What’s The Man From Mars all about?:
The Man From Mars follows a female college student as she deals with the unexpected attention she receives from an insistent male admirer.
What did I think?:
Firstly, I want to let it be known how much respect and love I have for Margaret Atwood as an author, if I haven’t mentioned her already. I have tended to prefer her novels to her shorter fiction (that I’ve read so far) but this isn’t saying much as the only shorter pieces I’ve read from her is the Positron series which, although brilliant on some levels, was incredibly odd in others. The Man From Mars is another example of Margaret Atwood at her best and I loved the way my emotions about this story waxed and waned in different directions and made me think about certain things in a whole new light. However, I have to confess finding myself slightly disappointed about the ending – perhaps I expected more?
Our main female protagonist is Christine, who loves tennis and is described as “big boned,” or athletic. Her parents don’t have too many hopes for her romantically or socially and luckily (for them!) she has two beautiful sisters that have married and had children very successfully. Christine is used to the relationships she has with men. They see her as “one of the guys,” friendly enough and fun to be with but not remotely like a girl they would normally be attracted to. This all changes for Christine one day when she is approached by a foreign male student looking for directions on campus and she stops to assist him. Unfortunately, he takes this opportunity a little too far and becomes obsessed with Christine – following her everywhere, calling her and merely breathing down the phone and even getting himself invited round to tea, insisting that he is her friend. Christine meanwhile is in quite the quandary. She is not remotely drawn to this young man and in fact, finds him quite repulsive with his worn down clothes and incredibly bitten nails. On the other hand though, she has never in her life had this much attention before and she secretly quite likes it, making it quite difficult when the attention is eventually taken away.
This short story elicited so many varied feelings for me! Margaret Atwood is an absolute master at creating an atmosphere within a narrative and in The Man From Mars I shifted constantly from being supremely uncomfortable (and a bit terrified, I have to say!) to feeling slightly scornful of Christine and the way she was dealing with the situation to finally feeling hugely sympathetic towards both parties in their odd little relationship. I think the author was making some very clever statements about how we might view someone or stereotype someone from a different culture and how we shouldn’t be so quick to pass judgement purely based on someone’s behaviour or appearance as there might be quite a valid reason for it being that way that we are unaware of. Sadly, I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this myself in the past, even if it was subconscious and I’ve definitely been the victim of it myself with people who are obviously ignorant and don’t know any better. For these reasons, I really did enjoy this story and the way that I was made to assess my own thoughts and emotions. It was just a bit of a shame that the ending wasn’t quite to my liking, it all felt a bit too abrupt and it would have been nice to get a definitive resolution for both our characters.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Seeing Double by Sara Maitland from the collection The New Uncanny: Tales Of Unease edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page.