I didn't get this book. Of 466 pages it seemed as if 460 were back story, and there was little action of any kind. Instead we get a pseudo-drama, expressed in the thoughts and discussions of three women: Tony, Charis, and Roz. What little story we get revolves around a fourth woman, Zenia.
The three main characters are actually too well drawn. We don't need to know every little detail about their lives to understand why they might be reacting this way, but we get that detail in any case. And more. And still more.
Tony's a history professor with a specialization in battles. She's a fairly ineffective and self effacing person as well. Her real name is Antonia.
Charis is another ineffective character, but this time with no real talents she can earn a living from. She does, however, have a spiritual side that "works". Her real name is Karen.
Roz is a business woman - someone with power and money - but who is also hopeless in her own way. In this case it's her marriage she cannot manage. Her real name is Rosalind.
None of these characters has it all together. In fact, though they could each potentially be interesting in some sense, collectively I found them pretty annoying. They whine and worry but rarely do anything, and when they try they fail. Every time. Then they whine about failing. Roz's twin daughters are a lot more interesting than anyone else here, and they're only bit parts.
There might be something important about the fact that Tony, Roz, and Charis all operate under something other than their real names too, but if so I can't tell you what that might be.
Zenia is something else. She's a liar and a thief, and ruthless about getting whatever it is she wants - including the man each of the three main characters loves - but that's about all we learn of her. She's the central mystery around which the book is written and we never figure her out. Never.
The story is told mostly in flashbacks - sometimes nested - and it can be a bit hard to keep track of if you set the book down at the wrong point. Unfortunately I found it easy to set it down just about anywhere given the vast back story. Complicating matters, at least for me, is that I didn't really relate to any of the characters. They were either boring or irritating, but never become important or interesting.
The only reason I continued reading The Robber Bride is because I've read other work by Atwood and really enjoyed it. This one, however, just didn't work, at least not for me. It needed both something significant to happen and a resolution.
Oh, and I didn't like Charis's spiritual muck. Or rather, the fact that it "worked" in some way seemed wrong. If she'd believed in it but nothing had come of it, fine. Instead we get a couple of mystical but completely unexplained incidents that make no sense. Then again I'm less spiritual than most bricks, and such tripe is liable to irk me in any case.
Perhaps Atwood is making some feminist point, but if so I missed it, along with just about everything else.
If you want to read something good by Atwood, try The Handmaid's Tale, or Oryx and Crake. I'd skip this one.
This was a very well-written book, although the plot was not entirely to my taste. It was one of those books where I didn't find myself neglecting other things to pick it up and read, but once I sat down with it I enjoyed it. The characterizations of the women were all extremely well put together, and the storyline is an interesting mixture of present and flashbacks, from three different points of view.
Let me start off by saying Margaret Atwood is a great writer. I've read several of her works and she's very descriptive--I can really "see" the visual images she protrayes (as an example, she described one of her character's lives as "an empty cardboard box abandoned sideways on the road"), however this is not one of her better books. In "Robber Bride" the characters are fully fleshed out at the expense of the plot. The plot is sickly and sacrificed for character development. This book seemed to drag on and on--I wanted to scream "get to the ending already!" and then when the ending did come it seemed rushed--an almost deus ex machina way of conclusion.
Atwood is one of Canada's best-known authors and with good reason. Her characters are rich, the language compelling, and the story dynamic. The story begins in the 1960s and follows three women and a manipulative mysterious fourth woman who appears, disappears and then reappears again, wrecking havoc.
Atwood captures the psyche of four different women in her incredibly descriptive and captivating narrative from three of their perspectives. This text is true to Atwood steeped in symbolism, which is much less obvious than in her early works.
The book was great. While a critic called it hilarious - I would not go that far. It was witty and I think most women will be able to identify with all four characters on some level.
I was surprised to see an "official" review state this book is a comedy or funny, in any way. I found the book to be completely depressing and shallow. That all men are dogs and will leave intelligent, competent women at the drop of a hat. Sorry that doesn't seem funny to me in the least. Also the attitude shown by the writer for the United States left a lot to be desired. I would be hard pressed to recommend this book to anyone.
"A terrific story...Atwood's funniest book in years". New York Time Book Review. Revolves around the manipulative and vulnerable, needy and ruthless, Zenia. She has been in the lives of Roz, Charis, and Tony since the 60's and damaged each one of them. Then she dies. Or does she? Roz, Tony and Charis have met at a restaurant for their monthly lunch when in walks....Zenia???
Zenia is the center of the book. She is beautiful, smart and manipulative. It takes place over a period of three generations beginning in the sixties. Sort of a war between the sexes, well-written with good reviews.
I did not love this book but I liked it. I think it takes the author a bit too long to get the point of why the 3 main characters do not like the "villian" of the story. Once she tells you why, the background stories are good and the book stays interesting from there to the end.
The Robber Bride is the story of three middle-aged female friends whose common bond is past experience with a hateful and destructive woman, Zenia, who lied to, stole from, and cheated each of them. When Zenia reappears after a number of years, each character recounts the pain Zenia caused and vows that she will not deceive and manipulate again. Feminism informs all of Atwood's work (see The Handmaid's Tale), and here Atwood questions the "evil" woman most of us have experienced. What breaks up the sisterhood? Are women our own worst enemies?* This one will have you thinking.
NOTE: This ISBN is a trade paperback edition of The Robber Bride, not hardcover as the PBS database currently shows!
Another slightly creepy exploration of women, sex, and power from the inimitable Margaret Atwood. None of her novels has affected me quite as strongly as Cat's Eye, but this one shares a similar theme in the story of several women connected by the bonds of betrayal and common loathing for the woman who betrayed them all. The story begins when the women are in their 50s and flashes back and forth in time to tell their stories as the present-day characters try to unravel the mysterious possible reappearance of the character they all thought dead. Took me a while to get through as I always find Atwood's books an intense and somewhat painful experience. The truths she tells are not really something I want to face every day!
From the extraordinary imagination of Margaret Atwood, author of the bestselling The Handmaid's Tale and Cat's Eye, comes her most intricate and subversive novel yet.
Roz, Charis, and Tony - war babies all - share a wound, and her name is Zenia. Zenia is beautiful and smart and hungry, by turns manipulative and vulnerable, needy and ruthless, the turbulent center of her own never-ending saga. Zenia entered their lives when they were in college, in the sixties; and over the three decades since, she damaged each of them badly, ensnaring their sympathy, betraying their trust, and treating their men as loot. Then Zenia died, or at any rate the three women - with much relief - attended her funeral. But as The Robber Bride begins, she's suddenly alive again, sauntering into the restaurant where they are innocently eating lunch.
In this consistently entertaining and profound new novel, Margaret Atwood reports from the farthest reaches of the war between the sexes, provocatively suggesting that if women are to be equal they must realize that they share with men both the capacity for villainy and the responsibility for moral choice. The group of women and men at the center of this funny and wholly involving story all fall prey to a chillingly recognizable menace, which is given power by their own fantasies and illusions. The Robber Bride is a novel to delight in - for its consummately crafted prose, for its rich and devious humor, and, ultimately, for its compassion.