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The Blind Assassin

Margaret Atwood

Average Review Rating Average Rating 9/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Virago Press Ltd

Published : 2001

Copyright : Margaret Atwood 2000

ISBN-10 : PB 1-86049-880-9
ISBN-13 : PB 978-1-86049-880-0

Publisher's Write-Up

Laura Chase's older sister Iris, married at eighteen to a politically prominent industrialist but now poor and eighty-two, is living in Port Ticonderoga, a town dominated by their once-prosperous family before the First War. While coping with her unreliable body, Iris reflects on her far from exemplary life, in particular the events surrounding her sister's tragic death. Chief among these was the publication of The Blind Assassin, a novel which earned the dead Laura Chase not only notoriety but also a devoted cult following.

Sexually explicit for its time, The Blind Assassin describes a risky affair in the turbulent thirties between a wealthy young woman and a man on the run. During their secret meetings in rented rooms, the lovers concoct a pulp fantasy set on Planet Zycron. As the invented story twists through love and sacrifice and betrayal, so does the real one; while events in both move closer to war and catastrophe. By turns lyrical, outrageous, formidable, compelling and funny, this is a novel filled with deep humour and dark drama.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Jenika (290608) Rating (9/10)

Review by Jenika
Rating 9/10
Margaret Atwood presents a complex and engaging story in her bestselling novel The Blind Assassin. Narrated by the book's main protagonist Iris Chase, Atwood spins an engrossing tale of love, deceit and tragedy, set in the backdrop of fictional Canadian town Port Ticonderoga, during the turbulent years of the twentieth century.

The story begins with an elderly Iris Chase describing her younger sister Laura's suicide in 1945. From here, she recounts her youth; from being the eldest daughter of fallen industrialist Norval Chase, to her forced and unhappy marriage with her father's rival, Richard Griffin and the events which led up to Laura's suicide. Along the way Iris reveals hidden family secrets and a love affair that time had buried, as she writes a final memoir to her long-lost relative.

Much of the novel's originality comes from its layered structure. Alternating with Iris's memoir are excerpts from a novel, also titled The Blind Assassin said to be written by Laura and published posthumously. These excerpts follow a bittersweet love-affair between two anonymous people. Within this story is another, as the unidentified man conjures Science Fiction stories for his lover. The complexity of the story is further deepened through newspaper clippings that are also interwoven within the plot. They cover superficial events such as town picnics, society balls and gatherings, but serve to shed more light and alter perceptions as the story progresses.

By presenting the tale from multi-layered perspectives, Atwood sets up different viewing points for the reader, both enriching and complicating the story. The polished newspaper clippings cover only surface, outsider perceptions, yet form the outer layers of the tale. The fondness mixed with raw lust between the two lovers reveal a hidden, alternate dimension which is further elaborated through the man's own graphic, violent and surreal tales. Finally, Iris effectively unites the different plots together into one story, as she narrates the past with a forthrightness and honesty that can only come with old age and exposes the truth about her family history.

Throughout the novel, readers are kept in suspense through the subtle clues and hints that Atwood provides, luring the reader into wanting more. The seemingly unrelated tales eventually link together to form the climax of the story - the shocking reason for Laura's death and the point at which Iris's life changes forever.

Tragic, compelling and bittersweet, The Blind Assassin contains an originality and boldness all of its own, which no doubt helped it win the Booker Prize in 2000. Much like her other novels The Handmaid's Tale and Catseye Atwood paints raw human nature with a rare insightfulness that vividly immortalizes her characters; most notably the eccentric Laura Chase who cannot help but be admired for her blind faith in what is good and just.

The Blind Assassin is not for those who feel like having an easy read. However, for anyone feeling up to a challenge, it is definitely worth the effort. The novel tells an extraordinary tale, by using a breathtakingly original plot and structure, while it also lays bare the destructive things people are capable of and the way love can fight against the sordid, uglier and manipulative side of human nature.
Jenika (29th June 2008)

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