The Blind Assassin

Thursday, May 26, 2011


The Blind Assassin

by Margaret Atwood
★★★★

This was the first Atwood I ever attempted (a few years back) and I just wasn’t ready for it. I got about 50 pages in and put it down and that’s always bothered me. Now that I have a few other Atwood’s under my belt, I felt compelled to try it again and I’m glad I did. It’s not a book to be rushed through, the story is too rich. You need to be able to settle in and just wander through it.

First we meet Iris Chase, an elderly woman reminiscing about her sister, Laura, who killed herself at the end of WWII. Iris is bitter and harsh and at first we don’t know why. Slowly she tells us the story of her wealthy family, her unhappy marriage, her troubled sister and more. As her tale unfolds we are given bits and pieces of a fictional novel written by Laura and published posthumously. That sci-fi book, titled The Blind Assassin, reveals even larger insights into the Chase family and their complicated lives.

For me, this Atwood falls somewhere in the middle of the books I’ve read of her’s. It’s not as brilliant as The Haidmaid’s Tale, but I liked it more than Oryx and Crake. She has a wonderful way with words and she breathes such beauty into all of her novels. She also gives the reader a lot to process. The “big reveal” of this book was no surprise (to me at least), but instead, Atwood carefully gives you more and more pieces to the puzzle and allows you to form your own conclusions as the picture begins to take shape. It’s a good read and one that has cemented my appreciation for the depth of Atwood’s work.

“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read, not by anyone other person and not even by yourself at some later date.”

“Romance is looking in at yourself, through a window clouded with dew. Romance means leaving things out: where life grunts and snuffles, romance only sighs.”

15 comments:

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

Good to hear you returned to this and enjoyed it, sometimes the timing is just not right, when we first pick a novel to read.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I do want to read this one and had a copy for a while now. Glad u liked this one.

Emily said...

I loved this one. And I agree - it's not the best "1st Atwood" book. Bit I do love it. I may have to re-read it...

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Lindy - Timing really is everything with books. I can read a whole book in one night if it's perfect for my mood and another time it would take two weeks.

Emily - Yes, I now know that The Handmaid's Tale makes a much better 1st Atwood.

Celine said...

"Timing really is everything with books."

God how true this is. I love to hear that a reviewer will lay a book down, rather than force themselves to read and review at the wrong time.It's one of the reasons I tend to trust book-blogs over print reviews.

Incidentally, two of my favourite ever reads (Sebastian Barry's A Long Long Way and Russell Hoban's Riddely Walker) were books I found difficult to engage with at first, and laid down until I felt more in sympathy with them. I'd hate to think what my memories of them would be like had I not waited until the right time to try again.

Andrew Blackman said...

Great summary! I do find it spoils it a bit for me when there is a big revelation that is not a surprise at all. But thanks for not giving it away - I'll have a read of this and see if it's obvious to me too!

Jenny said...

Timing is every-every-everything! That could not possibly be more true. I've had my own bad-timing Atwood experiences, although not with this. I think I have to be in a very specific mood for Margaret Atwood.

BookQuoter said...

My first exposure to Atwood. And my first book post, which means I might have to update it with better quotes:(.

I share your observations on the book. Which is not a surprise!

She said...

Glad you gave this one another shot! Have you read Year of the Flood? It really made me like Oryx and Crake much better.

Care said...

Atwood is amazing. I loved this book and mght count it as my favorite. At over 500 pages, I would usually hate and be annoyed with how long this book is yet, I devoured it. My first MA was The HandMaid's Tale and I was caught up in the dystopian futility scary-future of it all but The Blind's ASsassin captivated me. I've since read Oryx and Crake and to be hones that HAS mad me want to read the next. but Blind Assassin was perfect for me and I am so glad I read it.

Susan said...

I have also read Asassin's Daughter, and there was one more beside that. Can't remember the name and loved both. I never did read Hand Maid's Tale, hope to read it in the future.

Alexandra said...

It's been on my TBR for a while and its size made me keep postponing it. I love Atwood because she doesn't treat her readers as dimwits, she always makes us work for our reward.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Celine – Isn’t it funny how sometimes the experience is so much richer when you really have to work for it.

Andrew Blackman – I try really hard to never give away spoilers. I hate reading someone else’s review and finding out some crucial plot point for a book I haven’t read.

Jenny – I completely agree. You have to be in the right mood for Atwood, but if you are it’s so worth it!

BookQuoter - Oryx and Crake was my first Atwood, but I don’t think it was the best first book of her’s.

She – I haven’t read Year of the Flood, but I’m really glad you said that. I didn’t love Oryx and Crake too much and I was worried Flood would just be more of the same. I’m going to have to read it now.

Care – I love finding an author that makes a long book feel like it’s too short. You still want more after 500 or 800 pages.

Susan – You’ve got to read Handmaid’s Tale, it’s my favorite so far!

Alexandra – I really appreciate that about Atwood too. I hate it when authors treat their readers like idiots. I think I’d rather have something go over my head then have it all spelled out for me. I’d rather work for it.

Care said...

Fabulous review. I agree. It never felt like a book over 500 pages! (I usually can't handle long books.)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Care - I don't mind long books, but it's all about how it's written. I've read 200 page books that feel like they're 800 pages long!