Ack. It seems like I should have been reading more than I have (but London Fields is still in progress, as is The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and so help me, I had to put down Allegiant because I was just not feeling it), but at this point in the semester, any reading is good. I read Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin about nine years ago when I was a wee sophomore in college and it just blew.my.mind. My graduate department association voted this as our first book club selection, and I was curious to see how this book held up years later. As it turns out, it’s still one of my favorites.
In brief (not easy, since it’s over 500 pages long): The Blind Assassin is a multi-layered story. The outermost focuses on the ailing and elderly Iris Chase Griffen musing over the course her life has taken, in all its sordid past, regrets, and oppression. She writes down the story of “what really happened” for her absent granddaughter, Sabrina, long estranged. Embedded in that story is the novel The Blind Assassin, written by her sister Laura who drove her car off a bridge just days after World War II ended in Germany. This layer, interspersed with news clippings related to the Chase and Griffen families, tells us of two lovers engaged in an affair, with the man telling the story of the blind assassin who falls in love with a virgin about to be sacrificed in the fictional realm of Sakiel-Norn.
This description might make your head spin–and it sometimes the novel truly does–but all the stories converge in a rather thrilling finish. I love long novels (no, really), and I really enjoyed the way Atwood developed Iris so fully as to make her a rich and complex character. I also really felt that Atwood expertly depicts the sort of mid-twentieth century daring that had to accompany the mere act of writing by women. It’s a beautifully crafted novel, one that satisfied me yet again.
It’s more socially subtle and less politically driven than some of Atwood’s more popular fare, like The Handmaid’s Tale, or her MaddAddam trilogy, but it focuses on the craft of storytelling. And sometimes, that’s really all you need from a novel.
You can also read this review on my personal blog, The Universe Disturbed.