Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Review: "The Blind Assassin" by Margaret Atwood

With two of her books that were not The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood is, for me, becoming a writer I must revisit each year. First, it was her brilliant novel about deception, scorned lovers and futile revenge, The Robber’s Bride, and now, The Blind Assassin, which may be her most acclaimed novel, also might be he best one of her books I have read so far. Through playfulness, dry humor and a fantastic ear for dialogue, Atwood is able to tell a complex, intricate story without the reader once being out of breath or confused in their effort to try and follow it. Its deep meaning only reveals itself in short digestible bursts that are immediately apparent and stick with the reader throughout the book’s length, with both this and The Robber’s Bride (at least the paperback version) a hair’s length over 500 pages. They are inviting and warm stories with people that are easy to follow along, even if the stories they tell are not always truthful. And much like The Robber’s Bride, this book has a fantastic ending that, while not tying up all the loose ends, at least gives the reader a satisfactory look into the concepts Atwood is trying to convey with a story and structure as unique as the one she is presenting. At the beginning of the book over three chapters, we are introduced to the three ways in which this story will be told. We first meet Iris Chase Griffin being told the news of her sister Laura’s death. The next chapter is a newspaper clipping of the death in question and the issues surrounding it. But the third section is totally different as it tells the story of two unnamed lovers who meet in secret, where the man tells the woman a story of alien colonies, abused children and the eponymous assassin who seeks to destroy it all. Even as I write this, I am wrapping my head around how all three of the stories threads intertwine and connect across their fictional divides: the real world of Iris inhabits, where, as an old woman cared for by a lovely middle aged couple, she reflects on her opportunistic marriage with Richard Griffin who might have destroyed her father’s company, his sister Winifred, who is easily the most contemptible character in the novel, the fictional world in the novel, which is itself a novel written by Laura and published posthumously, and the story told within that novel. Trust me, it is not as confusing or convoluted as it sounds. The great joy of this book is watching the layers being pulled back, watching people’s intentions becoming clear and how that might completely change the viewpoint given for a previous interaction earlier in the novel. And once the ideas reveal them and Atwood has shown what was really going on and what connects these three very different stories or what is not entirely true or what is a total falsehood. , It is something beautiful and profound. It’s taken me a bit too long to acknowledge Atwood’s greatness, but I’m glad I finally have.

Rating: 5/5

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