Saturday, 1 September 2007

Moral Disorder by Margaret Atwood

Moral Disorder
Margaret Atwood
Virago €??

A NOVEL told as a series of linked short stories that click together to make a family portrait, Moral Disorder ranges from hilarity to tragedy, and, oddly, from 1950s America to ancient Rome.

In one fragment our hero Nell and her sister Lizzie drive along the highway, having the wandering conversation common to all sisters, as Lizzie mutters at other drivers, all of whom she calls Fred. "Drop dead, Fred, the lights were red," she snarls as a woman crashes through.

Nell acquires a husband, Tig - when his wife, author of the organisational bible Femagician, interviews her and decides she'll do for the job.

Then back to Nell as a 15-year-old monster telling her terrified sister in a 'reasonable but still eerie tone': "It's all right, you can come out of hiding now, the game's over. I'm not a monster, I'm your sister" - with resulting nightmares for little Lizzie.

Then Nell and Tig as hobby farmers, making a pet of a rejected lamb - and bringing him to the slaughterhouse when he's an aggressive ram, and getting him back as chops.

It's an odd book, kind of empty and heartless but at the same time a bit of a pageturner, and at times so funny I found myself giving barks of laughter.

4 stars

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