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Margaret Atwood s The Robber Bride is inspired by The Robber Bridegroom, a wonderfully grisly tale from the Brothers Grimm in which an evil groom lures three maidens into his lair and devours them, one by one But in her version, Atwood brilliantly recasts the monster as Zenia, a villainess of demonic proportions, and sets her loose in the lives of three friends, Tony, Charis, and Roz All three have lost men, spirit, money, and time to their old college acquaintance, Zenia At various times, and in various emotional disguises, Zenia has insinuated her way into their lives and practically demolished them 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 In love and war, illusion and deceit, Zenia s subterranean malevolence takes us deep into her enemies pasts


10 thoughts on “The Robber Bride

  1. Lisa Lisa says:

    Every ending is arbitrary, because the end is where you write The end A period, a dot of punctuation, a point of stasis A pinprick in the paper you could put your eye to it and see through, to the other side, to the beginning of something else Or, as Tony says to her students, Time is not a solid, like wood, but a fluid, like water or the wind It doesn t come neatly cut into even sized length, into decades and centuries Nevertheless, for our purposes we have to pretend it does The end of Every ending is arbitrary, because the end is where you write The end A period, a dot of punctuation, a point of stasis A pinprick in the paper you could put your eye to it and see through, to the other side, to the beginning of something else Or, as Tony says to her students, Time is not a solid, like wood, but a fluid, like water or the wind It doesn t come neatly cut into even sized length, into decades and centuries Nevertheless, for our purposes we have to pretend it does The end of any history is a lie in which we all agree to conspire And I have to admit that closing this novel, I thought that was the end of it I liked it, in the way a mouse likes the beauty of a snake while knowing it doesn t have the weapons to fight it properly and will be devoured at a whim But I thought I would not return to it ever again after escaping this study in everyday evil And yet I return in thoughts More often than to other Atwood novels, actually, even though I would claim to like themThis is not the Atwood I recommend to others That would be Cat s Eye, The Handmaid s Tale, The Penelopiad or MaddAddam But Zenia never left my mind That woman snake, that evil demon, that narcissistic destructor of happiness and calm She walked away, lost interest in me for bigger prey, but I remained paralysed in front of her image.What is it that makes genuinely good and caring people fall for evil characters, bow to their charisma, do their bidding despite themselves There is no proper answer, no satisfying END to that eternal human conundrum, and that is Atwood s message, her reflection on Steinbeck s Kate in East of Eden or on Zola s La B te humaine And yet, Zenia is worse in many ways because she is so common She is scary because she is omnipresent And because she is so good at what she is doing She picks the people that are asking to be hurt In the beginning, there was prey and the creator saw that they needed a predator So she made one And she saw that it was good And there was evening, and there was morning, the first chapter And as long as storytelling is eternal, there will be no end The end of any history is a lie in which we all agree to conspire THE END


  2. Lavande Lavande says:

    I like a number of Margaret Atwood s works but not this one It was like a Lifetime movie without the benefit of Tori Spelling and a fun, melodramatic plotline Oh, the plotline was melodramatic all right but it was far from fun or even insightful Three friends all of them stereotypes of the post feminist era have dramatic encounters with an almost mythic creature woman named Zenia who embodies all of the negative qualities in a woman, namely ruthlessness, lust and wandering passion This t I like a number of Margaret Atwood s works but not this one It was like a Lifetime movie without the benefit of Tori Spelling and a fun, melodramatic plotline Oh, the plotline was melodramatic all right but it was far from fun or even insightful Three friends all of them stereotypes of the post feminist era have dramatic encounters with an almost mythic creature woman named Zenia who embodies all of the negative qualities in a woman, namely ruthlessness, lust and wandering passion This three woman try to combat Zenia s efforts to interrupt their lives but most of their focus is on the men that they have loved and lost to her, men, in my opinion, they were better off without It s not so much the existence of Zenia or the other protagonists that I find unbelievable but that three women would all behave in such a simpering way towards men who, apparently, don t need muchthan mystery and a nice rack to destroy a stable relationshp to go jetting off with some woman they hardly know I m not sure which isinsulting her depiction of women as simpletons or as men as witless fools


