The Robber Bride
by Margaret Atwood
Bloomsbury, $34.95 hb
Ever since the publication of Margaret Atwood’s first novels, The Edible Woman and Surfacing, she has been seized upon as a writer who articulated the predicament of being female in contemporary western societies. Her Canadian origins were no barrier for many Australian women, who read her as though she spoke with their voice. Atwood was like a ‘sister’ who didn’t fail them – someone who’d been there and could help light the way.
Her latest novel has not one, but three, female personae. There’s Tony, the small birdlike academic who specialises in wars, and whose parents died in gruesome circumstances. There’s Roz, the over-inflated businesswoman who can barely keep up with her own office staff, and her strange almost grown-up family at home. And there’s Charis, who dabbles in crystals and the occult, and was Karen in an earlier life when she was abandoned by her mother, and sexually abused as a child. All three women try to be embodiments of the ‘female principle’, even though they are haunted by their own pasts, men’s duplicity, middle-age, and the fate that awaits them.