Life before man

by Margaret Atwood

Hardcover, 1979

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

New York : Simon & Schuster, c1979.

Description

Imprisoned by walls of their own construction, here are three people, each in midlife, in midcrisis, forced to make choices--after the rules have changed. Elizabeth, with her controlled sensuality, her suppressed rage, is married to the wrong man. She has just lost her latest lover to suicide. Nate, her gentle, indecisive husband, is planning to leave her for Lesje, a perennial innocent who prefers dinosaurs to men. Hanging over them all is the ghost of Elizabeth's dead lover...and the dizzying threat of three lives careening inevitably toward the same climax. "From the Paperback edition."

User reviews

LibraryThing member bexaplex
Life Before Man is one of the few (the only?) Atwood novels in which there's a mostly palatable male character. Most of Atwood's men are pretty revolting, if sometimes compellingly so. I like to imagine that Atwood wrote this for her husband, so that there was something in her body of work that imagined better relationships.

Like all Atwoods, there are mothers, daughters, a little bit of sex. But this novel is really about grief, and exquisitely done. It's plodding at times, which is not an accident. "Nothing is ever finished" says Elizabeth. The real genius is that no character really feels justified in his/her grief, which is a realistic facet of the experience. Elizabeth mourns the lover she already cast away. Nate mourns the marriage that unraveled a long time ago. Lesje mourns the crummy boyfriend she never loved, and then the relationship she wanted and got. Elizabeth mourns the aunt she hated.

As a bonus, one of the main characters is a paleontologist, which I love.
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LibraryThing member the_awesome_opossum
Life Before Man is a book all about sex. The story follows Elizabeth, Nate,and Lesje; Elizabeth and Nate are married, but their relationship became severely fractured when Elizabeth's lover Chris committed suicide, and now Nate is having an affair with Lesje, who is Elizabeth's coworker. The narrative is a "slice of life," in that there's not so much a plot as there are these characters and the events that unfold around them.

Sadly, the book never really picks up enough steam to sustain itself, the characters show little difference from the beginning of the story to the end, and we never learn to care about any of them anyway. It was a very disappointing book for me, because I love Margaret Atwood so much, but I think there's good reason that this is one of her lesser-known books.
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LibraryThing member kazzablanca
Margaret Atwood is always so perceptive and her books are littered with philosophical gems. However, the lack of movement in this book made the story become rather heavy, particularly towards the end. Not my favourite Atwood book but one that I am glad to have read.
LibraryThing member verenka
It's a book without much story line, yet it never gets boring. I was lucky enough to be able to read the book in one sitting and quite enjoyed it.
This is rather curious, as I didn't think any of the characters were particularly likeable. Small minded, manipulative, very selfish and just generally not very likable.… (more)
LibraryThing member ilovecookies
I did not rate this book because I can't remember too much about it. I know it is feminist literature from a 70's perspective.
LibraryThing member LoveAtFirstBook
This month for my Project Atwood, I read Life Before Man. I have to say, it wasn’t my favorite out of the Margaret Atwood books I have read.

The book is told from three perspectives: Elizabeth’s, Nate’s, and Lesje’s (pronounced Lashia).

Elizabeth and Nate are married with two children, but don’t have a conventional marriage. Elizabeth has been having very public affairs for years, and it seems like Nate is doing the same.

However, Elizabeth’s most recent lover, Chris, commits suicide, which propels both Elizabeth and Nate to think more deeply about their marriage and affairs.

Lesje works with Elizabeth, and seems as if she will be the next one pulled into an affair with Nate.

While I did enjoy reading this story, it was so long. I wanted the book to end sooner, which is never a good thing. Not my favorite Atwood, but not terrible overall. Just good.

Do you have a book by a favorite author that was a little underwhelming?

Thanks for reading,

Rebecca @ Love at First Book
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LibraryThing member HippieLunatic
As someone ending a marriage that was likely not always loveless, though I cannot remember it as such, this is a book that spoke deeply to me. The stories of Elizabeth, Nate and Lesje make me want to cry, to laugh, to scream, to comfort. They make me realize that each of us have sides of ourselves that we would rather not be shown to the world, but in our worst times, those are the sides that are usually the most obvious.

Atwood never ceases to amaze me, but often I am more drawn into her stories than I am the characters. Here was the exact opposite. Instead of a dystopia where women are made into baby carriages, instead of a tale of the end of our world and the start of a new generation, instead of a lookback into the mind of a serial killer, we are faced with the mundane. A loveless marriage. How that is impacted by the addition of other relationships. How it ends. How each member in that play deals with the emotions circling above them.

And this is enough to push me page after page, quickly, and with eagerness, to see when I can catch a glimpse of myself the next time.
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LibraryThing member csweder
This book was slow for me to get into, but when I sat down to really dig in, it was Atwood as usual. Painting characters who have real thoughts and actions--whose behavior confuses them (like my own behavior sometimes confuses me). This books I would say is about the patterns we find ourselves in. Relationship patterns with significant others, children, relatives--and how it all just breaks down.

I would be hard pressed to say who the protagonist of this novel is. There are three main characters, and they are all so real I can't say that I was rooting for any of them. They were selfish and petty, but caring and loving and scared too. Just like characters outside of books.

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LibraryThing member wareagle78
I did not care for this book. I found the characters self-absorbed and disagreeable, and was never particularly clear on their motivations. I'm sure someone else will have better luck.
LibraryThing member Esquiress
Life Before Man, another of Atwood's older books, is told from three different perspectives and jumps around in time a bit. These are perfect ingredients for me to love the book, and I really did like it very much.

Each chapter kept me wanting to read more, and I felt especially drawn to main character Lesje. Elizabeth was infuriating, though I did have a small amount of sympathy for her. Nate was a bit annoying, but again, I had some sympathy for him. All three were sympathetic characters.

The prose was divine as it always is in an Atwood novel. I loved just reading the words she had written.

At first, the novel's pace was a little bit slow, and it took a bit longer to read the whole novel than I thought it would. I kept finding places where I was in a bit of a rut as I read, but then I would find the get-up-and-go by the next chapter or even paragraph. That is part of the reason for the slightly lower-than-five rating.

Additionally, I wasn't wholly satisfied by the end of the novel. I felt it dropped off a little bit. While I don't mind being left with questions, I felt that there were just too many of them left unanswered at the end of the novel.

Overall, the novel was thought-provoking and engaging. I would definitely recommend it.
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LibraryThing member csweder
This book was slow for me to get into, but when I sat down to really dig in, it was Atwood as usual. Painting characters who have real thoughts and actions--whose behavior confuses them (like my own behavior sometimes confuses me). This books I would say is about the patterns we find ourselves in. Relationship patterns with significant others, children, relatives--and how it all just breaks down.

I would be hard pressed to say who the protagonist of this novel is. There are three main characters, and they are all so real I can't say that I was rooting for any of them. They were selfish and petty, but caring and loving and scared too. Just like characters outside of books.

… (more)
LibraryThing member LARA335
Assured writing, and impressive character studies of three rather dull people you wouldn't choose to spend time with.

Language

Barcode

2498
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