Margaret Atwood s The Robber Bride is inspired by The Robber Bridegroom, a wonderfully grisly tale from the Brothers Grimm in which an evil groom lures three maidens into his lair and devours them, one by one But in her version, Atwood brilliantly recasts the monster as Zenia, a villainess of demonic proportions, and sets her loose in the lives of three friends, Tony, Charis, and Roz All three have lost men, spirit, money, and time to their old college acquaintance, Zenia At various times, and in various emotional disguises, Zenia has insinuated her way into their lives and practically demolished them To Tony, who almost lost her husband and jeopardized her academic career, Zenia is a lurking enemy commando To Roz, who did lose her husband and almost her magazine, Zenia is a cold and treacherous bitch To Charis, who lost a boyfriend, quarts of vegetable juice and some pet chickens, Zenia is a kind of zombie, maybe soulless Lorrie Moore, New York Times Book Review In love and war, illusion and deceit, Zenia s subterranean malevolence takes us deep into her enemies pasts Atwood at her finest and in some ways, meanest I mean that in a good way I ended up loving it, although found it started slowly, lacking her usual sly and almost remote perspective, sharp insights, biting black humour It was almost too sincere and gasp clich d Then, by about p 100, it kicked in Cunning use of language and symbolism the eggs and most of all, a study in a particularly disturbing kind of psychopathology to which so many of us have been prey Slices to the bone and Atwood at her finest and in some ways, meanest I mean that in a good way I ended up loving it, although found it started slowly, lacking her usual sly and almost remote perspective, sharp insights, biting black humour It was almost too sincere and gasp clich d Then, by about p 100, it kicked in Cunning use of language and symbolism the eggs and most of all, a study in a particularly disturbing kind of psychopathology to which so many of us have been prey Slices to the bone and hits close to home, for me I have known too many Zenias in my life, women and men I like to think I ve learned to spot and avoid them, but this book reminds me of how they do what they do the predatory and unscrupulous behaviour of the pathological liar I love that Atwood focuses her laser beam eye here on the three victims She forces you right into their heads, you get to see each one s inner workings at a microscopic level, the way those CSI shows take you right into the orifices and organs to show you the source of the disease up close, magnified 1,000x You see the arterial placque of their psyches, each vein of vulnerability Not that the victims here are diseased butlike their particular psychologies, pasts, experiences have left them exposed and lacking any immunity to the disease that Zenia the liar carries.That core vulnerability the commonality between Tony, Roz and Charis is their essential goodness their natural, untainted proclivity to trust Even as we watch them fall repeatedly into Zenia s clutches because of it, motivated not just by their own willingness to trust but also by the equally natural and forgivable flaws and egocentricities and points of pride or pain or shame or lack of self awareness that Zenia exploits, we root for them and we recognize ourselves in them I appreciated so much that Atwood chose to view spoiler strengthen, not destroy, their bonds of friendship hide spoiler Too often, the opposite happens it s the most regrettable collateral damage that the pathological liar causes I appreciated the maturity, authenticity and well roundedness of their perceptions and understanding of each other This level of hyper psycho realism is always high in Atwood here, she s at her peak power And she walked a bit of a tightrope, too Zenia, in another author s hands, could have been seen as a particularly mean spirited sexist attack Tony, Roz and Charis as caricatures of specific types of feminity Atwood deliberately manipulates these nuances and layers of meaning, and our interpretation of them, as part of the story Zenia like, really story tellers are weaving lies, too, right Reading a story is sometimes like looking in a mirror we see ourselves reflected there another deliberate choice of symbolism that Atwood uses.A lot of novels make me cry Some make me clench my teeth in anger Still fewer leave me on the edge of my seat as I wonder how the plot will resolve Almost none make me feel all of this, and so profoundly as this one does.It s extraordinary Every ending is arbitrary, because the end is where you write The end A period, a dot of punctuation, a point of stasis A pinprick in the paper you could put your eye to it and see through, to the other side, to the beginning of something else Or, as Tony says to her students, Time is not a solid, like wood, but a fluid, like water or the wind It doesn t come neatly cut into even sized length, into decades and centuries Nevertheless, for our purposes we have to pretend it does The end of Every ending is arbitrary, because the end is where you write The end A period, a dot of punctuation, a point of stasis A pinprick in the paper you could put your eye to it and see through, to the other side, to the beginning of something else Or, as Tony says to her students, Time is not a solid, like wood, but a fluid, like water or the wind It doesn t come neatly cut into even sized length, into decades and centuries Nevertheless, for our purposes we have to pretend it does The end of any history is a lie in which we all agree to conspire And I have to admit that closing this novel, I thought that was the end of it I liked it, in the way a mouse likes the beauty of a snake while knowing it doesn t have the weapons to fight it properly and will be devoured at a whim But I thought I would not return to it ever again after escaping this study in everyday evil And yet I return in thoughts More often than to other Atwood novels, actually, even though I would claim to like themThis is not the Atwood I recommend to others That would be Cat s Eye, The Handmaid s Tale, The Penelopiad or MaddAddam But Zenia never left my mind That woman snake, that evil demon, that narcissistic destructor of happiness and calm She walked away, lost interest in me for bigger prey, but I remained paralysed in front of her image.What is it that makes genuinely good and caring people fall for evil characters, bow to their charisma, do their bidding despite themselves There is no proper answer, no satisfying END to that eternal human conundrum, and that is Atwood s message, her reflection on Steinbeck