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We're all mad about Margaret, who shares tantalizing details about her latest novel
Fans of Margaret Atwood are eager to get their hands on her latest novel, MaddAddam
Standing in the modern, loft-style staff kitchen at Indigo Books’ headquarters on King Street in Toronto, Margaret Atwood is a breath of fresh country air in a navy blouse with western stitching and embroidery, those trademark curls framing her famously high cheekbones and characteristic closed-lip smile.
For someone so petite, the 73-year-old novelist, poet, literary critic and environmental activist is anything but minimal, and the dozen or so media who have joined her for an intimate luncheon seem somewhat star struck to be in such close proximity to one of Canada’s biggest literary exports, despite that we all regularly encounter celebrity types.
We are joined by Indigo founder and CEO Heather Reisman and sit down for lunch at a table set to show off fall styles that will be arriving at Indigo in August: pretty mix and match plate ware from a potter in Thailand that each have a handmade look and feel, napkins that have a pleasing, rumpled look to them and are dyed in natural hues, and edible centerpieces of fresh bread and grapes on beautiful wooden platters.
Reisman is excited about the company’s continued segue into home wares, fashion accessories and, this year, office décor, but it’s clear as she greets Atwood—“Peggy,” as she calls her—that books remain the soul of this operation. And while we have definitely come together to admire the fall selection from Indigo, Atwood and her newest dystopian novel, MaddAddam, are stealing the show.
The novel—the third in the trilogy that began with Oryx and Crake followed by The Year of the Flood—picks up where The Year of the Flood left off, after most of humanity has been wiped out. Toby and Ren have rescued their friend Amanda from the vicious Painballers and return to the MaddAddamite house accompanied by the Crakers, the quasi-human species engineered by the late Crake. (“Oryx and Crake have become a religion, which they would since they are no longer alive,” explains Atwood.)
With Jimmy sidelined, it’s left to Toby to narrate the Craker theology and deal with her jealousy over Zeb, who is off searching for Adam One.
“Does Toby get together with Zeb? Actually yes,” Atwood divulges. “That goes back into the earlier lives of a couple of the characters that we don’t know too much about in the other books—most prominently Zeb and Adam One.”
We wait, on the edge of our seats, for more inside scoop on the plot, but it doesn’t come.
“I won’t reveal that much,” she says, as a savoury roast tomato soup is set before each of us. “I’m not going to tell you whether you’re going to be happy or sad about it in the end, that’s going to be up to you. I don’t know how you’ll be. If I can’t make myself cry or be happy, then I’m no good to anyone.” She does, however, add, “There’s sex in it, but 50 Shades of Grey it’s not.”
So, we settle into our soup and gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and a conversation about the dystopian nature of this trilogy and nostalgia ensues. “Why do we want to read so much about the past right now?” Atwood asks the table. “You all seem to having a good time today.”
This conversation is where any wistfulness about the past, however, appears to stop for Atwood these days. She’s working on a video trailer—her first—for MaddAddam, as well as a video game based on one played by the BioGeeks in one chapter, which she’s hoping will be ready in time for the book launch in late August.
Atwood is also incredibly social media savvy, with more than 400,000 Twitter followers and almost 17,000 tweets on her account, @MargaretAtwood.
It’s all a far cry from her 1969 novel debut, The Edible Woman—or is it? That novel coincided with the second wave of feminism, though Atwood has maintained it was written years before that movement. Could MaddAddam also be a harbinger of what’s to come? If so, we’ll all want to read to the end to get ready.
MaddAddam will be available at Indigo in Canada on August 27th.