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The Robber Bride

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  43,896 ratings  ·  2,215 reviews
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, C ...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published January 20th 1998 by Anchor (first published 1993)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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"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 ...more
Sep 27, 2007 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Dec 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
145. The Robber Bride, Margaret Atwood

The 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
Glenn Sumi
Mar 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Helene Jeppesen
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
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 ...more
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 clichéd, pedestrian though sensationalist and ultimatel
Jennifer (aka EM)
Dec 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pathological liars and their prey
Shelves: maple-flavoured
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! - clichéd.

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
Mar 18, 2008 rated it it was ok
Interesting enough for me to finish in less than 24 hours, but lacking in anything that would provoke lasting thought or examination.

I found this book to be a great disappointment. It's basically all about how three incredibly amazing women, so smart and strong and capable within themselves, are brought down and nearly destroyed by a fourth woman, through her attack on their common weak spot: the men in their lives. The exotically, impossibly beautiful Zenia systematically targets each woman, im
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another very enjoyable longish novel from Atwood, perhaps a little too melodramatic at times to rank with her very best work.

The book has four main female characters, who met at college in Toronto in the 60s. Tony is a military historian and perhaps the most interesting. Charis is something of a new age hippie, and Roz runs a successful business. All of them are affected by and haunted by Zenia, a mysterious and charismatic femme fatale who has seduced all if their partners and exploited all of
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 my more creative 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 ...more
capture stories
Sep 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Ludicrous, awkwardly mirroring the thoughts and emotions of men and women. Smart but ugly tale. Funny at some point, honest at the edge, again, Atwood has whipped up an extraordinary retelling of Grimm's 'The Robber Bridegroom' to 'The Robber Bride' of a whole different version and new perspective reimagined!

The novel starts with three friends, Antonia (Tony), Karen (Charis), and Roz. All three were middle-aged women who formed lasting friendships from college years. Between them, a unique camar
Well a hard headed woman,
a soft hearted man
been the cause of trouble
ever since the world began.
Oh yeah, ever since the world began
He listens to Elvis with half an ear as he finishes the last few pages. He'd felt worried when his wife told him he should read it. The Fay Weldon, last year... that had left him feeling disquieted. But this one was different. He wonders if Margaret is a lady or a woman or a babe. He guesses he'd better call her a woman. Privately, though, he's decided she's a
Jul 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Some time has passed between the day that they'd last seen her, and the day the ghost of Zenia strides through the cafe before the three who knew her. I say “stride” because that is how I picture her. Sleek, purposeful, decisive. I also imagine the fork dropping from Tony's mouth as she spots her in the mirror, because they'd buried Zenia's ashes. She must be a ghost, or a look-a-like, somehow even more beautiful than before.

But if you know the woman, as these three do, you know she is back from

This was a one of kind sort of book where I pretty much hated all the characters because of their ridiculous and irritating ways yet everything about them and their fucked up lives was utterly engrossing. I didn't think it was possible to enjoy a book that contained so many rage inducing characters.

-Even though I LOATHED most of the characters and didn't find their actions remotely realistic they were for the most part weirdly fun to read about.

-Really liked how the story was structured
mark monday
Feb 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
atwood's splendid deconstruction and then reconstruction of the ties that can exist between women is one of her more pleasurable novels. it is full of fascinating references to fairy tales; discovering the parallels to rapunzel, sleeping beauty, and cinderella (to name just three) is an ongoing delight and the title character herself is so mysteriously poisonous yet malleable in her many faces that she becomes almost mythic. just as enjoyable is the deftness and richness of the characterization. ...more
I'm in several minds about this book, because I am head-over-heels in love with Cat's Eye by same, and a lot of this reads like Cat's Eye shifted a couple of spaces to the left.

The reason I love Cat's Eye so unreasonably is, and it's time to stop pretending this isn't true, primarily because of some things that happened in my life sometime between (approx.) my sixth and seventh readings (though I use the term 'reading' loosely) of it, and so my love for it is all bound up rather painfully with a
Jun 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Update: This review recently got a few likes, bringing it back to my attention. But, honestly? I'm ashamed of it. Because, I'm trying to pretend evil women don't exist. Zenia is obviously an exaggeration...but women and girls do awful things to each other. All the time.

