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From fat girl to thin, from red hair to mud brown, from London to Toronto, from Polish count to radical husband, from writer of romances to distinguished poet - Joan Foster is utterly confused by her life of multiple identiities. She decides to escape to an Italain hill town to take stock of her life. But first, she must organise her own death...

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780860683032
ISBN-10: 0860683036
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 132mm x 23mm)
Pages: 384
Imprint: Virago Press Ltd
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 6-May-1982
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » Joan Foster got really fat to spite her mother, an impatient slim lady who was ashamed of her clumsy daughter. Joan only manages to regain an acceptable shape when a beloved aunt leaves her a substantial sum of money providing she loses 100 lbs. But when Joan changes shape she loses the identity that she has grown up with. The rest of her curious unconventional adventures are all part of her search to find her real self. To this end she changes - the colour of her hair from flaming red to mud brown; countries, from Canada to England to Italy; and boyfriends, from a right-wing Polish count to a left-wing revolutionary. She writes Gothic costume dramas under the name of Laura K Delacourt - then reverts to her own name for the publication of a book of serious poetry which, she assures an astonished interviewer, was dictated to her by spirit voices. In order to achieve a final metamorphosis she has to arrange her own death so that she can escape to a small Italian hill town and reconsider her position in society. Prize-winning Canadian author Atwood is a fine storyteller - her endearingly loopy heroine-narrator steps with inconsequential charm from one absurd situation to another - sometimes her heart is heavy but it is never allowed to weigh on the reader who is kept breathlessly amused by the author's penetrating wit and snapping intelligence. First published in 1982 this was Atwood's third novel. She made her name with her first book The Edible Woman. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » There were those who admired The Edible Woman, while Surfacing - post-discovery chic? - attracted still more attention. This is by far the most cheerful novel Margaret Atwood's written - picking up themes and traces of her former books while subduing the determined, symbolic Millettantism of her second one. Lady Oracle is entertainment de luxe (even a Redbook appearance) - she's Joan Foster, once the very unwanted, fat child of an awful mother who had wretched experiences with everyone except her loving Aunt Lou (e.g. the time her dancing teacher converted her from a butterfly into a mothball which was what she looked like in all that tulle). She reviews the almost "discarded misery" of her childhood and puberty in which she had to suppress sex - there was no role for her to play - until she dieted drastically and moved on to England, still the insecure romantic looking for happy endings. A Polish count who wrote girls' books under the name Mavis Quilp led her to write her own costume gothics. But earlier on (through Aunt Lou's spiritualist) she had been told she had the gift; it comes true when she begins the automatic writing which results in her great best seller, Lady Oracle, a "cross between Kahlil Gibran and Rod McKuen" and winner of cult catchwords like "chthonic." There is also her marriage to Arthur, a mournful, radical prig, which seems to take place "in a kind of spiritual train station," without many sensual highs. Finally Joan Foster decides to do away with all her secret selves and fantasy heroines by preparing her demise into another world and another life. Miss Atwood's eye for detail is as acute as ever; it's just that this book is a genuine mood-softener as well as raffishly funny. Lady Oracle's automatic reading - a charming certainty. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa in 1939. She is Canada's most eminent novelist and poet and has published more than thirty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays. Her work has been translated into thirty-three languages. Her latest novel, The Blind Assassin won the 2000 Booker Prize.

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