Review: The Blind Assassin

Title: The Blind Assassin
Author: Margaret Atwood
Genre: historical fiction, contemporary, adult, (science fiction - only the story-within-the-story)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
"Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge"
More than fifty years on, Iris Chase is remembering Laura's mysterious death. And so begins an extraordinary and compelling story of two sisters and their secrets. Set against a panoramic backdrop of twentieth-century history, The Blind Assassin is an epic tale of memory, intrigue and betrayal...

Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors because her books are always both intelligent and profoundly moving. It's rare that a book that makes you question all sorts of social/economic/ethical questions is also the book that makes you cry because the characters are so heartbreakingly real, but somehow all of Atwood's books are like that. I also love how she portrays women with strength and dignity, but also with vulnerability and weakness. All her characters are complex, but it's the women who drive the story.

The Blind Assassin refers to the pulp fiction sci-fi novel that one of the characters wrote. It's a story-within-a-story that serves as a parallel for reality at times and a foil at others. The actual story of this novel is the reason behind and aftermath of Laura Chase's death. The narrator is Laura's sister, Iris, who is now an old woman writing for a granddaughter she hasn't seen in over a decade. It's a slow book, delving equally into the past and the present, but don't be fooled by Iris' seemingly trustworthy narration. She's as unreliable as they come, but she never actually lies. It's more a case of omissions and letting the reader believe certain things without ever correcting them. Until the end.

Once all the secrets are out, the novel packs a very emotional punch. There is a lot in this book about keeping up appearances and saving face at the cost of all else. Within the first few pages of the book, the narrator finds out her sister has committed suicide and one of her first reactions is to call up her husband and tell him because "he would want to have a statement ready." It was both fascinating and disturbing to see how far people went to save face.

I highly recommend this novel (like all the Atwood novels I've read). Beware that it's slow at times, but the end makes it worth every minute.

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  1. Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors, and this is one of my all-time favorite novels. It is so layered and wonderful. The story within the story, the characters, the writing--everything about it is amazing. I'm so glad to see you enjoyed this one, too. I wish more people knew about this one. Great review!

  2. She's so amazing! I haven't read a book of hers that I haven't loved. I still like Alias Grace and the MaddAddam trilogy better than this one, but it was really good.


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