Short Story Review – “Stone Mattress” by Margaret Atwood

Margaret_Atwood_2015

Margaret Atwood (image source)

 

“At the outset Verna had not intended to kill anyone.” That first line had me hooked right away. Not that I needed much prodding to read a story by the prolific Man Booker Prize winning author Margaret Atwood. I had heard so much praise about her works that I had been planning to read her novels for a while. However, when this short story came up instead, I pounced at the opportunity to get introduced to her work.

And what an introduction it has been! The story is about an elderly lady who goes on a cruise and happens to meet someone who brings back dark memories from her earlier life. She wonders if she should let things pass or not and after some deliberation, decides to take action.

The tale has its fair share of suspense and the reader empathises with Verna. The tale does have a definite end, but Verna and her motivations does make one pause and reflect on her actions of the present and the past. We are also left wondering whether justice was served and what the nature of justice is.

Not to say that the story isn’t funny. I found myself chuckling and grinning at more than one point. Perhaps this dark, macabre humour also contributes to why Atwood later clarified that she would like to categorise “Stone Mattress” not as a story but as a tale, in that it has a touch of the magical.

Although written back in December 2011, this story is absolutely relevant today in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Atwood shows the world not just the violence involved in sexual assault but also the emotions and challenges that survivors of sexual violence have to live with.

Read more about ‘Stone Mattress’ on Goodreads. Buy the book of short stories here.

Title: Stone Mattress: Nine Wicked Tales

Authors: Margaret Atwood

First published: 2014

No. of Pages: 320

Price: (Paperback) Rs. 460 / (Kindle) Rs. 346.92 (Amazon.in)

(Disclosure: If you buy books by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)

 

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