Review: The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood

by Kim on October 12, 2010 · 28 comments

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Title: The Robber Bride
Author: Margaret Atwood
Genre: Fiction
Year: 1998
Acquired: Bought from Borders
Rating: ★★★★½

One Sentence Summary: A “frenemy” seems to come back from the dead, taunting the three women who’s lives she already tore apart once.

One Sentence Review: I love everything I’ve read by Margaret Atwood, and this book is no exception.

Why I Read It: Just because I really wanted to.

Long Review: I’m a major fangirl of Margaret Atwood (The Blind Assassin is still my favorite book from this year), so this is more of a gush than a review. Be warned, that’s all. While The Robber Bride is not my favorite of Atwood’s books, but that really doesn’t mean anything because I still really loved the book.

The Robber Bride is set in present-day Toronto, Ontario, and focuses on college acquaintances turned friends, Roz, Charis, and Tony. At the beginning of the book, they’re meeting at a restaurant for lunch when Zenia, a “frenemy” who recently died, shows up, very much alive. (“Frenemy” is not exactly the right word, it just makes me laugh when I make an excuse to use it!) The book then splits off to tell the three stories of how Zenia became part of each of their lives, stealing away their beaus and leaving a mess whenever she went.

First off, Atwood is sooooo good at structuring her books. In this one, she has three major storylines going on, but gives each of her main characters such a distinct personality that it’s never unclear what story we’re in. She maintains these shifting perspectives throughout the book, a feat I’m a little in awe of.

There are tons of symbolic sorts of things too – the structure of the chapters, plot parallels to fairy tales, numerology, and shapeshifting all have a role in the story without being intrusive or making the reader feel like you should be thinking more. They’re sort of like hidden gems – investigate if you want.

The characters of Roz, Charis, and Tony are just so good! She captures the sense of how friends work – covering for each other, dropping everything when needed, but still being able to be annoyed with quirks you dislike. Even though one is a professor who studies war, another a successful business woman, and the third a new-age hippie, I wanted to be friends with all of them and could see how they were friends too.

In contrast, Zenia is so awful. As a reader we never really get to know her, other than through the memories of the other characters. Zenia is never the center of a storyline, she just jumps in with this phantom quality – a malevolent spirit that comes into each of the women’s lives, pretends to be a victim, then wreaks havoc before disappearing again.

This puts the reader in a situation where we never know more than the characters, but also have an outside perspective where feel like we can see Zenia’s motives even when Roz, Charis, and Tony can’t. But of course we can’t either, which just makes all of Zenia’s lies and fabricated lives even more difficult to discern.

The book is just flat out good, from start to finish. I’d wanted to read this book for a long time, and it certainly did not disappoint.

Other Reviews: Caribousmom | Shelf Love | Adventures in Reading |

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks!

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