Friday, November 27, 2009

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Genre: General fiction
Publisher, Year: McClelland and Stewart, 2000
Other Works: The Year of the Flood, Alias Grace
Flags: Adult themes, Tenuous references
Rating: A or Great Read
Challenge: Book Awards III
Premise: An old woman reflects on her turbulent life and that of her ill-fated sister.

The Blind Assassin is the type of reading experience that becomes an event. Although it may seem like chaos at first, it’s actually a perfectly choreographed affair, with every moment accounted for. Atwood brilliantly weaves together several stories, which seem unrelated. It’s as if the author took an old woman’s last memoir, a science fiction book, a private journal, and a bunch of newspaper clippings and threw them up in the air, gathering them into one big mess. Then, slowly, they merge and line up in your mind, and their connections suddenly appear. Then, the jumbledness of the text emerges in sharp focus, and the mismatched accounts seem so correctly in their places.

The book begins with the unfortunate report of the death of a young author, Laura Chase. Then, an abrupt shift to a sort of stream-of-consciousness, third person view into a secret love affair--one of the pair a storyteller. The bulk of the book is told from the perspective of a woman in the twilight of her years, Iris, who feels it’s time to put her memories to paper. +/-

I enjoyed Iris’s voice, accepting yet vigorous and dripping with sarcasm. Although, in the end I hated her. Which is unfair, because the reasons I liked her grew out of the choices she made for which I hated her. I didn’t feel a particular attachment to these characters, but that didn’t take away from my experience with the novel, surprisingly enough. I don’t think the author wanted us to connect with them--it’s like she built a wall there intentionally. So that we could look over it secretly, so we could be conflicted.

I found myself completely sucked in by the science fiction side-story, “the blind assassin,” in a sort of gruesomely creative way. And--what sets Atwood apart from others as one of the greats--she expertly turns something detestable into a tribute of beauty and life and love. However, the main story, Iris’s reflections, proved to be equally as compelling.

Atwood is an amazing connoisseur of language--she wove a web of words for which I’ve never seen the like. She is an unforgettable talent. This book is truly a masterpiece, one I know I’ll be thinking about for a long time.


Aimee said...

this has just been sitting on my shelf gathering dust - methinks I need to try reading it again. Great review!


Beth F said...

I haven't read this one, but I do like Atwood. Congrats on making great progress this weekend.

Literate Housewife said...

I like how you begin your reviews. I might have to borrow that concept - especially the flags part. I love that.

Care said...

I really enjoyed this book.