The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

A very nice person I met on one of my message boards adventures recommended this book to me because I had been going through a tough stretch of vomit literature. I like romantic books, though some are a little over the top, and I love a good bit of snark. The last first person perspective book I read was Christopher Moore’s Lamb. Hilarious with a touch of sadness, in my opinion.

It took me longer than expected to finish this book. No knock on Atwood by any means, I just started it in the month sandwiching NaNo plus Christmas to boot. I thought thw hole thing worth the agonizing wait to be able to read just a few pages. Woven in first person, with a smattering of third person selective singular (yes I looked it up. I’d never read a book written like this), it reads like the memoirs of a withering old woman taking account of her life. In the context, I should have considered it dull proceedings. Not so. The character of Iris Chase rises from the pages and sits next to me on a park bench regaling her journey in life. I swear I heard the crinkle of the bread crumb bag to feed the flying rats.

Right away, Atwood sweeps you off your with the suspicion of her sister Laura’s accident. While you wonder if it was more than a mishap behind the wheel of a car, the answer you yearn to hear doesn’t come until later. Much later. It’s more speculation than anything and the story tries in earnest to toss the reader of balance with a story within a story. I didn’t mind it, it made me want to get to the next part if anything.

Within the two commingled stories are news articles that bump up the life and realism of the story. The type of sordid tabloid articles one reads at the checkout counter at the local grocery store. Come on, I know you look at them and glance around hoping no one sees you pick it up to read. These make for a good backdrop but also create a buffer of sorts and keep the timeline of the story going. It does not tear away the enchantment of the tale of two lovers intertwined, for example. I felt like I floated above them, basking in every word spoken like a voyeur. Even when they are apart, the sense of yearning for each other is present. Within the folds of forbidden love, the story of the title’s namesake is told. It comes off as a way for the lovers to escape further into the moment of bliss they’ve created when together. I think this story would have been an excellent fantasy novel in ways. Bringing out the geek in me, I enjoyed the world created with a blind assassin and him finding his true love. It really reflects on the story as a whole.

While the main story is told from Iris’ point of view, the clues laid out give insight into the lives of the people she comes in contact with. The hidden frailty if her father after he returns from the war and the harshness of life after her mother’s death. The house helper Reenie’s mothering in her own special way and the bond formed that lasts through adulthood. The marriage Iris endured for the sake of the well-being of her younger sister Laura and how Iris drew strength from Laura’s death. I loved the strength of the character through everything she endured in her life. I felt her pain every step of the way and cheered when she found the courage to stand up to her bullies.

Atwood is masterful in her art. I thought the mixture of tenses and point of view would be befuddling, but it only increased the pleasurable read for me. Just enough information comes to give the book its evitable end, coaxing the reader to remember the little tidbits of information along the way.

Making the reader think should be the lofty goal of every writer. May inspiring artists take heed of Atwood’s artistry in this. I highly recommend reading The Blind Assassin.

Next up: David Morrell’s The Naked Edge

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