  3. Edan Edan says:

    My sister Lauren once said something both wise and ridiculous, and I think Atwood s beautiful, readable, and funny novel echoes the sentiment Women are crazy Men are stupid In The Robber Bride we get a peek into the lives of three women petite academic Tony, new age, delicate Charis, and gregarious, fashionable Roz the histories of their marriages, their childhoods, and their current day to day experiences in 1990s Toronto, are fascinating All three of them have suffered at the hands of My sister Lauren once said something both wise and ridiculous, and I think Atwood s beautiful, readable, and funny novel echoes the sentiment Women are crazy Men are stupid In The Robber Bride we get a peek into the lives of three women petite academic Tony, new age, delicate Charis, and gregarious, fashionable Roz the histories of their marriages, their childhoods, and their current day to day experiences in 1990s Toronto, are fascinating All three of them have suffered at the hands of Zenia, the man eater, who is not so much a woman as third gendered she is without a verifiable past, she is almost mythic in her actions and in her ability to disappear and renew herself, and she does not suffer as the other women, or men, in the novel do She uses her body to get what she wants, in a way that the others cannot, but she uses something else, too, which remains a mystery to the characters She has large breasts but they aren t real At first I worried this novel was a little too cartoonish in its depiction of Tony, Roz, and Charis, but as the story went on, all three women gained depth I loved falling into their individual stories And the writing Atwood is just too good Reading this, I did think the relationships between men and women, as Atwood depicts them, feel a bit dated there s a generational gap This book is a historical text in that way, or at least it seemed like it to me These women were born in the 1940s, and are in their fifties when the book begins None of them can communicate with their partners, and all three of them have a maternal, I need to take care of poor little him attitude about their men It feels authentic, but I think it s either specific to this milieu, or that a lot has changed Even at the end of the book, one of the women Tony sees Roz s teenage daughters asconfident,honest, than she and her friends ever were The women in this book don t have any male friends, and they don t seem to take their partners seriously, although they do exalt them in a strange way, and fear their leaving There s a real, uncrossable chasm between men and women in this book, which feels foreign to me Anyway, I m rambling now Here are some of my favorite sentences Here s Roz Then she Zenia turned to go down the steps, lifting her hand in a gesture oddly reminiscent of a newsreel general saluting the troops, and what was it she d said Fuck the third world I m tired of it So much for proprieties, So much for earnest old Roz and her poky, boring charities, her handouts to the Raped Moms and Battered Grannies, and, at the time, the whales and the famine victims and the village self helpers, dowdy pump mommy Roz, shackled to her boring old consciousness It was a selfish, careless remark, a daring remark, a liberated remark to hell with guilt It was like speeding in a convertible, tailgating, weaving in and out without signaling, stereo on full blast and screw the neighbors, throwing your leftovers out the window, the ribbons, the wrapping paper, the half eaten filo pastries and the champagne truffles, things you d used up just by looking at them Woo Then, here s Charis s part, where we learn about her getting molested as a kid Scamper upstairs, he tells her He s trying for his fake voice, his uncle voice, but he hasn t got it back his voice is desolate Wow Desolate is such a perfect word there.And this is Tony Meanwhile, the Zenias of this world are abroad in the land, plying their trade, cleaning out male pockets, catering to male fantasies Male fantasies, male fantasies, is everything run by male fantasies Even pretending you aren t catering to a male fantasy is a male fantasy pretending you re unseen, pretending you have a life of your own, that you can wash your feet and comb your hair, unconscious of the ever present watcher peering through the keyhole, peering through the keyhole in your own head, if nowhere else You are a woman with a man inside watching a woman I love that line You are a woman with a man inside a woman watching a woman


