05 December 2007

Book Of My Youth: The Robber Bride

I'm rereading Margaret Atwood's THE ROBBER BRIDE, a book I believe I discovered around 1997 or 1998 and have since re-read several times. How many times wasn't completely clear to me until I started over this time, after a few years, and found how many scenes I either remembered or could practically repeat verbatim.

I read several of Atwood's books while I was in that gulf between what used to constitute YA (mostly heavy-handed "issue" books) and roving free through the adult fiction section. I believe the first one I read was CAT'S EYE, about a girl's unhappy childhood in postwar Canada and how it influenced her when she grew up. Virtually all of Atwood's books feature female protagonists, often those who are compelled for some reason to sift through their pasts. In LADY ORACLE, for example, a woman who has just faked her own death and run away to Italy addresses the reasons she left and her life up to the point where she "died."

THE ROBBER BRIDE features the narratives of three women who are doing the same examination compelled by the strange reappearance of a women they all thought was dead. Tony, Charis and Roz don't have much in common, but all were once close with a woman named Zenia who later betrayed them in some way. Years later, they reconnected at Zenia's funeral and have been meeting up ever since, and it's at one of those meetings where they see the (supposedly) dead woman, alive and well. This prompts them to recollect the era of their lives when they met Zenia, and everything that's happened since.

I'm falling in love with THE ROBBER BRIDE all over again, but there's one thing that bothers me and didn't last time. A lot of Zenia's treachery has to deal with men, and the men in this book do not come off well at all. The three main male characters in the book are a surly American draft dodger, a habitually unfaithful executive and an absent-minded geek, and while the geek looks the best, none of them are particularly great or well-suited. I don't think I believed this to be realistic at 13 or 14, but I find it much less so now. Sure, Tony, Charis, and Roz's attachments to these men (and the way Zenia acts towards them) provides a commentary on the battle of the sexes and the precise nature of the eventual vilification of Zenia, but at times I'm finding them to be a little unrealistically bad. Still, I'm enjoying this book (again) and if you haven't read it, I heartily recommend it.

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