Good Bones is a collection of (very) short stories by Margaret Atwood, probably best-known and loved for her novel The Handmaid’s Tale. I picked this up in hardback at a university book sale I organised a couple of years ago, having previously read The Handmaid’s Tale and Negotiating With The Dead, a collection of essays about writing. I was already part way through a book of short stories at the time so it went to the bottom of my TBR, until I pulled it out to read on the train in March. I don’t read short story collections very often but this year I’ve already read three. I think they’re a great way to have a break from teen/YA books that isn’t too long! I also think they’re fantastic for commuting, because if you know your reading speed and choose wisely, you can read a whole story or more during one journey. If I’m part way through a really good novel I find it really annoying when I then have to go do something else for seven or eight hours before I can pick it up again, but with short stories, I can finish one a couple of minutes before I get off the train. Perfect.
The first short story collection I read this year was Wayward Girls and Wicked Women, and Good Bones was quite similar in that there were often feminist messages behind the stories that I had to try to puzzle out. Again, this was a nice change from YA, which is usually quite straightforward. Not that YA novels don’t make me think, but it’s a different kind of contemplation. Usually I don’t have to wonder what a YA book is about, though I may ponder the issues raised in the story at length.
Good Bones is also quite a witty collection – some stories made me laugh, or at least had me smiling at their cleverness. I enjoy it when books make me smile whilst I’m on the train because other commuters always notice and I reckon it makes me seem mysterious but also happy!
My favourite stories were ‘The Little Red Hen Tells All’, which is a retelling of the children’s story about the little red hen who planted a grain of wheat, and ‘ Gertrude Talks Back’, which is from the point of view of Hamlet’s mother, but I liked all of the stories. Most of them are only three or four pages long, even in my little hardback edition, so they’re very quick to read. Unfortunately this makes some of them quite easy to forget, but on the other hand it seems to amplify the power of others.
I would recommend Good Bones to anyone who has enjoyed any of Margaret Atwood’s other works, anyone who likes short stories, and most especially to anyone who wants to try reading more short stories.