Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Review: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

The Blind Assassin: A NovelTitle: The Blind Assassin

Author: Margaret Atwood

Pages: 521

Source: Personal library

Rating: 9/10

Summary (From book flap):

The novel opens with these simple, resonant words: "Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge." They are spoken by Iris, whose terse account of her sister's death in 1945 is followed by an inquest report proclaiming the death accidental. But just as the reader expects to settle into Laura's story, Atwood introduces a novel-within-a-novel. Entitled The Blind Assassin, it is a science fiction story told by two unnamed lovers who meet in dingy backstreet rooms. When we return to Iris, it is through a 1947 newspaper article announcing the discovery of a sailboat carrying the dead body of her husband, a distinguished industrialist.

Told in a style that magnificently captures the colloquialisms of the 1930s and 1940s, The Blind Assassin is a richly layered and uniquely rewarding experience. The novel has many threads and a series of events that follow one another at a breathtaking pace. As everything comes together, readers will discover that the story Atwood is telling is not only what it seems to be -- but is, in fact, much more.

My Two Cents:

I have not read any Atwood for several years, and my only experience with her (Short of following her on Twitter!) is with The Handmaid's Tale, which is still one of my favorite books. I'm glad I expanded my Atwood repertoire, because I truly think she is one of the best modern writers. In my totally unofficial, based-on-two-books opinion, of course.

Atwood weaves a very complicated tale, moving back and forth between Iris' past and present, the text of The Blind Assassin and various news articles. She is able to switch her narrative voice to suit each need while still maintaining a through line and a cohesive feel to the book, which isn't an easy feat.

I liked the main character, Iris, much more as the narrative unfolded. At first, I felt sorry for her and realized she had gotten into a situation for which she was unprepared. As the novel went on, I continued to feel sorry for her because Atwood made it seem as if she was a totally helpless party in everything: Her marriage, the decline of her family's business, her sister's health. But, there were moments where Iris' strength and defiance shone through, partly in the narrative portions where she is older, but also in events from the past. Even though I could predict the big revelation that came at the end, it did not ruin my experience of the novel as a whole.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes good, solid writing and character development along with an interesting story (Who doesn't?).


Mystica said...

Though I liked the Handmaid's Tale for its writing and the unreal story it portrayed, I found it disconcerting most of the time. Having said that I still want to read more Atwood. This may be a good second book I think. Thanks for the post.

Aarti said...

Whoa, I just finished this book, too! I really enjoyed it, but I didn't really feel THAT sorry for the main character. I loved the older, very wistful and regretful version of her, but I didn't really think of her as a victim who was helpless. I think she was willfully blind and very self-absorbed.

Agreed on the revelation- though on reflection, I didn't think it was supposed to be a big reveal, as she kept hinting through the narrative that she knew we just wanted her to say what happened as we already knew, but she wanted to tell the story fully, anyway...

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