The novel opens with these simple, resonant words: “Ten days after the war ended, my sister drove a car off the bridge.” They are spoken by Iris, whose terse account of her sister Laura’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.
Told in a style that magnificently captures the colloquialisms and clichés of the 1930s and 1940s, The Blind Assassin is a richly layered and uniquely rewarding experience. The novel has many threads and a series of events that follow one another at a breathtaking pace. As everything comes together, readers will discover that the story Atwood is telling is not only what it seems to be–but, in fact, much more.
Her writing of scenes and clothing was very well done. The imagery was wonderful, but what fell flat for me was the characters. I didn’t really connect with any of them. I guess it was a case of rich people problems.
I don’t want to put in spoilers, but I will say that I knew who the mysterious lovers were, and the niece and what had happened to Laura to get her put into an institution way before the end. There was no big reveal for me. I did read it for book club and the others didn’t pick up on all the pieces, but some had picked up on more than others.
And the Sci-Fiction story that was written inside the story had potential, but with no Chicago Style Editing, it felt like the author had a free pass to not really worry about proper writing. To me it was as if it was a first draft, and editing hadn’t taken place yet. Not to say it had spelling errors or timing issues, just no quotes for text, etc…
I also couldn’t tell if the book inside the book was supposed to include all the interactions between the two lovers, or if we were just supposed to pick out the Sci-Fi story from it. I’m thinking it was everything, because later on this book gets published under Laura’s name, and there would need to be a lot more to make it into a complete novel.
Then again sometimes novels can be short, so maybe it was just supposed to be the Sci-Fi parts. This book was over 500 pages, and I think Atwood could have chopped out at least 100 pages.
It wasn’t a bad read, and now if anyone asks me if I read Margaret Atwood, I can say I have, but I would say read one of her other books instead.