  4. Ahmad Sharabiani Ahmad Sharabiani says:

    145 The Robber Bride, Margaret AtwoodThe Robber Bride is a Margaret Atwood novel first published in 1993 The novel begins with three women Roz, Charis, and Tony , who meet once a month, in a restaurant, to share a meal During one outing, the three friends see Zenia The novel alternates between the present and flashbacks featuring the points of view of Tony, Charis, and Roz, respectively Zenia has given each woman a different version of her biography, tailor made to insinuate herself into 145 The Robber Bride, Margaret AtwoodThe Robber Bride is a Margaret Atwood novel first published in 1993 The novel begins with three women Roz, Charis, and Tony , who meet once a month, in a restaurant, to share a meal During one outing, the three friends see Zenia The novel alternates between the present and flashbacks featuring the points of view of Tony, Charis, and Roz, respectively Zenia has given each woman a different version of her biography, tailor made to insinuate herself into their lives No one version of Zenia is the truth, and the reader knows nothan the characters 2012 1380 702 9643113027 1382 1385 1388 9789643113025 20 11 04 1399


  5. Glenn Sumi Glenn Sumi says:

    This is the thirteenth Margaret Atwood novel I ve read, and it s easily one of her most enjoyable Not her best, mind you, but lots of fun, and highly, highly readable Plus a lot of the book takes place a block away from where I currently live and work in Toronto.Three middle aged former college friends history prof Tony, businesswoman Roz, and yoga instructor Charis have all been used and manipulated by a toxic woman named Zenia Five years after attending Zenia s memorial service she h This is the thirteenth Margaret Atwood novel I ve read, and it s easily one of her most enjoyable Not her best, mind you, but lots of fun, and highly, highly readable Plus a lot of the book takes place a block away from where I currently live and work in Toronto.Three middle aged former college friends history prof Tony, businesswoman Roz, and yoga instructor Charis have all been used and manipulated by a toxic woman named Zenia Five years after attending Zenia s memorial service she had supposedly died in a terrorist incident in Lebanon the women are having their weekly lunch at a Queen West restaurant bar when, mouths open, they each see their former frenemy return from the dead In the opening section, Atwood lets us experience the fateful day from each of the friends perspectives, the lunch and sighting taking on a Rashomon like quality Over the next three sections, the bulk of the 600 page book, we get deeper into Tony, Charis and Roz s lives, to see how they grew up, how they first met Zenia and what dastardly thing she eventually did to them, mostly involving stealing men and money The final sections show us what happens after they discover their nemesis has returned The novel s structure is superb, as is the character building Atwood plunges us deeply into all three women s lives, letting us see each of their weaknesses, which Zenia, of course, will later exploit While the title refers to one of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, the book itself isn t a straight reworking of it instead it inverts the genders and plays with other elements we know from folk stories for instance, so many of the women seem to be orphaned.Throughout it all, Atwood touches on many themes about late 20th century womanhood struggling to break through that glass ceiling, dealing with abuse, forging rich friendships, balancing work and motherhood The novel is also a look at the power of storytelling itself Zenia s own tales of woe are gripping, if fake a mystery about what the new Zenia is ultimately up to and in some way it s a look at the personification of evil itself.What I loved about the book is that each of the women is resourceful in her own way, even the seemingly flaky, crystal loving, aura detecting Charis The fact that Tony s academic specialty is war gives her insights into how battles, including human ones, play out And Roz s business smarts, and money, also give her an upper hand up to a point.The ending feels rushed, and the men aren t as rounded as the women, but these are quibbles The Robber Bride is Atwood at her most entertaining C mon, Stockholm Award her the damn Nobel Prize already


