Margaret Atwood to publish ‘highly personal’ collection of short stories

When it is published next year Old Babes in the Wood will mark the author’s first return to fiction since 2019’s The Testaments

A new collection of short stories by Margaret Atwood, which the publisher has described as highly personal, is to be published early next year, marking her first return to fiction since 2019’s The Testaments.

Old Babes in the Wood will contain 15 stories, some published for the first time . The title story was previously published in the New Yorker and is about two elderly sisters at a family cabin by a lake.

Publisher Vintage said the stories “explore the full warp and weft of experience, from two best friends disagreeing about their shared past to the right way to stop someone from choking; from a daughter determining if her mother really is a witch to what to do with inherited relics such as second world war parade swords”.

The publisher went on to say: “They feature beloved cats, a confused snail, Martha Gellhorn, George Orwell, philosopher-astronomer-mathematician Hypatia of Alexandria, a cabal of elderly female academics, and an alien tasked with retelling human fairy tales.”

The thread throughout the book is a “sequence” of tales about a married couple as they travel together and the moments that make up a long life of love, said Vintage.

Atwood said of the collection: “Old Babes in the Wood is a mixed bag, like life. It contains bad taste, also like life. Is a story about a woman who is a snail at heart really about being quite old? Maybe. Are dead beloveds actually dead in any real sense of the word? Maybe not. Are cats what they seem? Hardly ever.”

The Booker prize-winning author’s last book was Burning Questions, a collection of essays published earlier this year. Reviewing the book in the Guardian, Shahidha Bari said Atwood was “frank, honest and good company”. Before that, she published Dearly in 2020, which was her first collection of poetry for a decade, described by the Observer as “wry and entertaining”.

Atwood’s last foray into fiction was The Testaments, which jointly won the Booker prize with Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other. It is a sequel to her 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale, which was adapted into the award-winning television series.

  • Old Babes in the Wood by Margaret Atwood (Vintage Publishing, £20). To support The Guardian and Observer, order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply.

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