(Warning: gushing ahead)
I loved this book. I think Atwood is fast becoming one of my favourite writers. I want to read a lot more of her; apart from this book, I’ve only read Alias Grace and Negotiating with the Dead. In The Blind Assassin, it felt like every paragraph, every sentence, conjured up important imagery or ideas; it felt like every word served its purpose. This for a 600 page novel is quite a feat.
Iris Chase is remembering her life, specifically the events surrounding her sister’s alleged suicide over fifty years ago. Laura Chase drove a car off a bridge, ten days after the end of the Second World War. Iris narrates the complicated events that led to Laura’s death; this is interspersed with newspaper stories from the time, which are often at odds with Iris’ recollections. Added to this are excerpts from a book called The Blind Assassin; a science-fiction story invented by two people having an illicit affair, though it is not clear who these two people are. It sounds very complicated when I try to explain it, but Atwood has a lightness of touch. I laughed at one part and a friend I was with asked what I was laughing at; but it seemed far too complicated to even begin to explain. But if you read it, it all makes sense. That’s why Margaret Atwood is awesome.
The Blind Assassin reminded me in some ways of Possession by A. S. Byatt. Both novels seem very aware of the uncertainty of literature, weary of professors of it. Laura is recognised as the writer of The Blind Assassin, published after her death. Iris receives a lot of fan-mail as such from professors who say that Laura was influenced by modernists; Iris wryly remarks that Laura never read any. The novel in some ways satirizes the idea of an author. I feel like I have so much to say about this novel but it is weaved together so intricately that I don’t want to give anything away.
I love Atwood’s use of imagery. A few offhand things she wrote took my breath away: sentences such as ‘the sibilance of autumn wind in dry grass.’ It is obvious that Atwood is also a great poet, but her lyrical language never feels more important than the story: it sits comfortably with it. The plot is intricate and intriguing, and the way it is told is beautiful. I absolutely loved this book, but it isn’t for everyone. I remember I started to read it a long time ago and it felt like too much effort so I didn’t get many pages in. It is over 600 pages long; generally I prefer much shorter books. To some people it may be slow, but I often like slowness in books: it offers time to reflect on things that have been written. If you think you might enjoy it then I suggest you get yourself a copy now!