Synopses & Reviews
Exploring the paradox of female villainy, this tale of three fascinating women is another peerless display of literary virtuosity by the supremely gifted author of Cat's Eye
and The Handmaid's Tale
. Roz, Charis and Tony all share a wound, and her name is Zenia. Beautiful, smart and hungry, by turns manipulative and vulnerable, needy and ruthless, Zenia is the turbulent center of her own perpetual saga. She entered their lives in the sixties, when they were in college. Over the three decades since, she has damaged each of them badly, ensnaring their sympathy, betraying their trust, and treating their men as loot. Then Zenia dies, or at any rate the three women with much relief attend her funeral. But as The Robber Bride
begins, Roz, Charis and Tony have come together at a trendy restaraunt for their monthly lunch when in walks the seemingly resurrected Zenia...
In this consistently entertaining and profound new novel, Margaret Atwood reports from the farthest reaches of the war between the sexes with her characteristic well-crafted prose, rich and devious humor, and compassion.
About the Author
Margaret Atwood is the author of over twenty-five books, including fiction, poetry, and essays. Among her most recent works are the bestselling novels Cat's Eye and The Robber Bride, and the collections Wilderness Tips and Good Bones and Simple Murders. She lives in Toronto.
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?