This is a review of the book The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood.
I found this book in my favourite secondhand bookstore and thought at first that it’s about a woman who literally comes back from the dead; like a paranormal deal, you know? And I bought it because there hadn’t been an Atwood book that I haven’t enjoyed, irrespective of theme or genre. So I went ahead and bought it, in the interest of broadening my horizons in terms of the genres that I read. However, when I realised what the book was really about, I was struck by the misogynistic theme of the story. It’s about a “femme fatale” who sleeps with and “steals” men who are in relationships, for the heck of it, in addition to swlndling people and free-loading whenever she can. Her name is Zenia, and she is the negative protagonist of this book, and so wonderfully poisonous. I know someone a bit like her in real life, so I had no issues in believing in her existence.
I was really concerned; especially considering that Atwood is famously a feminist writer, and she seemed to have written a book about a Robber Bride who seduces innocent men, who are then absolved of all blame, because well, they’re powerless to the charms of the seductress. I decided to read it anyway, because I had already bought it, so I might as well. :p
Well, a few pages in to this book, I was already hooked. No joke. I said this in an earlier post of mine as well, that the writing style was so arresting that reading about the most mundane daily routine of a woman was suddenly fascinating. So I kept reading.
There are three protagonists in this story, Tony, Roz and Charis, and they are all very different people. I really liked that the book had distinct voices for each of them. I must say that the character I liked most was Roz, even though I liked her the least when she was viewed through Tony’s eyes.
Anyway, as to the theme of the book; the fact I realised was that the book functions as a social commentary, for lack of a better word, abou the way women are seen (were seen?) or see themselves.
A constant recurrence throughout the book was the realisation in the back of the minds of these women that their thoughts ot actions are somewhat counter-intuitive or hypocritical, but they continue to behave the same way, motivated by things like societal pressures, affection/protectiveness or the mere need for self-preservation or even a fear of being alone, That’s… very real somehow.
Some of the things said and done about Zenia still made me very uncomfortable at times, as did the portrayal of every male character in the book as weak, spineless and entirely vulnerable to the charms of the succubus. My problem with such a depiction was twofold, in that it simultaneously dehumanised the men while also exempting them from all culpability for their clearly wrong act of cheating while in a committed relationship. Maybe the reason for this portrayal is that that was the way in which each of the protagonists viewed the men, but I find myself unable to buy this reasoning somehow.
Roz and Charis’s relationships with their children were heart-warming and made me chuckle. I must use take this time to admit that people who have good relationships with their childen are increasingly endearing to me. Plus, I’ve been feeling increasingly affectionate to little kids and I’ve bitten my lips to stop “I want one!” from getting out. Also, this disturbing state of afairs started after I got my puppy. …What? I’m just as confused as you are. Pray with me that my longings are restricted to hazelnut cappuccinos, long daytime naps and nachos like a normal 22 year old, in the future. Please!
I was surprised and glad to see the inclusion of a gay character the book, along with an acknowledgement that gay men do need to lead double lives in order to flourish in a corporate environment.
Overall, this book was a good experience. Due to the philosophical differences mentioned above and because the pace got a little sluggish in the middle, with the predictable flashbacks at the beginning of each shift in narration, I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5.
I don’t know if I’d recommend it to people, in the sense that if someone asked if it’s a good book, I would say “Yes, definitely.” but I didn’t take enough away from the book or feel myself changed or impacted for having read it, and so, I don’t really want to actively tell people to go ahead and read it. Make what you wish out of that complicated sentiment!
That’s it for now, guys.
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