I recently finished Margaret Atwood’s book Surfacing, first published in 1973. It was for me a weird reading experience. On one hand it has been an easy, and in many ways pleasant, read. On the other hand it has not really left an impression.
The female narrator returns to her birthplace, together with her boyfriend and another couple, because her father has disappeared. It’s clear from the start that she has had an unusual upbringing, living part of the year in a remote village and the rest on an isolated island where, especially her father lived a pioneer’s life. As an adult she seems to have mixed feelings about that early existence but it has also shaped her into who she is – both in her rejection and move to the city. But also when she rediscovers that existance throughout the story.
The last few chapters take a bit of a turn. It’s easy to draw the conclusion that she has a mental breakdown but I’m not sure it’s quite that simple. There is an obvious undertone of returning to the wild and to humankind’s original state of being in a harsh but untouched nature. Nature has a spiritual meaning but I don’t quite follow the narrator’s journey in that aspect. Perhaps I just don’t understand the transformation she goes through.
Yesterday’s writing group had the theme Baggy Pants. I love trying to write random little pieces on a theme. The everyday objects are the hardest ones. Broad abstract subjects can be much easier. Below is my baggy pants pieces. I called it Pretty.
I think I was pretty once. Yes, people used to ask if I was going to be a model when I grew up.
“You’re so tall and skinny.”
Did that really mean that they thought I was pretty though?
I did get a bit of attention as a teenager but then again maybe that was because I got my boobs early. Boys always find boobs exciting, even when they are old enough to be called men.
“Two lumps of fat,” my best friend used to call them.
I took care of my appearance when I was young. You’re supposed to, as a woman, aren’t you. I would wear flattering clothes, spend time putting my hair up and I never went anywhere without a touch of makeup. Men liked me, but I must admit that the shallow admiration quickly bored me. Suppose it boasted my confidence still.
When I look myself in the mirror I see nothing of that young woman. Only grey skin, dark circles under my eyes and eyes that never smile. My hair has lost its shine and it’s luster.
Yes, I think I was pretty when I was young. Now I’m as worn out as the baggy trousers I always wear.
Yesterday, another dream of mine came true. As much as I am gutted that I missed seeing Frankenstein at National Theatre, am I delighted that I finally got tickets to see a play there.
The play in question was Jane Eyre. I read the book and other Brontë stories after I fell in love with Jane Austen’s writing in my late teens. Jane Eyre is probably my favourite. It is a fantastic tale about independence and romance, with a bit of mystery and horror thrown in. I think I especially like Jane’s humble but strong minded person.
National Theatre has done a good job capturing everything you like about the story. I was especially impressed with the lighting design, sound design and the music. On the whole, it is a very clever, well thought through and brilliant production. With that said, I still haven’t made up my mind if I really liked it.
One thing that strikes me with the story is why men can be so cruel to the woman they love. Rochester tries to make Jane jealous, tries to provoke a reaction from her by courting another woman. My experience is that that kind of behaviour can only cause pain since a woman who truely loves will want what will make the object of her affection happy, even when that happiness lies together with someone else. She will withdraw; she will lick her wounds.
In conclusion, I’m very happy with my choice of play to experience the greatness of National Theatre and if you do get a chance to see it – do so.