  6. Helene Jeppesen Helene Jeppesen says:

    4.5 5 stars This novel is amongst my favourites by Margaret Atwood so far because it deals with something that is relevant to everyone It deals with Zenia, a woman who has poisoned several lives and basically destroyed Tony, Charis and Roz, the three main characters We all have this kind of person in our lives however, the thing is that Zenia is extreme, and it s very interesting to go back in time and learn about what she has done to these three women When we meet Tony, Charis and Roz, Zen 4.5 5 stars This novel is amongst my favourites by Margaret Atwood so far because it deals with something that is relevant to everyone It deals with Zenia, a woman who has poisoned several lives and basically destroyed Tony, Charis and Roz, the three main characters We all have this kind of person in our lives however, the thing is that Zenia is extreme, and it s very interesting to go back in time and learn about what she has done to these three women When we meet Tony, Charis and Roz, Zenia has just died which is a huge relief to everyone Nevertheless, Zenia fatally returns from the dead and start haunting these women all over again, and this is where we get to hear about their backgrounds This might sound kind of humorous, but actually The Robber Bride is written in a very sinister and mysterious tone of voice which only adds to its brilliancy I, for one, was a fan, and this book has gotten me interested in reading muchby Margaret Atwood


  7. James James says:

    Charis, Roz and Tony Three very different women, leading three very different lives what binds them together is their shared history attending the same college and their shared experiences of a fourth the dangerous, enigmatic and poisonous Zenia and the part s she plays in all their lives.In the hands of a less accomplished author than Margaret Atwood such a foundation as this for a novel would undoubtedly have resulted in something clich d, pedestrian though sensationalist and ultimatel Charis, Roz and Tony Three very different women, leading three very different lives what binds them together is their shared history attending the same college and their shared experiences of a fourth the dangerous, enigmatic and poisonous Zenia and the part s she plays in all their lives.In the hands of a less accomplished author than Margaret Atwood such a foundation as this for a novel would undoubtedly have resulted in something clich d, pedestrian though sensationalist and ultimately two dimensional to say the least Not so with Atwood This is a story of the victors, the vanquished, of wars waged, battles won and lost between nations and amongst individuals This is history, both on a grand scale, the world stage andpertinently here on the interpersonal, the individual level, the macro as well as the micro view.This is a history of manipulation, humiliation, subjugation, ruination and desolation this about the poisoning and the destruction of lives It s about winning and losing, life and death s who is the user and who is the used The Robber Bride is Atwood s skillful retelling and re imagining of Grimm s The Robber Bridegroom and whilst perhaps not up there with her best Handmaids Tale, Blind Assassin, Alias Grace et al it s an excellent novel by anybody s standards By turns, funny, infuriating, frustrating and thrilling in some ways it s a whodunnit x 3 but who dun what and how with who Three stories of three women with a fourthmysterious one, never quite in focus always mysterious and as you would expect a well constructed conclusion to the story s to all that has been told throughout


