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Monday, June 23, 2014

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

About the Book (from wikipedia): The Blind Assassin is an award-winning, bestselling novel by the Canadian writer Margaret Atwood. It was first published by McClelland and Stewart in 2000. Set in Canada, it is narrated from the present day, referring back to events that span the twentieth century. The work was awarded the Man Booker Prize in 2000 and the Hammett Prize in 2001. It was also nominated for Governor General's Award in 2000, Orange Prize for Fiction, and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2002.[1] Time magazine named it the best novel of 2000 and included it in its list of the 100 greatest English-language novels since 1923.

"Listen to the clock ticking, I said. It was a pendulum clock - an antique, white and gold china; it had been Grandfather's; it stood on the mantelpiece in the library. Laura thought I'd said licking. And it was true, the brass pendulum swinging back and forth did look like a tongue, licking the lips of an invisible mouth. Eating up the time." (page 139)

My Thoughts: 
     The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, published by Nan A. Talese, an imprint of Double day (2000), is the story of two sisters, Iris and Laura Chase, clouded by unfortunate events. Brilliantly interwoven with news clippings that help the reader piece together the puzzle, Atwood is a master at layering the past into the present. 
     Narrated by Iris, The Blind Assassin is a dark mystery peppered with images of possibilities lost. Two stories collide into a tragedy that the reader is made aware from the beginning with the announcement that Laura Chase has been killed in a car accident. The first is the mystery that surrounds Laura's death. The second is a science fiction story created by two lovers. The intimacy of these characters makes it easy for the reader to drift into another world as told in this fantasy tale.

"Was that the beginning, that evening - on the dock at Avilion, with the fireworks dazzling the sky? It's hard to know. Beginnings are sudden, but also insidious. They creep up on you sideways, they keep to the shadows, they lurk unrecognized. Then later, they spring." (page 190)

     The mystery takes us back to the childhood of the Chase sisters where they experience the loss of their mother and struggle to find their identity as the world enters The Great Depression. Avilion, the estate on which they were raised, begins to crumble from neglect and the financial resources that the family is losing from its failing button factory which had been a prominent and successful business. Their relationship with their father is estranged and as they girls enter adulthood, finding an eligible spouse appears to be their only option of escaping the demise of the life they have always known.
     Atwood's writing is simply beautiful. Each sentence is so well crafted that this 500 plus page tome feels like a mere dip into a deep ocean. The story unravels slowly but leaves the reader so satiated for the answers that one can't stop turning the pages.

"The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it." (page 283)

     A talk dark stranger, a marriage doomed from the onset, deceit, adultery, jealousy, lust, the class divide, suicide-- you name it, The Blind Assassin delivers, all against the background of a world at war. The intricate puzzle that is the fate of the sisters is superbly revealed, piece by piece. An intense piece of fiction, this book will leave you feeling bleak and emotionally stripped but it will also leave you in complete awe of the journey through which Atwood just led you.

To read a brief bio of Margaret Atwood and the introduction of The Blind Assassin, visit my Book Beginnings post here.

Happy Reading,

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