atwood's splendid deconstruction and then reconstruction of the ties that can exist between women is one of her more pleasurable novels. it is full of fascinating references to fairy tales; discovering the parallels to rapunzel, sleeping beauty, and cinderella (to name just three) is an ongoing delight and the title character herself is so mysteriously poisonous yet malleable in her many faces that she becomes almost mythic. just as enjoyable is the deftness and richness of the characterization. atwood knows how to write characters who live and breathe, who think thoughts that are so true to life yet who still manage to surprise the reader with the decisions they make. and it should go without saying that the author's mastery of irony, of the poetic metaphor, of language itself, is present in spades.