  8. Trevor Trevor says:

    Everybody in this novel has a motive for killing Zenia and that is the point, or at least, one of the points Zenia is a dark, malevolent force one of those people we desire in the dark, middle of the forest nightmare spaces in the black pits of our souls She is the one who knows our secret desires and who uses them against us to bring about our own undoing At least, we would like to believe it is our undoing she seeks and that she is the agent that brings it about But that is the thing a Everybody in this novel has a motive for killing Zenia and that is the point, or at least, one of the points Zenia is a dark, malevolent force one of those people we desire in the dark, middle of the forest nightmare spaces in the black pits of our souls She is the one who knows our secret desires and who uses them against us to bring about our own undoing At least, we would like to believe it is our undoing she seeks and that she is the agent that brings it about But that is the thing about malevolent forces they are agents of change, and sometimes what seem like evil changes bring about good outcomes.I don t want to ruin this book for you if you are thinking of reading it But I think I can get away with saying Zenia works her magic by being a mirror Atwood even says this at some point towards the end, but I was thinking it most of the way through the book And mirrors are interesting things, troubling things, dangerous things.There are a number of themes that struck me during this book which I m going to think aboutnow with you Atwood has always been interesting to me, ever since I read The Blind Assassin, although, I liked this one better than that book I think mainly because I worked out far too early in that one the secret and that spoilt it for me Much likePsycho was ruined for me by my working out the problem with the mother well before the end.One of the things I really liked about this book was Atwood s way of casually mentioning, before launching off on a story, something key that happens at the end of the tale I felt like I was doing one of those mazes in a kids colouring book I know where to start and where I ll end, but how will we get from one to the other The other thing about knowing the end of a story before the details are filled in the main point of it, I think is that we get lashings of dramatic irony If you know before the story starts that this character s husband is going to run off with Zenia, well, when she is saying to them both, No, you two stay here and enjoy yourselves while I go off and bury my head in the sand you know what a fool she is being taken for Irony gets piled on irony This is an interesting pleasure There was a time when all stories that were told Macbeth, Oedipus, Lear were already known by the audience before the play began This meant that the author could play with dramatic irony with the audience being brought under the wing of the author as a co conspirator And Atwood does exactly this with her readers in this book and it is a fascinating device.I really like stories that are based on fairytales though, with smart writers I sometimes struggle with the allusion back to the tale itself, which I assume must be there The Grimm fairytale that is implied in the title of this one comes in two versions The first thing we notice is that the sex has been changed The Robber Bridegroom is someone the bride has been promised to who lives in the middle of the dark woods He asks his bride to be to come to him at his house, but she resists and is terrified of him He leaves a trail for her to find his house, either in ashes or ribbons When she does go to him his house is empty except for an old woman who hides and protects the bride Soon she learns that her husband to be is part of a group of thieves who are rather fond of eating women in the first version of the story a beautiful young woman is devoured, in the other version the princess s own grandmother In both versions of the story the bride is hidden behind a barrel when the dead woman who is being prepared to be boiled and eaten has a finger cut off with an axe so that the robbers can steal a ring that is stuck tight on her finger This finger flies across the room and lands in the lap of the bride behind the barrel Luckily the robbers give up looking for the finger ring before they discover the young woman After their cannibal feast they sleep the sleep of the innocent, so deeply asleep that the young woman can make her escape In both versions of the story the bridegroom finally comes to marry his bride, but before the service the bride tells him about her dream This dream is the story of her visit to his house in the middle of the dark woods and as she tellsthis story he becomes increasingly pale Once the story is finished he tries to escape, but is soon captured, as are the rest of his troupe of villains, and they are all killed by the appropriate authorities for their wicked deeds Now, part of me would have thought that telling you that story would in some way ruin at least in part the story of The Robber Bride What surprises me is that there seems to be so few parallels between the fairytale and the tale Atwood composes here.I also wondered what would have happened, how would I have responded to this story, if it had been written by a man It would have been quite a different story, I think, if Mark Atwood had written it rather than his sister Margaret I would have taken the male writer to have been a sexist old fart The main proof of this sexism would have been the three main women characters and the ultimate femme fatale in Zenia The three women at the heart of this story are each instances of what it is to be a woman in the 1980s One is a bit of a tom boy interested in wars and recreating battles, she also like Zenia eats men, if only representations of men as dried beans and such from her mock battle fields She is logical and analytical she even has a man s name, Tony Then there is the dippy one the one who sees auras and I sure today would drink wheat grass The third is the feminist business woman although this reads like the final twist of the knife and I think it is very interesting that Zenia attacks both this one s failing marriage and her failing feminist magazine at much the same time also interesting is the fact that the person this one turns to when she needs to know how to sort things out is a homosexual There are lots of interesting things going on in this book about sexuality, gender, and what it is to be a woman well, and a man, I guess, but much less so Some of it, as I ve said, would have meant something quite different if it had been said by a man.The men in this book are all pathetic So, a fairly accurate portrayal It is interesting, the woman all know instinctively that if Zenia turns her attention to their partners then there is no question they will be swept away by her false tits and all They are powerless to protect their men from her powers.I have relatives who live in Canada it is something I ve always known, since I was a child, but have only recently ever met any of these mythic creatures All the same, Canada has always seemed to me to have been another possible place that my family could have ended up in, a place where another possible me may have grown up And, let s face it, the Irish are just perverse enough, when given a choice between sunny Australia and freezing Canada, to choose Canada What really surprises me given Canada is also part of the Commonwealth is the use of American rather than British constructions for instance, no Australian or British person would ever say, Well, she can kiss my fanny That is a gesture which is muchintimate here than it is in North America hint, right general area, but boys don t have fannies There are other instances of what I would take to be US English rather than British English that surprised me during this and I just would have thought British English might have beenlikely in Canada than proved to be the case.There are awful parts of this story bits that are horrible and painful just as there are in all fairytales But I liked how this one ended and was relieved, as the meaning of Zenia, even to the characters, was not allowed to remain quite as simple as seemed might be the case at early parts in the story.Part of us longs for someone like Zenia oh, we deny it, of course, but if there are to be dark forces in our universe, well, surely these forces would spend their time trying to work out how to make our lives a misery We are self centred enough to believe that is true But what if the devil actually couldn t care less about us Or worse, what if the havoc the devil caused in our lives was actually for our own good so we could learn an important lesson Atwood is an interesting writer, always in control always playing, and some of her metaphors are worthy of poetry rather than prose Zenia is a liar, but Atwood is the consummate liar here for isn t that what a fiction writer is And isn t every work of art, every work of fiction, a testament to the power of its creator to spin her web of lies Disturbing, intelligent, confronting and multilayered whatcould you ask for in a novel


