Margaret Atwood describes Stone Mattress as a collection of tales, and several of them are characteristic of wonder tales or amazing tales of decades ago. In the title story, for example, a woman meets a man on a cruise to the Antarctic who years ago ruined her life. When he does not recognize her much older self, she begins plotting his murder.
All of the stories are about characters in their older years. The first three are linked. In “Alphinland,” Constance, the author of a popular fantasy series, copes with the aftermath of an ice storm and listens to advice from her dead husband as she considers her earlier life, particularly Gavin, an old lover who was cruel to her. In “Revenant,” Gavin’s wife Reynolds tries to cope with her difficult poet husband. She has a bit of revenge by setting him up with an interview with a graduate student who only wants to know about his relationship with Constance. In “Dark Lady,” Jorrie, the woman who long ago was the cause of Constance and Gavin’s break-up, asks her twin brother to go along with her to Gavin’s funeral.
Some of the stories are more fantastic, such as “Lusus Naturae,” about a woman whose family has hidden her away for years because of her appearance and a thirst for blood. Many of them reflect a concern for the environment and a dark sense of humor. All are well written. This collection is a perfect one for people who want to experience a light and entertaining dose of Atwood.