May 31, 2010

The Robber Bride, by Margaret Atwood

I still don't quite know what I think of Margaret Atwood. From what I have heard, she is apparently viewed as a science fiction writer, though the two books I've read of hers - The Blind Assassin and this one - seem to be just normal fiction. Either way, she is quite a talented writer and I look forward to reading more of her books in the future.

The Robber Bride follows three women who have all lost men to a predatory woman, Zenia. Zenia has some sort of power over men, and she uses them to get what she wants or simply to have fun with and then discards them, leaving them empty and desolate. These three women whose lives have been either ruined or utterly rearranged by Zenia's machinations are completely spineless. It's hard for me to empathize with a person who simply lets another person walk all over her. Yes, Zenia is described as having some sort of ability to make people like her and blind them to her manipulations, but she's downright bitchy. Why would anyone put up with that? The only answer would be that each of the three women are lacking in self confidence. They allow Zenia to steal their men because for some reason, they believe they don't deserve them. I find such women distasteful and weak.

That being said, I do like the organization of this book, and how, despite the fact that the novel is written entirely in the third person, each character's sections is written differently, as if they were writing them themselves. I especially like Charis' parts, despite their being the most disturbing. Atwood describes a person whose reality does not equate to our own, whose borders between the physical and the spiritual are fuzzy at best, and non-existent at moments.

So despite not being overly fond of the characters themselves, I did enjoy the writing, and will certainly be picking up more of Atwood's books.

Embers, by Sandor Marai

This short novel is a little gem of psychological fiction. Nothing much ever happens, and even though we hear the story of what has happened in the past, not much actually happened there either. The action, instead, lies in the mind of the main character, a man who has been waiting alone in his home for over forty years to hold a conversation with the man who once had been his best friend. He wants to discuss the past, but slowly realizes that what's done is done, and no forgiveness, or compassion, or apologies can change that. The truth of what occurred is no longer important, only the fact that on a single day, he lost a wife and a best friend, his wife lost a husband and a lover, his friend lost a lover and a friend. The woman is long dead, and her silence is the third main character. She cannot speak for herself, and even when she could, she did not. And now she's dead. So what can it matter, what happened so long ago, when the person because of whom it happened is no longer there, can no longer tell her story? The silence has consumed them, and now there is nothing left to say.