Back in school, I was horribly bullied by girls. Horribly. They'd hit me, shove me against the wall, walk up behind me and pull my skirt up above my waist, trip me as I was getting off the bus. Why do I pretend those things didn't
Jun 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-list
"The story of Zenia ought to begin where Zenia began. It must have been someplace long ago and distant in space, thinks Tony; someplace bruised, and very tangled. A European print, hand-tinted, ochre-colored, with dusty sunglight and a lot of bushes in it - bushes with thick leaves and ancient twisted roots, behind which, out of sight in the undergrowth and hinted at only by a boot protruding, or a slack hand, something ordinary but horrifying is taking place.
Or this is the impression Tony has b
Julie Ehlers
This novel was different from how I thought it would be. Instead of focusing on Zenia, the undeniable villain of the piece, it focuses on the lives, thoughts, and reactions of the three regular (but very different) women who are affected by her. In the course of reading this 470-page tome, these women began to feel unusually real to me--this morning while I was supposed to be meditating, I was instead thinking about how Tony behaved in her big confrontation with Zenia and what she should have do ...more
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017
Zenia is made of malice. She has no fear and no morals. She doesn't shrink from confrontation; she has no appreciation whatsoever for risk. She'll tell outrageous lies - cancer, rape, nothing is off limits. She'll spend an entire winter in an uninsulated shack on an island faking cancer, for what? Well, there is a plan, but it doesn't seem worth it. Mostly she just wants to cause pain.

Specifically she wants to cause pain to these three specific women, who are parts of a whole. Tony, representing
I read this as part of the 1000 Books To Read Before You Die challenge.

Two thoughts that came to me as I read this book:

1) Catherine Zeta-Jones would be perfect as Zenia!

2) Is this a re-telling of the 3 Little Pigs?

For the first 10-20% of this book, I wasn't sure if I'd enjoy it. I certainly (at first) didn't think it was up to Margaret Atwood's talent.

But, after I got into it, I really enjoyed it. I loved the three women and their tales of their experiences with Zenia. It seemed to me Zenia wa
Nov 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hall-of-fame, fiction
This book has become comfort reading me -- there's no telling how many times I've read it. Atwood has a remarkable skill for revealing how her characters think, which is a separate facet of characterization, so different from describing a character's personality or way of life. Of all the fascinating women in this book, Tony is my favorite. I identify not with her personality, but with the way she thinks. ...more
4 and a half star, rounded to 5.

You don’t have to kill someone to destroy their lives. Psychopaths come in many different shapes and sizes, and Zenia is one of the creepiest one I have encountered in any book. Because she takes what made Tony, Roz and Charis good women and uses it against them.

I used to know someone very much like Zenia. For the few months she was around, she managed to make me lose sight of my values and goals, just like a little devil on my shoulder, whispering terrible things
May 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
With every book I read of Ms. Atwood's, my appreciation of her storytelling talent increases: her ability to construct metaphors that are spot-on and utterly unique; her genre-busting way of writing that defies pigeon-holing (though, it seems, many critics try to pin the "feminist" writer label on her); her method of describing her characters in a hyper-realistic and believable way. "The Robber Bride", while not without its faults (long-windedness, for one) is to me her best work. Her depiction ...more
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
i approached this book the way i was told to approach it (no one in particular said anything, but i got the general idea) and, well, i don't like books about nastiness. you know, books about psychopaths, serial killers, and the like. not my cup of tea. the sociopath here would be zenia. but slowly it dawned on me, thanks in part to having read Dept. of Speculation (as i type this i don't know why, but maybe it will be clearer to me by the end of this review), that this book is not about zenia. n ...more
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
We've all known a Zenia. I know I certainly have. Here are some visual aides to conjure her up.

For three friends—Tony, Charis, and Roz—Zenia has been the bane of their existence. Their erstwhile friend has conned them, betrayed them, and wreaked havoc on their lives ever since the '60s when they met in college. All four women are war babies. Zenia's specialty is finding people's vulnerabilities and exploiting them. She comes up with "custom-designed whopper[s]" that appeal to their weaknesses an
The first Atwood novel I read was The Handmaid’s Tale. If I touch the book, I can remember that first reading. Devouring the book as I lay on the couch, the leather cool despite the fact that it was a sweltering Philadelphia summer, I remember being torn between the desire to read the book, the desire to watch the Bulgaria with its cute goalie in the World Cup, and the need to walk the dog.

Despite the strong memory and the fact that I have taught it, The Handmaid’s Tale is not my favorite Atwoo
Mar 05, 2010 rated it it was ok
All this drama over these three losers? I just don't get it. I really don't understand women who find out that their husbands/boyfriends/girlfriends are cheating then go ballistic on the other women. What? The "other woman" is irrelevant, she took no vows, made no commitments, did not pledge her undying (faithful) love to you, the partner did. Really that's beside the point, just couldn't resist a mini-rant.

I actually related to all four women as I seem to have met each of them at some point in
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Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College.

Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, childr

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“Male fantasies, male fantasies, is everything run by male fantasies? Up on a pedestal or down on your knees, it's all a male fantasy: that you're strong enough to take what they dish out, or else too weak to do anything about it. Even pretending you aren't catering to male fantasies 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. You are your own voyeur.” 1316 likes
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