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The Robber Bride

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Overview

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...

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The Robber Bride

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Set in Canada in the early 1970s, The Robber Bride continues Atwood's satiric exploration into sex and empowerment. Three women and the femme fatale who unites them are set against a backdrop of draft dodgers and the resurgence of feminism. Atwood is an astute observer of contemporary misinformation, and references to tarot, auras, astrology, and more abound. Despite some wonderful passages, however, the narrative thrust consists of self-contained vignettes that do not easily lend themselves to audio. The histories of these women are intense and distinctive, but the superficial present in which they do little more than move from restaurant to restaurant blurs them to the point of being interchangeable. When she stays with one character long enough (e.g., her treatment of Charis's incest-filled childhood at the start of the third tape), the poignancy increases. It's slow going, but a lively reading by Blythe Danner and musical interludes that accentuate the New Age mood should help keep maintain listeners' attention.
Michiko Katukani
. . .In a shorter, more focused book, [a] cartoonlike approach to writing might have resulted in a kind of darkly colored fairy tale. . . .Her characters [here] remain exiles from both the earthbound realm of realism and the airier altitudes of allegory, and as a result, their story does not illuminate or entertain; it grates.
The New York Times
From the Publisher
“Atwood has never written better than in this novel of glittering breadth and dark, eerie depths.”
The Sunday Times (U.K.)

“A remarkable achievement, constantly entertaining and intriguing.”
The Ottawa Citizen

“Deserves every superlative we can muster from hilarious to wise.…A genuine tour de force, witty and original, suspenseful and sagacious.”
Booklist

“Funny, thoughtful, moving…Atwood’s plotting is masterful, and her humor is razor-edged, sexy, and raucous.”
Washington Post

“Nobody maps female psychic territory the way Margaret Atwood does.…What a treasure she is.”
Newsweek

“A hugely enjoyable novel.”
Globe and Mail

“Imaginative and suspenseful…a virtuoso performance.”
Publishers Weekly

“Wickedly funny…witty…well-observed.”
Observer (U.K.)

“Brilliant and entertaining.”
Boston Sunday Globe

“Grabs the funny bone, the brain, and sometimes the throat.”
–Kingston Whig-Standard

“Brilliant and entertaining.”
Ottawa Sun

“Startling, provocative and rewarding.”
Canadian Forum

“Excitements, wit, and insight sizzle across the pages. Atwood’s survey of impulses that bedevil life seethes with imagination, inventiveness and intelligence.”
-Peter Kemp

“Compelling and astonishingly rich…”
Books in Canada

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385491037
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/1998
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 214,762
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret  Atwood

Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa in 1939, and grew up in northern Quebec and Ontario, and later in Toronto. She has lived in numerous cities in Canada, the U.S., and Europe.

She is the author of more than forty books — novels, short stories, poetry, literary criticism, social history, and books for children. Atwood’s work is acclaimed internationally and has been published around the world. Her novels include The Handmaid’s Tale and Cat’s Eye — both shortlisted for the Booker Prize; The Robber Bride, winner of the Trillium Book Award and a finalist for the Governor General’s Award; Alias Grace, winner of the prestigious Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy, and a finalist for the Governor General’s Award, the Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; The Blind Assassin, winner of the Booker Prize and a finalist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; and Oryx and Crake, a finalist for The Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Award, the Orange Prize, and the Man Booker Prize. Her most recent books of fiction are The Penelopiad, The Tent, and Moral Disorder. She is the recipient of numerous honours, such as The Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence in the U.K., the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature in the U.S., Le Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France, and she was the first winner of the London Literary Prize. She has received honorary degrees from universities across Canada, and one from Oxford University in England.

Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto with novelist Graeme Gibson.

Biography

When Margaret Atwood announced to her friends that she wanted to be a writer, she was only 16 years old. It was Canada. It was the 1950s. No one knew what to think. Nonetheless, Atwood began her writing career as a poet. Published In 1964 while she was still a student at Harvard, her second poetry anthology, The Circle Game, was awarded the Governor General's Award, one of Canada's most esteemed literary prizes. Since then, Atwood has gone on to publish many more volumes of poetry (as well as literary criticism, essays, and short stories), but it is her novels for which she is best known.

Atwood's first foray into fiction was 1966's The Edible Woman, an arresting story about a woman who stops eating because she feels her life is consuming her. Grabbing the attention of critics, who applauded its startlingly original premise, the novel explored feminist themes Atwood has revisited time and time again during her long, prolific literary career. She is famous for strong, compelling female protagonists -- from the breast cancer survivor in Bodily Harm to the rueful artist in Cat's Eye to the fatefully intertwined sisters in her Booker Prize-winning novel The Blind Asassin.

