To be honest, I’m still not totally sure what to make of this book. I really, really wanted to like it more than I actually did. It started out slow with glimmers of interesting plot threads, but ultimately The Robber Bride just kept stringing me along. Every time I started to get into the plot, the story would move in another direction.
Atwood’s inspiration came from a Brothers Grimm tale in which a villainous man devours three women after luring them into his lair. In The Robber Bride, the groom is recast as Zenia, a sociopathic female grifter leaving massive amounts of wreckage in her wake. Tony, Charis, and Roz are all victims bound together as friends through shared suffering. Throughout several decades, Zenia has inserted herself into each woman’s life and nearly destroyed their lives. Years after they attend her funeral together, they find out she’s alive again or never really died to begin with.
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).
I can’t find fault with the writing, Atwood’s style of prose is wonderful as usual. And I like that she uses the story as a way of magnifying various gender issues. I also loved the main characters. Atwood does a wonderful job of making them seem vividly real. I think it’s just one of those stories that ultimately didn’t resonate with me for whatever reason.