Friday, 11 May 2012

Book Review: "I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth", by Margaret Atwood

"I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth" has Margaret Atwood reacquainting herself with the characters depicted in her 1993 novel The Robber Bride. Atwood was inspired to write "I Dream of Zenia" after Canadian literary magazine The Walrus asked her a few months ago to revisit the characters of The Robber Bride in a short story.

While asking for a continuation of a novel published in 1993 may seem odd, given that Atwood has written five or six novels since, it actually makes perfect sense. The Robber Bride is the sleeper hit of Atwood's novels - it doesn't have the genre-bending sensibilities of The Handmaid's Tale or the widespread critical acclaim of Cat's Eye and Alias Grace, and yet it's accumulated a sizable following over the years.

Unlike many of her novels, which are relatively self-contained works, the ending of The Robber Bride kind of drifts away from the reader like ashes over Lake Ontario, with no clear answer as to where it'll wash up. The open-ended nature of The Robber Bride was one of the many things that hooked me when I first read the novel, so when I first heard that Atwood had written "I Dream of Zenia", I was worried it would give The Robber Bride some sort of genuine conclusion. But when I found out that it had a limited print run of 2,000 copies, and that the first hundred copies would be signed by Atwood herself (one of which I was lucky enough to receive), how could I resist?

Because some of the purchased copies may not have arrived yet, I'm not going to reveal any major spoilers, sticking only to those details already available on The Walrus' website. Knowing the nature of the web, though, a detailed plot summary is sure to surface in the next few weeks, but I still don't want to ruin it for anyone. (Yes, I'm frustratingly old-fashioned like that.)

Head on below the fold for my review.