This is a brilliant book from Margaret Atwood (who as many readers of this blog will know is my favourite poet, despite her being better known as a novelist). This book however is neither poetry nor fiction but a considered, thought provoking and enlightening look at debt. It looks at the idea of debt and how it has informed politics, the justice system and literature through history. Atwood looks at word origins and the origins of debt awareness, showing that other primates are aware of debt. She also looks at how potent a theme debt has been in literature. She makes an interesting point about George Eliot's Mill on the Floss representing a moment of social change, a moment where the miller (historically mistrusted for reasons discussed by Atwood) becomes ursurped in this position by the lawyer.
The last chapter in the book looks at the issue of Ecological Debt and sees Dicken's character of Scrooge facing the Spirits of Earth Day Past, Present and Future. This is a particularly powerful chapter and forces the reader to think about the debt we all owe to the earth and our environment.
For all the weighty issues discussed in this book, it is totally engrossing and includes very useful appendices of reading resources so that you can not only find out more about the issues but that you can sign up for environmental campaigns and find ethical alternatives. Essential reading I would say.
Payback by Margaret Atwood. Bloomsbury 2008