The Blind Assassin is a tale of two sisters, one of whom dies under ambiguous circumstances in the opening pages. The survivor, Iris Chase Griffen, initially seems a little cold-blooded about this death in the family. But as Margaret Atwood's most ambitious work unfolds--a tricky process, in fact, with several nested narratives and even an entire novel-within-a-novel--we're reminded of just how complicated the familial game of hide-and-seek can be.
Meanwhile, Atwood immediately launches into an excerpt from Laura Chase's novel, The Blind Assassin, posthumously published in 1947. In this double-decker concoction, a wealthy woman dabbles in blue-collar passion, even as her lover regales her with a series of science-fictional parables. Complicated? You bet. But the author puts all this variegation to good use, taking expert measure of our capacity for self-delusion and complicity, not to mention desolation. Almost everybody in her sprawling narrative manages to--or prefers to--overlook what's in plain sight. And memory isn't much of a salve either. Yet Atwood never succumbs to postmodern cynicism, or modish contempt for her characters. On the contrary, she's capable of great tenderness, and as we immerse ourselves in Iris's spliced-in memoir, it's clear that this buttoned-up socialite has been anything but blind to the chaos surrounding her.
Pages: 521 (paperback)
Rating: 10 out of 10
Source: Purchased from bookstore (name escapes me) located in South Station, Boston
I have been reading Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood since August. I kept having to put the book on the back burner, so that I could finish the selection for a book club meeting. Fortunately, the book is divided into easy to read chapters. While it was tricky to keep track of the story within the story, I found Atwood's writing really accessible. Towards the end of the book, there are a few plot twists. While many of them are unexpected, I did not find them unrealistic. Instead, I thought "Atwood is a genius" and "I cannot believe I have not read any of her other novels."
Memoir and science fiction are both present in the book and are connected to each other. I, especially, enjoyed the perspective of Iris. She reminds me of a stereotypical older sibling-- who sacrifices, tries to be good, and protect her younger sibling. Through her memoir, a big part of the story unfolds. The hindsight with which she makes sense of her past is (for lack of a more profound word) lovely. Iris discusses the complications of being connected with a man to have status and power; however, she finds strength and courage to venture off on her own.
Another reason I enjoyed the book is the way both Iris and Laura find ways to be independent in the midst of having so many societal restrictions. As cheesy as it sounds, this is one of the best books I have read in a long time!!
I am counting Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood for the following challenges:
- Orbis Terrarum: The author is Canadian.
- 2010 Global Challenge: I am counting it for the continent of North America and the country of Canada.
- Chunkster Reading Challenge: The book is well over 450 pages.
- Women Unbound: Iris, the main female narrator, explores societal norms for women and pushes the envelope of what is expected of her.
- What's in a Name Two: It fulfills the profession category