  9. Aubrey Aubrey says:

    It s books like these that makes my rarely flouted always finish rule earn its keep, for it often takes going through the entirety of any work for the meshing gears of personal reception to reveal themselves to my own perception Granted, it didn t do a very good job of serving as inspiration for one of mycreative frenzies, but it was a decent whetting stone for my analytic ability without pissing me off too much, so reading it in tandem with The Second Sex was not such a horrible mistak It s books like these that makes my rarely flouted always finish rule earn its keep, for it often takes going through the entirety of any work for the meshing gears of personal reception to reveal themselves to my own perception Granted, it didn t do a very good job of serving as inspiration for one of mycreative frenzies, but it was a decent whetting stone for my analytic ability without pissing me off too much, so reading it in tandem with The Second Sex was not such a horrible mistake after all Reading the works simultaneously definitely negatively affected my evaluation of this one, but the work was mildly entertaining when I wasn t hell bent on deconstructing it to its most basic of constituents, which counts for something.I will admit, I went into this looking for the Atwood of The Handmaid s Tale, but never fear, I found better reasons for my tepid reaction than thwarted expectations One of these is a simple mechanic of any sort of fiction, in that most of if not all of its success with an audience lies in its talents for deception, suspension of disbelief if you will for folks keen on key terminology In Handmaid s Tale, I was astounded by the powerful usage of metaphor in all its macabre forms, enough to feel threatened by these clusters of ink lying limply spread over dead white plains Thus I was emotionally invested enough with this story to not care about whatever contrivances of plot, character, and other components of fiction the author chose to utilize in crafting their work.This book did not pull that off While I ll admit to finding bits and pieces of it interesting and or amusing, the emotional pull was not enough to distract me from seeing it as a collection of stereotypes that happened to resonate with my own personal characteristics Seeing as how this is how most fiction is generated and how I have not yet sworn off of stories completely despite my rapid intake, I wondered what else was off.This is where The Second Sex comes in and all of its wonderful analysis of woman and all of her facets, including a large section on the figure in fiction and the popular consigning of her to the category of mystery It turns out that this is a major pet peeve of mine, and without my knowing at the time was a theme that bugged me during my reading of Rebecca What both that book and this have in common is the subsuming of the entire story in the viewpoint s of one or many female characters, one which looks out on a world from a perspective well adjusted to the expectations of men and woman, and finds within its gaze a female who chooses to break these ideological standards and use them as tools for her own gain Both of these females provide the only sense of plot advancement, as well as the only truly uniqueness of character, a source of unknown and mysterious complexity in the world of The Robber Bride where the women coddle in silent suffering their hapless men and innocently wondrous children Admittedly, there are only three women to view the world from, but all three seemed extremely predictable in their thought patterns, as if nature did nothing but grant selves well adjusted to the current state of society s expectations of the female role and left nurturing to fill in the quirks that would differentiate them from everyone else All this building up of all too easily explained characters, while the most interesting is left to wallow as an unfathomable conundrum A mark of laziness, in my mind Oh, and the only decent males who don t fall into the hell hath no fury like a man offended category are gay Go figure.In conclusion, I may have issues with well adjusted characters in general, and should just come to grips with the fact that not everyone is going to care about the bigger picture in context with their own lives, and as a result are perfectly happy going along with a preconceived toolbox that is never truly pushed into civil war That doesn t diminish the fact that nothing distracted me from focusing so much on theunsatisfying aspects of the story Not the imagery, not the plot, no deep insight into the human condition, no novel ways of conveying information that sometimes result in a faint feeling of omniscience andoften in a migraine, not even overwhelming bleakness that leaves me rocking in the corner in states that I really should becareful about Nadda Just a few traces of entertainment and a bitknowledge about Canada and various historical conflicts Andexperience with analyzing gender stereotypes, I suppose That s always useful


