The Robber Bride – Margaret Atwood

Posted 13 April, 2008 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 22 Comments


Title: The Robber Bride
Author: Margaret Atwood
Date Finished: April 12, 2008
Yearly Count: 19
Pages: 466
Rating: 3.75/5

I feel a little sheepish writing this review after I JUST commented on someone’s blog that the only less than favorable reviews I’ve read of Atwood have been for Oryx and Crake and The Penelopiad. Don’t get me wrong, I still liked this book…some parts a lot…but not as much as the others I’ve read. I guess that happens.

In October 1990, when the first Gulf War is brewing, the Soviet Bloc is crumbling, and Canada is in a resession, Zenia comes back from the dead. A group of three women, Tony, Roz, and Charis are having lunch together at a trendy restaurant, The Toxique, when Zenia is first sighted–alive. She was killed in a bombing in Beirut; the three women saw her ashes, attended her funeral. The catchy thing about this book is that things aren’t always what they seem.

What I love about Atwood is her careful characterization. The novel gives the stories of each of the women whose common thread is Zenia–who lets face it, is a cold manipulative um…I’d like to type the word, really I would, but I won’t…you get the point. :) While I found some similarities in each woman, namely their ability to be duped again and again by Zenia, they were each so different, and Atwood is able to tease out these subtleties in each woman’s section. Not as obvious as Barbara Kingsolver’s narratives in The Poisonwood Bible, but each woman had a very distinct voice and personality (well, and each section is written from third person narrative–not first, which also makes a big difference).

What I could have done without: What is it with this book and mothers?? With each woman’s story comes an explanation of her childhood and her relationship with her mother. Are the mothers to blame for the negative qualities each woman possesses? What do the mothers have to do with Zenia? Honestly, I didn’t get the connection and because of that I got bored during these sections (which is a big part in the lower rating). I wanted the meat of the story–the Zenia story. And I got it, but there was too much in the middle.

All in all The Robber Bride is an engaging story. Atwood’s writing is beautiful as always and she always leaves just enough bait dangling to keep the pages turning. She’s never a “quick” read for me, but I don’t mind–remember that “lit-ra-chur” question going around a few weeks ago? Atwood falls into that category for me. I would recommend it, but I would recommend The Handmaid’s Tale and The Blind Assassin first. This one was reminiscient of Cat’s Eye with its focus on female relationships, but it still very different. I think Atwood is trying to tell us that women are not to be messed with! Ha!

22 Responses to “The Robber Bride – Margaret Atwood”

  1. Funnily enough I really loved this book, possibly more than The Blind Assassin which I just finished. I hope to read Cat’s Eye soon and have The Penelopiad on my list for this year.

  2. Margaret Atwood sounds like a very interesting author. You’ve peaked my curiosity of this book as well. I’m looking forward to reading The Handmaid’s Tale since you think so highly of it!

  3. *Rhinoa – I’ve heard from several that this is their favorite, but I think it was just too much of the mother’s. When the women’s stories started getting into their relationships with Zenia, I really got into the book. I was also a tad let down by the ending–I think part of me expected a big twist.

    *Laura – I really like Atwood–especially since her stories are all so different. Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian story–so it carries elements of science fiction. It was my first and I had no idea what to expect, but I couldn’t put it down.

  4. I love Atwood, and although I don’t remember this book in great detail (I should reread it!) I think that she writes about mothers and motherhood and daughterhood in her books a lot, because she writes about women a lot, and these roles are part of the experience of most women. Beyond that, I don’t remember enough to really answer your question about this book and mothers. And I don’t doubt your theory that she’s saying women are not to be messed with!

    But! I came over here to tell you that you won my blogiversary drawing. Come collect your prize! :)

  5. I must read an Atwood, maybe not this one. We own Blind Assassin and the Handmaid’s Tale. which would you recommend first?

    by the way I answered you question on that post, gave you the long version of my story (well, sort of) hope you don’t mind!

  6. I really liked your review Trish – particularly your line about Atwood wanting to get the message across that women are not to be messed with. I am a huge Atwood fan but I must admit I do not remember a lot about this one at all – I absolutely love The Blind Assassin though.

  7. I am so warm/cold on Atwood – she’s a tremendous writer but sometimes her sci-fi elements push me out of my comfort zone. I suspect I will have to read her from A-Z one day and sort out exactly how I feel about her.

