Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood: Alphinland

Stone Mattress

Alphinland follows the story of Constance; the recent widow of Ewan. With her two boys married and “conveniently far for them to visit”, Constance lives on her own. But with Ewan’s voice in her head to guide her, she is not afraid to live by herself, after all Ewan was always a good planner. And besides even if she would like to move into a condo, even if only to please her children, how could she abandon the house with Ewan in it? It feels like betrayal.

Further into the story, we learn more about Constance. Years before Constance met Ewan, she used to live with Gavin, a poet. Constance was the muse for most of Gavin’s poetry, often referred to as “lady” or “my truelove”. Constance waited tables and wrote about Alphinland; a fantasy world, to make enough money to support Gavin, “who viewed that kind of support as part of a truelove’s function”.

… But the poets considered Constance’s productions to be far below the Tolkien standard, which – to be fair – they were. They’d tease her by saying she was writing about garden gnomes, and she’d laugh and say yes, but today gnomes had dug up their crock of golden coins and would buy them all a beer. They liked the free beer part of it, and would makes toasts: “Here’s to the gnomes! Long may they roam! A gnome in every home!”

Even though the fellow poets and folk singers did not think much of Alphinland and considered it to be nothing but “commercial trash”, Constance gradually became serious about her work. At least her work outsold them and brought good money! But the more serious Constance took Alphinland to be, the more distance it seemed to create between Gavin and her, and after a while, the “lady” appearing in Gavin’s poems seemed to resemble her less and less.

One day Constance had the misfortune of catching Gavin and the other lady in the act, who turned out to be Marjoree, a part-time volunteer bookkeeper at Riverboat. Enraged Constance moved out of their shabby apartment soon after and signed the first Alphinland book contract, which would eventually make her a multimillionaire.

Alphinland is not only a story of how Constance took vengeance from Gavin and Marjoree, if I am right to call it ‘vengeance’. It is also a story about growing old. The first three short stories of Stone Mattress is supposed to be loosely linked, so I am guessing in the next two stores; Revenant and Dark Lady, Gavin and Marjoree will be the central characters, and I can hardly wait to read them! 😀



  1. […] which is loosely connected to Alphinland, we meet Constance’s faithless ex-lover, Gavin. Gavin is now an old man living with his […]


  2. […] Lady is loosely connected to both Alphinland and Revenant short stories and based on Marjoree, the last link in a love triangle. Marjoree; […]


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