  10. Jennifer (aka EM) Jennifer (aka EM) says:

    Atwood at her finest and in some ways, meanest I mean that in a good way I ended up loving it, although found it started slowly, lacking her usual sly and almost remote perspective, sharp insights, biting black humour It was almost too sincere and gasp clich d Then, by about p 100, it kicked in Cunning use of language and symbolism the eggs and most of all, a study in a particularly disturbing kind of psychopathology to which so many of us have been prey Slices to the bone and Atwood at her finest and in some ways, meanest I mean that in a good way I ended up loving it, although found it started slowly, lacking her usual sly and almost remote perspective, sharp insights, biting black humour It was almost too sincere and gasp clich d Then, by about p 100, it kicked in Cunning use of language and symbolism the eggs and most of all, a study in a particularly disturbing kind of psychopathology to which so many of us have been prey Slices to the bone and hits close to home, for me I have known too many Zenias in my life, women and men I like to think I ve learned to spot and avoid them, but this book reminds me of how they do what they do the predatory and unscrupulous behaviour of the pathological liar I love that Atwood focuses her laser beam eye here on the three victims She forces you right into their heads, you get to see each one s inner workings at a microscopic level, the way those CSI shows take you right into the orifices and organs to show you the source of the disease up close, magnified 1,000x You see the arterial placque of their psyches, each vein of vulnerability Not that the victims here are diseased butlike their particular psychologies, pasts, experiences have left them exposed and lacking any immunity to the disease that Zenia the liar carries.That core vulnerability the commonality between Tony, Roz and Charis is their essential goodness their natural, untainted proclivity to trust Even as we watch them fall repeatedly into Zenia s clutches because of it, motivated not just by their own willingness to trust but also by the equally natural and forgivable flaws and egocentricities and points of pride or pain or shame or lack of self awareness that Zenia exploits, we root for them and we recognize ourselves in them I appreciated so much that Atwood chose to view spoiler strengthen, not destroy, their bonds of friendship hide spoiler Too often, the opposite happens it s the most regrettable collateral damage that the pathological liar causes I appreciated the maturity, authenticity and well roundedness of their perceptions and understanding of each other This level of hyper psycho realism is always high in Atwood here, she s at her peak power And she walked a bit of a tightrope, too Zenia, in another author s hands, could have been seen as a particularly mean spirited sexist attack Tony, Roz and Charis as caricatures of specific types of feminity Atwood deliberately manipulates these nuances and layers of meaning, and our interpretation of them, as part of the story Zenia like, really story tellers are weaving lies, too, right Reading a story is sometimes like looking in a mirror we see ourselves reflected there another deliberate choice of symbolism that Atwood uses.A lot of novels make me cry Some make me clench my teeth in anger Still fewer leave me on the edge of my seat as I wonder how the plot will resolve Almost none make me feel all of this, and so profoundly as this one does.It s extraordinary