I have had so many recommendations to read Margaret Atwood’s stuff but only recently got around to doing it. The reason I chose this book to start is purely because I saw it in a charity shop and decided to buy it.
‘Moral Disorder’ is a collection of short stories which are all linked together. It deals with issues like unconventional relationships, changing attitudes towards sex, ageing, death and family. Essentially, it covers various life events that happen within a family over 60 years.
“In the end, we’ll all become stories. Or else we’ll become entities. Maybe it’s the same.”
It is not often that I read collections of short stories. I always worry that they are going to be too distinct to have any real connection to one another and that leaves me feeling like they should not have been published together. I did not get that sense with ‘Moral Disorder.’ The writing switches from first to third person at one stage which threw me off a little bit but I soon picked up what character had been talking and was now being talked about.
There is one central female character (who we learn is called Nell) and that helps all the short stories flow together nicely. Nell’s life is messy and scattered, she goes through various jobs and relationships without really ever knowing what she wants. Initially, one does not necessarily connect the woman to the girl in the childhood stories but little clues allow you to do this as you continue reading. However, I would say that I struggled to connect the last two stories with the character of Nell from the previous ones. It felt as though the woman in these stories could have been anyone.
‘Moral Disorder’ starts at the end with ‘The Bad News’ and describes a morning routine of a couple in their old age. Half of that couple is the central character of Nell. We then learn about her childhood, relationship with her sister and parents, relationship with a married man, time spent farming and her father’s dementia. After this first story, the rest of them are chronological which helps the reader build a solid picture of Nell’s life.
The book is really wonderfully written. I had tears in my eyes reading the last couple of short stories – one which is about a daughter viewing her father sinking into dementia and the final story which describes a daughter looking through old photo albums with her mother. All the little details that Atwood mentions here makes everything much more raw and emotional.
Atwood writes characters in such a way that draws you close to them and highlights things about them which you can relate to. Her writing is witty, observant and interesting. I would definitely recommend reading this book and now I just need to decide which of her books to pick up next – any suggestions?