Old Babes in the Wood

Margaret Atwood

Old Babes in the Wood
Vintage Publishing
United Kingdom
12 March 2024

Old Babes in the Wood

Margaret Atwood

The new collection from the legendary Atwood is led by the story of a married couple as they travel the road together, the moments big and small that make up a long life of love - and what comes after

My heart is broken, Nell thinks. But in our family we don't say, 'My heart is broken.' We say, 'Are there any cookies?'

In this dazzling collection of stories we meet beloved cats, George Orwell, a daughter whose mother may or may not be a witch, a cabal of elderly female academics, and an alien tasked with retelling human fairy tales. And we meet and re-meet Nell and Tig, a long-married couple, and see the moments big and small that make up a life of love - and what comes after.


Margaret Atwood is back with yet another stunning collection of short stories, her first since 2014’s Stone Mattress. Atwood has a knack for zeroing in on society and the various idiosyncrasies that make us human. This is evident in Old Babes in the Wood, a series of stories that highlight the complexities of humans, our relationships and the impact of time on our world. It’s this talent that puts her in a league of her own.

The stories in Old Babes in the Wood are arranged into three parts, with the first and last telling tales about Nell and Tig and the journey of their life together. Part one includes beautiful stories of their younger life together, the risks they took, the interesting characters they met, an ode to a cherished cat. The third part focuses on their later life, and reflects on the impacts of war on family, the process of aging, the importance of family and love, and the grief and memories that accompany loss. It’s hard not to feel Atwood’s own life being reflected in these stories and this extra connection makes them that bit more poignant.

In contrast to these very human stories, part two is my favourite type of Atwood’s writing – stories that are peculiar, creative and at times macabre. These include determining whether a young woman’s mother is in fact a witch. Atwood interviewing George Orwell with the help of a medium. A snail’s soul being spirited into a human body. A first-person account of the death of Hypatia. An alien telling an ‘ancient Earth story’ to a group of quarantined humans. A slight change of pace from parts one and three, but together they work.

I could read these stories again and again, and will definitely be recommending this book to everyone.

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