Book Review: Margaret Atwood // Two Scorched Men

My rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Sometimes it’s difficult to give a short story more than three stars. The ideas are not expounded upon as much and it takes days for the full effect of the words to hit you. So for now Two Scorched Men, Margaret Atwood’s latest novella available on Scribd, is a three-star read.

When Atwood released this out of the blue I was over the moon. And was even more over the moon to know that I could read it for free without any subscriptions!

Two Scorched Men is an autobiographical piece of no more than thirty pages. It follows Francoise and John, characters based upon two of Atwood’s friends who fought in WWII. Unlikely friends, it shows what war can do to human beings and the suffering they endure even when the fighting is over. Atwood left behind writes their story so they can be remembered; or as she beautifully poses it: “We resist the notion that we’ll become mere handfuls of dust, so we wish to become words instead. Breath in the mouths of others”.

Atwood is no doubt a master of narration and she displays that perfectly in this work. We are given a first-person unnamed narrator who recalls their friendship with the duo and their stories. The narrator could be the author but it could be anyone really. All we know is that they have been trusted with their stories and they will do their best to tell them accurately.

This novella begins with John shooting a radiator. If that does not set up the absurdities of Atwood’s work then I don’t know what will! We learn John meant to shoot himself but shoots the radiator instead. Atwood not only shows the stress and trauma war veterans experience in the first lines but also the two routes their lives usually take.

Death is a prevailing theme in this piece and I think it will be in whatever Atwood releases from now on. In Dearly we saw this as well. Death has filled the news over the past year and Atwood also lost her beloved husband. She has come to the age where death is going to be everywhere and sadly it will affect her writing. But she’s not scared. The novella shows that death unites us all. We all die and it is the one thing we have in common.

Even if you don’t find this the most enjoyable or fulfilling piece of work by Atwood you should definitely give it a read. It won’t take more than thirty minutes and in doing so you pay respect to two veterans who (although did not die in the war) gave their lives to it.


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