  8. I think Margaret Atwood fans are often brought in by whatever book they first read of hers and then they constantly try to recreate the feeling they got with that first book. At least that’s the way it is for me. The first book I read of hers was Oryx and Crake and I rave about it to everyone I know. But then I read A Handmaid’s Tale and The Blind Assassin and I wasn’t nearly as impressed as I had been with Oryx and Crake. Don’t get me wrong, I still liked them more than many fictional books out there, I just didn’t find them quite as mysterious and eye-opening as Oryx and Crake.

    Anyway, I added this one to my reading list a little while ago so I’m glad to see a well-written review of it.


  9. I’m sorry this wasn’t all that you wanted it to be. I have yet to read Atwood but I plan to start at some point with The Penelopiad which, oddly enough, I’ve mostly read good reviews for.

    I do love the cover of this book, it is a fantastic image.

  10. *Dewey – Sweet! I’m thinking thinking thinking about which book off my enormous wishlist I would like. I’ll try to pick something by tonight. Thanks!

    *Laura – I know!! I’ve never really won anything before, I but I guess it never hurts to at least enter.

    *Bethany – I would start with The Handmaid’s Tale. But, it seems that everyone has a different favorite. I hope you like her books! Did your hubby ever finish Cat’s Eye?

    *Karen – Thanks! I had a tough time writing this review because I didn’t want to give too much of the story away because the discovery is always a fun part of Atwood. I loved The Blind Assassin as well.

  11. *Verbivore – I think the out of the four I’ve read Handmaid’s Tale and Blind Assassin are the only two that contain sci-fi. I’m not a big sci-fi reader, but those are my two favorite by her.

    *Becca – I have yet to read Oryx and Crake, but it is sitting on my shelf. To be honest, I’ve read such mixed reviews of it that I’ve been putting it off. Glad to hear you liked it so well!

    *Carl – her covers are always beautiful! I’ve been trying to figure out what this particular one might mean in terms of the book. I hope you enjoy The Penelopiad–I almost picked it up for the “myth” portion of your challenge.

  12. Thanks for the great review! I haven’t read this one, but I’ve read a bunch of Atwood it seems lately. Her books are definitely not an easy read! Good, but challenging.

  13. he got half-way into it and graduate school break was over! I really hope he does pick it up again so that he can tell me if he thinks I’d like it.

    I have picked up (and read a tiny bit) of the Handmaid’s Tale once before, it seemed really dark and depressing…does it move on from there?? I just felt trapped. I need to give her another chance, I know that she is an INCREDIBLE writer, I love the way she writes!

  14. It’s funny how Margaret Atwood seems to be hit or miss for some people, but with barely any agreement on which are hits and which are misses. So far I’ve read The Penelopiad and Bluebeard’s Egg and I enjoyed them both immensely. I have The Blind Assassin on my challenge lists for this year, so that’ll be my next one.

  15. *Kim L – No, not easy, but that’s part of what I like about her writing. I’d certainly recommed this one if you like her other books.

    *Bethany – ahhh, I know how that goes! Um, I wish I could tell you that Handmaid’s Tale gets less dark and depressing, but… Actually, it’s been at least 5 years since I’ve read it, so I’m a little foggy. None of her books are bright and sunny, though. :(

    *Nymeth – I’ve been picking up on that as well. I guess her books just speak to people in different ways. I haven’t read either of the ones you have, although, I *almost* picked up The Penelopiad for OUT2 this year–I’ll have to keep it in mind.

    *Heather – I haven’t read any of her poetry. I have a strange little collection (was actually my dad’s from when he was in high school!) of some type of poetry by her, but I have yet to delve into it. I also have a collection of short stories (also unread). I have a bad habit of collecting too many books!

  16. I haven’t read this one yet. I think Atwood is hit or miss with a lot of readers. Still…I’ve heard good things about this one.

  17. *Stephanie – and the low rating can be a little deceiving because I felt like I ranked her based on her other books, not necessarily on my reading as whole. I get really conflicted with trying to “rate” books that I’ve thought about doing away with it altogether. This was a really good book–and I hope you enjoy it!

    *Kim L – It’s another beautiful day in Texas today–although last night we had NASTY storms. Thanks for the award!! :)

  18. *Monster – I really enjoyed The Blind Assassin and The Handmaid’s Tale–Atwood is becoming one of my favorite authors. I hope you enjoy this one and thanks for coming by!