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.