s Kate in East of Eden or on Zola s La B te humaine And yet, Zenia is worse in many ways because she is so common She is scary because she is omnipresent And because she is so good at what she is doing She picks the people that are asking to be hurt In the beginning, there was prey and the creator saw that they needed a predator So she made one And she saw that it was good And there was evening, and there was morning, the first chapter And as long as storytelling is eternal, there will be no end The end of any history is a lie in which we all agree to conspire THE END I like a number of Margaret Atwood s works but not this one It was like a Lifetime movie without the benefit of Tori Spelling and a fun, melodramatic plotline Oh, the plotline was melodramatic all right but it was far from fun or even insightful Three friends all of them stereotypes of the post feminist era have dramatic encounters with an almost mythic creature woman named Zenia who embodies all of the negative qualities in a woman, namely ruthlessness, lust and wandering passion This t I like a number of Margaret Atwood s works but not this one It was like a Lifetime movie without the benefit of Tori Spelling and a fun, melodramatic plotline Oh, the plotline was melodramatic all right but it was far from fun or even insightful Three friends all of them stereotypes of the post feminist era have dramatic encounters with an almost mythic creature woman named Zenia who embodies all of the negative qualities in a woman, namely ruthlessness, lust and wandering passion This three woman try to combat Zenia s efforts to interrupt their lives but most of their focus is on the men that they have loved and lost to her, men, in my opinion, they were better off without It s not so much the existence of Zenia or the other protagonists that I find unbelievable but that three women would all behave in such a simpering way towards men who, apparently, don t need muchthan mystery and a nice rack to destroy a stable relationshp to go jetting off with some woman they hardly know I m not sure which isinsulting her depiction of women as simpletons or as men as witless fools My sister Lauren once said something both wise and ridiculous, and I think Atwood s beautiful, readable, and funny novel echoes the sentiment Women are crazy Men are stupid In The Robber Bride we get a peek into the lives of three women petite academic Tony, new age, delicate Charis, and gregarious, fashionable Roz the histories of their marriages, their childhoods, and their current day to day experiences in 1990s Toronto, are fascinating All three of them have suffered at the hands of My sister Lauren once said something both wise and ridiculous, and I think Atwood s beautiful, readable, and funny novel echoes the sentiment Women are crazy Men are stupid In The Robber Bride we get a peek into the lives of three women petite academic Tony, new age, delicate Charis, and gregarious, fashionable Roz the histories of their marriages, their childhoods, and their current day to day experiences in 1990s Toronto, are fascinating All three of them have suffered at the hands of Zenia, the man eater, who is not so much a woman as third gendered she is without a verifiable past, she is almost mythic in her actions and in her ability to disappear and renew herself, and she does not suffer as the other women, or men, in the novel do She uses her body to get what she wants, in a way that the others cannot, but she uses something else, too, which remains a mystery to the characters She has large breasts but they aren t real At first I worried this novel was a little too cartoonish in its depiction of Tony, Roz, and Charis, but as the story went on, all three women gained depth I loved falling into their individual stories And the writing Atwood is just too good Reading this, I did think the relationships between men and women, as Atwood depicts them, feel a bit dated there s a generational gap This book is a historical text in that way, or at least it seemed like it to me These women were born in the 1940s, and are in their fifties when the book begins None of them can communicate with their partners, and all three of them have a maternal, I need to take care of poor little him attitude about their men It feels authentic, but I think it s either specific to this milieu, or that a lot has changed Even at the end of the book, one of the women Tony sees Roz s teenage daughters asconfident,honest, than she and her friends ever were The women in this book don t have any male friends, and they don t seem to take their partners seriously, although they do exalt them in a strange way, and fear their leaving There s a real, uncrossable chasm between men and women in this book, which feels foreign to me Anyway, I m rambling now Here are some of my favorite sentences Here s Roz Then she Zenia turned to go down the steps, lifting her hand in a gesture oddly reminiscent of a newsreel general saluting the troops, and what was it she d said Fuck the third world I m tired of it So much for proprieties, So much for earnest old Roz and her poky, boring charities, her handouts to the Raped Moms and Battered Grannies, and, at the time, the whales and the famine victims and the village self helpers, dowdy pump mommy Roz, shackled to her boring old consciousness It was a selfish, careless remark, a daring remark, a liberated remark to hell with guilt It was like speeding in a convertible, tailgating, weaving in and out without signaling, stereo on full blast and screw the neighbors, throwing your leftovers out the window, the ribbons, the wrapping paper, the half eaten filo pastries and the champagne truffles, things you d used up just by looking at them Woo Then, here s Charis s part, where we learn about her getting molested as a kid Scamper upstairs, he tells her He s trying for his fake voice, his uncle voice, but he hasn t got it back his voice is desolate Wow Desolate is such a perfect word there.And this is Tony Meanwhile, the Zenias of this world are abroad in the land, plying their trade, cleaning out male pockets, catering to male fantasies Male fantasies, male fantasies, is everything run by male fantasies Even pretending you aren t catering to a male fantasy is a male fantasy pretending you re unseen, pretending you have a life of your own, that you can wash your feet and comb your hair, unconscious of the ever present watcher peering through the keyhole, peering through the keyhole in your own head, if nowhere else You are a woman with a man inside watching a woman I love that line You are a woman with a man inside a woman watching a woman