Exploring the paradox of female villainy, this tale of three fascinating women is another peerless display of literary virtuosity by the supremely gifted author of Cat's Eye and The Handmaid's Tale.
This book was published in 1993, and seemed to receive varying reviews: some people found it one of Atwood's less well-written books, while others weren't as wild about it. Obviously, since I have re-read it so many times, it's one of my favorite books by this author. I think part of what I really enjoy in this story is how the characters are written. The three main characters, Tony, Roz, and Charis are completely different, and are unified in friendship only because of their mutual enemy, Zenia (more about her in a moment). Every time I read this book, even though I know the story, and the outcome, I get completely caught up in these three characters. Tony's passion is the study of war, Roz is a tough businesswoman, and Charis is floaty and new-Age-y (see what I mean about them being completely different from one another?). It's like having many stories within one story, and each time Zenia enters a story, things get really interesting. Zenia is almost unbelievably bad, but I find her fascinating. We don't get the story from her viewpoint, which is fine: she'd be a completely unreliable narrator. And, it keeps her a mystery.
Beyond the characters, I think the other thing I love so much about this book is Atwood's writing. I find that the way she crafts sentences and phrases is so well-done; it's like art. Here's an example: "It takes time, because Tony has no single clear image of her mother. The memory of her is composed of shiny fragments, like a vandalized mosaic, or like something brittle that's been dropped on the floor." (p. 135)
"She can't see the lake from here: the mist blots it out. She makes an effort to find the mist beautiful - everything made by nature should be beautiful - but succeeds only partly. The mist is beautiful, true, it's like solid light, but it's also ominous: when there's mist, you can't see what's coming." (p. 201)