The Robber Bride
|Cover artist||Malcolm Tarlofsky|
|Publisher||McClelland and Stewart|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover, Paperback)|
|Pages||546 pp (first edition, hardcover), 528 pp (Paperback Ed.)|
|ISBN||0-7710-0821-X (first edition, hardcover), ISBN 0-385-49103-4|
|Preceded by||Good Bones|
|Followed by||Alias Grace|
Set in present-day Toronto, Ontario, 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, a university classmate they thought to be long-dead, who had stolen, one by one, their respective beaux. 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 no more than the characters.
Their betrayals by Zenia are what initially bring the three together as friends and bind their lives together irrevocably; their monthly luncheons began after her funeral. The novel, like other works by Atwood, deals with power struggles between men and women; it is also a meditation on the nature of friendship, power, and trust between women. Zenia's character can be read as either the ultimate self-empowered woman, a traitor who abuses sisterhood, or simply a self-interested mercenary who cunningly uses the "war between the sexes" to further her own interests. One reading posits Zenia as a kind of guardian angel to the women, saving them from unworthy men. This proposition comes as the conclusion of Atwood's later short story, "I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth", which features the same characters.
Atwood claims that of all the characters she has written, she identifies most "with Zenia. She is the professional liar, and what else do fiction writers do but create lies that other people will believe?"
In the novel's present, Roz, Charis, and Tony each individually confront Zenia in a Toronto hotel room, where she tells each of them that the men they'd been with got what they deserved, and gives various versions of her earlier staged death, each as implausible as the accounts of her life.
A film adaptation of The Robber Bride, starring Mary-Louise Parker as Zenia, Wendy Crewson as Roz, Greg Bryk as Henry, Shawn Doyle as John, Susan Lynch as Charis, Amanda Root as Tony, Tatiana Maslany as Augusta and Brandon Firla as West, aired on CBC Television in January 2007 and the Oxygen Network in March 2007.
The adaptation altered the plotline, choosing not to show Roz, Tony and Charis' childhood flashbacks and adding several new characters. In addition, Augusta is taken by Zenia and the Toxique has been changed to Absinthe.
In 2014, Atwood published the short story "I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth", which revisits Roz, Tony and Charis in the present day, when Charis believes that her new pet dog Ouida is possessed by the spirit of Zenia. Originally published by the Canadian magazine The Walrus, the story also appears in her 2014 short story collection Stone Mattress.
- Brian Busby, Character Parts: Who's Really Who in Canlit, Toronto: Knopf, 2003, p. 280. ISBN 0-676-97579-8.
- "Stone Mattress review – Margaret Atwood's new collection of short stories". The Guardian, October 10, 2014.