The freezing rain sifts down, handfuls of shining rice thrown by some unseen celebrant. Wherever it hits, it crystallizes into a granulated coating of ice. Under the streetlights it looks so beautiful: like fairy silver, thinks Constance. But then, she would think that; she's far too prone to enchantment. The beauty is an illusion, and also a warning: there's a dark side to beauty, as with poisonous butterflies. She ought to be considering the dangers, the hazards, the grief this ice storm is going to bring to many; is already bringing, according to the television news.

The tv screen is a flat high-definition one that Ewan bought so he could watch hockey and football games on it. Constance would rather have the old fuzzy one back, with its strangely orange people and its habit of rippling and fading: there are some things that do not fare well in high definition. She resents the pores, the wrinkles, the nose hairs, the impossibly whitened teeth shoved right up in ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

From the simply adequate to the most superb, Stone Mattress is an admirable, off-kilter study of death, love and vulnerability - often all three. Within these pages we are reminded of our own rapidly approaching mortality and, against all odds, see our desire to be loved in the strangest of tales.   (Reviewed by Lucy Rock).

Full Review (507 words).

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Media Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
Witty and frequently biting ... this book’s stories offer characters a chance to put their own understandings of gallantry, courage and revenge to the test, in ways both mundane and extraordinary.

Minneapolis Star Tribune
These] stories have the caustic wit and giddy deviance ... along with the probing interiority and flinty insights of Atwood’s novels.

The Boston Globe
Eclectic, funny, vibrant, terrifying, beautiful, and utterly delightful.

Miami Herald
Stylish, acerbic and wickedly funny ... With wit, sympathy and precision, Atwood draws readers into a reflective frame of mind.

Financial Times (UK)
Look at these tales as eight icily refreshing arsenic Popsicles followed by a baked Alaska laced with anthrax, all served with impeccable style and aplomb. Enjoy!

Kirkus Reviews
Up to her old tricks and not dropping a card.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Atwood, a bestselling master of fiction, delivers a stunning collection... and it's clear that this grande dame is at the top of her game.

Booklist
Starred Review. Shrewedly brilliant, gleefully mischievous, and acerbically hillarious... Atwood has the raptor's penetrating gaze, speed, and agility and never misses her mark.

Library Journal
Starred Review. Poignant, funny, distressing, and surreal, Atwood's stories bring the extraordinary to the ordinary. For Atwood devotees and literary fiction fans.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

What Is a Stone Mattress?

A "stone mattress" in the titular tale of this short story collection serves as a painful reminder of past events. It is also Margaret Atwood's nickname for fascinating geological formations called stromatolites.

Stromatolites in Shark Bay, Australia Stromatolites (from the Greek 'stroma' = mattress/layer and 'lithos' = stone) are most easily described as living fossils. Blue-green algae, a type of cyanobacteria, trap the sediment around it with its sticky coating. The algae absorb both carbon dioxide and calcium dissolved in water, which then react to form calcium carbonate, which provides a limestone scaffolding for further expansion. This is a hugely lengthy process (it can take a stromatolite 100 years to grow just 5 cm) that eventually results in rock-like ...

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