The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood

Atwood, Margaret. (1993). The Robber Bride. Seal Books; Toronto.

I confess that this is the only Margaret Atwood novel that I have ever read. As my taste in reading changes over the years, I will likely find that her writing appeals to me more and more. Her writing is incredibly detail-oriented, and in this particular novel she turns her laser-like focus onto the lives of three distinct women: Tony, Roz, and Charis. I found a little bit of myself in each of these women, and I imagine that most readers will feel the same. Apparently there is also a film adaptation of the novel.


The novel is set in Toronto, Ontario, so at times I have the odd sensation of knowing the places that Margaret describes. I try to imagine diminutive Tony walking those streets, overdressed Roz laughing and smiling as she gets into her expensive cars, and vague Charis/Karen wandering into her workplace, Radiance. As these characters walk the streets of Toronto, a dark and hungry pall hangs over them, shadowy and unclear in the background. This darkness is Zenia, the main focus of the novel.

Readers will never see things from Zenia’s perspective. We are placed firmly in the heads of Tony, Roz, and Charis – much to our detriment, because Zenia’s story is always changing and we never know the truth. The novel (and particularly, Zenia’s role in it) has been interpreted to represent several themes: 1) power struggles between men and women; 2) a self-empowered woman who abuses the implicit trust relationship between females; and 3) a mercenary-like woman who looks out only for herself (Wikipedia article). All of these readings have merit to them.

Although this novel is very long (my copy is 689 pages), it is worth a read if you want to get an in-depth look at the lives and thoughts of some very unique women.


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