The Robber Bride

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The Robber Bride
First edition
AuthorMargaret Atwood
Cover artistMalcolm Tarlofsky
PublisherMcClelland and Stewart
Publication date
September 1993
Media typePrint (Hardcover, Paperback)
Pages546 (first edition, hardcover), 528 pp (Paperback Ed.)
ISBN0-7710-0821-X (first edition, hardcover), ISBN 0-385-49103-4
Preceded byGood Bones 
Followed byAlias Grace 

The Robber Bride is a novel by Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, first published by McClelland and Stewart in 1993.

Plot summary[edit]

Set in present-day Toronto, Ontario, the novel is about three women and their history with old friend and nemesis, Zenia. Roz, Charis, and Tony meet once a month in a restaurant to share a meal years after Zenia betrayed them and interfered with their romantic relationships. During one outing they spot Zenia, who they thought to be long-dead. The plot then travels back in time to explain how Zenia stole, one by one, their respective partners. The novel alternates between the present and the past through flashbacks, in the third person perspective of Tony, Charis and Roz. Zenia gives 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 begin after her funeral.

In the present-day, 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.


The novel, like many other works by Atwood, deals with power struggles between men and women, while also being a meditation on the nature of female friendship, power and trust. Zenia's character can be read as either the ultimate self-empowered woman - a traitor who abuses sisterhood - or a self-interested mercenary who cunningly uses the "war between the sexes" to further her own interests. One interpretation 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.

Canadian literary critic Brian Busby wrote in his book Character Parts: Who's Really Who in Canlit that the character of Zenia was based on journalist Barbara Amiel.[1]

Film adaptation[edit]

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.[2]


  1. ^ Brian Busby, Character Parts: Who's Really Who in Canlit, Toronto: Knopf, 2003, p. 280. ISBN 0-676-97579-8.
  2. ^ "Stone Mattress review – Margaret Atwood's new collection of short stories". The Guardian, October 10, 2014.

External links[edit]