Author: Margaret Atwood
Publication Date: 9/5/00
Blurb (GR): The Blind Assassin opens with these simple, resonant words: "Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge." They are spoken by Iris, whose terse account of her sister's death in 1945 is followed by an inquest report proclaiming the death accidental. But just as the reader expects to settle into Laura?s story, Atwood introduces a novel-within-a-novel. Entitled The Blind Assassin, it is a science fiction story told by two unnamed lovers who meet in dingy backstreet rooms. When we return to Iris, it is through a 1947 newspaper article announcing the discovery of a sailboat carrying the dead body of her husband, a distinguished industrialist. Brilliantly weaving together such seemingly disparate elements, Atwood creates a world of astonishing vision and unforgettable impact.
I have to admit, I often do not get Margaret Atwood's books. But I am pretty sure I got The Blind Assassin. Otherwise how can I explain the feeling of sadness that is overwhelming me right now?
It's so hard to express what exactly this book is about - any synopsis you read doesn't do it justice and explains nothing. Mine probably will be as misleading and pointless as all others. The Blind Assassin is a puzzle of a story, with multiple tales within tales. It starts with the main character, Iris, telling us of the day when her sister Laura drove off a bridge, then shifts to Laura's posthumously published novel The Blind Assassin about two unnamed lovers who meet clandestinely and in which the man entertains his lover with pulpy science fiction stories, mostly about a blind assassin and a sacrificial virgin who fall in love against all odds. Then the story shifts again to Iris who, now an old woman, recalls her early years and the events leading to Laura's death. What is it all about I wondered? Why did Laura die? Why novel within a novel? Who are these secret nameless lovers? I didn't understand the significance of Laura's The Blind Assassin for a while - awful sci-fi junk and all, and yet it turned out to be the most symbolic, the most intimate piece of (bad) fiction I have ever read.
Atwood always writes about women and this novel is no exception. Ultimately, The Blind Assassin is a story of two young sisters who were unlucky to be born at a wrong time when women were expected to be wholly satisfied with shiny things and not much else. There is plenty of stories that explore submissive status of women in this world, the constraints they live under, but this one, I am sure, will stick with me for a long time. IDK how she does it, but Atwood writes it so well - these two girls raised not to be independent, who, although they are full of life and vigor, are locked inside the prison of their own home. It doesn't really matter if they dare to escape their golden cages or not. They are powerless, either outwardly or inwardly.
I know I am rambling here. I find it difficult to rave and explain what I loved about The Blind Assassin. It's just I am so full of feelings right now - of understanding and compassion for Iris and Laura's plight, of frustration over their weaknesses and pride over their moments of strength. Not many books can make me feel so much.