Perhaps Atwood's most legendary character is Offred, the tragic "breeder" in what is arguably her most famous book, 1985's The Handmaid's Tale. Part fable, part science fiction, and part dystopian nightmare, this novel presented a harrowing vision of women's lives in an oppressive futuristic society. The Washington Post compared it (favorably) to George Orwell's iconic 1984.

As if her status as a multi-award-winning, triple-threat writer (fiction, poetry, and essays) were not enough, Atwood has also produced several children's books, including Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (1995) and Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes (2003) -- delicious alliterative delights that introduce a wealth of new vocabulary to young readers.

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    1. Hometown:
      Toronto, Ontario
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 18, 1939
    2. Place of Birth:
      Ottawa, Ontario
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Toronto, 1961; M.A. Radcliffe, 1962; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1967
    2. Website:

Reading Group Guide

1. In The Robber Bride Tony says that people like Zenia don't get into your life unless you invite them in. What devices does Zenia use to first gain entry into the lives of Tony, Charis, and Roz? How does she alter her techniques to attract and control men?

2. On the surface, Tony, Charis, and Roz are not a bit alike yet similarities exist. For example, during their childhoods they each developed what could be called "dual" identities. How do the psychological devices they developed as children help or hinder them?

3. While seeming all-powerful, the constantly changing Zenia lacks a center of her own. Do women have to break rules and operate as outlaws to achieve the same power as men? Do women have a kind of power that is different from male power?

4. Is there a difference between the lies Zenia tells and those told by other characters in the novel? Are there "good" lies and "bad" lies? Do the hearers play a role in the construction of these lies?

5. Read the poem "The Robber Bridegroom, " reversing gender as you read. What does this poem tell us about the nature of evil?

6. The American writer Lewis Hyde has asked, "Why is the Trickster the Messenger of the Gods?" Is Zenia a trickster? Is she also a messenger of the gods, and how?

7. Think of female villains from literature and film. What do they seem to have in common? Is female villainy portrayed differently from that of men?

8. William Blake said of Milton's Paradise Lost that Milton often seemed to be of the devil's part without knowing it. Does Atwood have a sneaking sympathy for Zenia? Do you?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 18 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2003

    The Robber Bride

    The Robber Bride is a book full of twists and turns. It leaves on the edge of your seat and makes you want to keep on reading. Tony, Roz, and Charis met under odd circumstances. They had all been badly wounded by Zenia. Zenia is a vindictive character whose only pleasure comes from the hurt of others. Zenia befriends the three and then finds what would hurt each of them the most, the man in their life. Not only does Zenia take away each man, but she also finds it necessary to completely destroy each man. For Charis and Roz Zenia is successful in demolishing each man, but for Tony's beloved West she cannot win. Through out the story you become more acquainted with the three characters. All three have lost their husbands to Zenia. Margaret Atwood did a superb job with this novel. Her ability to makes you actually know the character makes the book some how comes alive. It's like you can relate to the characters. At one point they're eating lunch at Toxique and it's almost like you can see what they see. Atwood really gets into the minds of her characters. She shows you a simple instance, such as going out to eat, from each perspective. At times her language can be a bit confusing, but at the same time it intrigues you even more. I really like the fact that she chose three completely different characters and was able to bring them all together and make it work. The Robber Bride is a book for anyone who enjoys being engulfed by a piece of writing. I recommend this book to anyone.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2003

    Linda Lavid, author of RENTED ROOMS

    Whether you're a reader or a writer, this book is a classic. The three women and their long history with the elusive Robber bride will entertain the reader, mesmerize the writer. Atwood is at the top of her craft with this one.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2009

    Boring!

    I couldn't finish this book. The story sounded interesting but too many unnecessary descriptions left me bored beyond belief. I rated this book one star because zero star wasn't a choice. This was the first Margaret Atwood book I've read (tried too) and it is definitely the last. Yawn!!!! --K--

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2002

    The heart and soul of women!

    Atwood weaves a tale of 3 very different women ( Roz, Charis, & Tony) who are similar in their personal lives. These women attract men who use them for personal satisfaction and they allow themselves to become bulldozed by a very clever and ruthless woman, Zenia. The events of changing times - war,the drug culture, exploration of ones civil liberties, influences their future. Does Atwood interject some of her own experiences into the book?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2013

    Avoid all books where a main characters name starts with Z

    Especially in scifi fantasy Zphobic perhaps? unless Greek which is hard to avoid a Z name

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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