The Robber Bride
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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.
in the world that would do things the way Charis wants. She performs the ceremony herself, with her grandmother’s Bible and a very potent round stone she found on the beach, and a bayberry candle and some spring water from a bottle, and Tony and Roz promise to watch over August and to protect her spirit. Charis is glad she’s able to give August two such hard-headed women as godmothers. They won’t let her be a wimp, they’ll teach her to stand up for herself—not a quality Charis is sure that she
in the front vestibule and waxed it and did the same with the kitchen floor. She cleaned the bathroom fixtures with Old Dutch cleanser and the toilets with Sani-Flush, and did the windows with Windex, and washed the lace curtains with Sunlight Soap, scrubbing them carefully by hand on a washboard, although she did the sheets and towels in the wringer-washer that was kept in the back shed adjoining the kitchen; there were a lot of sheets and towels, because of the roomers. She dusted twice a week
made: above Tony looms a prehensile arrangement of purplish dried flowers and wires and strange pods, daring the aesthetically uninitiated to call it ugly. The patio and the fountain must be the garden part of the Arnold Garden, Tony decides; but she wonders about the Arnold. Is it Arnold as in Matthew, he of the ignorant armies clashing by night? Or Arnold as in Benedict, traitor or hero depending on point of view? Or perhaps it’s a first name, denoting some bygone city councillor, some worthy
someone. No: she can’t believe that a person sitting in front of her, in a real room, in the real world, has actually killed someone. Such things happen offstage, elsewhere; they are indigenous to the past. Here, in this California-coloured room with its mild furniture, its neutrality, they would be anachronisms. “Not me,” says Zenia. “But I know who did.” She’s lighting another cigarette, she’s practically chain-smoking. The air around her is grey, and Tony is slightly dizzy. “The Israelis,”
Tnomerf Ynot herself drinks from a skull, with silver handles attached where the ears used to be. She raises the skull high in a toast to victory, and to the war god of the barbarians: Ettovag! she yells, and the hordes answer, cheering: Ettovag! Ettovag! In the morning there will be broken glass. Tony wakes up suddenly in the middle of the night. She gets out of bed, gropes under her night-table until she finds her rabbit-shaped slippers, and tiptoes across the room to the door. It opens