This is Margaret Atwood’s début novel, one that established her as a writer of literary realism and feminism.
The story follows Marian as she loses the ability to eat, loses grasp with reality, and is consumed by her relationships.
Marian cannot eat because she envisions her food as a living organism. The steak is a muscle of cow. The eggs are baby chicks spilling out onto her plate. The carrots have roots. The truth is, Marian herself is being eaten. Her elitist fiancé regards her as his doll; her job puts her in a category with the kind of women Marian would never associate with.
When Marian meets Duncan, she finds her escape from reality in this phantasmic English graduate, and he — in her. As she runs off to laundromats and shuffles through museums, Marian is getting closer to the solution of her problem.
In this novel Atwood skilfully analyses various types of relationships between men and women, men and men, women and women, people and society. Although it’s her first novel, the narrative is ripe with irony and metaphor, and her language is weathered and deep. The tone of the novel very much reminded me of The Bell Jar, except less fatalistic and dark towards the end, more comic and keenly observant. Atwood’s prose is fresh and pulsating: if this is her first attempt at noveling — I cannot wait to try her next! (Perhaps it shall be The Penelopiad: I’ve heard good things.)
As consumers in a consumerist society, how often are we consumed by it without realisation? How often do we give up on dreams and hopes because they are devoured by toxic people and gluttonous institutions trying to turn the infinite being into a compact number, a label…
The Edible Woman is one neatly crafted metaphor worth uncovering.