Narrator: Bernadette Dunne
Rating: 6 out of 10
Publisher: Random House Audio
Length: 20 hours, 12 minutes
Pages: 528 (print version)
Challenges: 2012 Audio Book Challenge, 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge
Synopsis (from the book description): 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.
Overall Impression: I wanted to like this more than I did. I didn’t hate it, but I usually enjoy Atwood’s books more than I enjoyed this one. While her writing, as always, was stellar, I think my just-okayness stems from the characters in this book.
While the three main women were all relatively likable, and Zenia was just awful in a love-to-hate-her sort of way, the men in this book were terrible. Liars, cheats, weaklings, oafs. And despite this, the women loved them. I think that’s what drove me the most crazy. These women sacrificed so much and were played the fool time and time again because of the decisions of these dishonorable men. And they blamed it all on Zenia (who did cause all sorts of trouble, but let’s face it — it takes two to tango). I didn’t feel bad for these women — I felt scornful. I couldn’t fathom why they would risk so much for men who cheated on them and lied to them. Maybe I have enough self-worth to know that I would have kicked a man to the curb had he done a fraction of what the men did to the women in this book.
Other than that, the book was a really interesting take on the Robber Bridegroom fairy tale, in which three maidens are devoured by an evil groom, switching out the groom for the crafty Zenia. She was a horrible, horrible person, but her character was so deliciously evil that in some way you had to respect her craft. I liked how Atwood told the histories of each of the three women, a lot of which explained why they put up with so much from Zenia and the men, but didn’t make me like them or sympathize with them any more.
I think fans of Atwood’s writing would find this an interesting read, but be warned — you aren’t going to find a lot of appealing characters in this one.
Positives: Great writing — Atwood is so good with characterization and the details.
Negatives: Usually there’s someone to relate to and root for in a book. Not this one — mostly I felt everyone deserved the misery they got.
Narration: Dunne did a great job, although it felt a little choppy every once in a while. But overall, she’s a wonderful narrator.
Other books I’ve read by Margaret Atwood:
The Handmaid’s Tale (no review)
Oryx and Crake (no review)
The Year of the Flood (review)
Other books I’ve listened to narrated by Bernadette Dunne:
The Year of the Flood (review)
Other blogger opinions:
Shelf Love: “Atwood’s tale is hard-hitting and brutal, depicting the nastiness of women right alongside their generosity.”
Caribou’s Mom: “Disturbing and dark at times, The Robber Bride evokes what is essentially human about all of us, including those emotions we are most likely to conceal.”
Adventures in Reading: “ I must confess though that I found The Robber Bride rather unwieldly, but perhaps I missed out on appreciating some of its finer points.”