CanLit Challenge Book #21: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Filed under: CanLit Challenge — Ibis at 6:43 pm on Saturday, August 11, 2007

Book 21, The Blind Assassin (2000) – Margaret Atwood
From the back cover:
“‘Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.’ These words are spoken by Iris Chase Griffen, married at eighteen to a wealthy industrialist but now poor and eighty-two. Iris recalls her far from exemplary life, and the events leading up to her sister’s death, gradually revealing the carefully guarded Chase secrets. Among these is ‘The Blind Assassin,’ a novel that earned the dead Laura Chase not only notoriety but also a devoted cult following. Sexually explicit for its time, it was a pulp fantasy improvised by two unnamed lovers who meet secretly in rented rooms and seedy cafĂ©s. As sacrifice and betrayal, so does the real narrative, as both move closer to war and catastrophe. Margaret Atwood’s Booker Prize-winning sensation combines elements of gothic drama, romantic suspense, and science fiction fantasy in a spellbinding tale.”

Other useful links:
the Wikipedia article on Margaret Atwood
the Wikipedia article on The Blind Assassin
the Wikipedia article on the Southern Ontario Gothic literary genre

My thoughts:

Well, I wasn’t disappointed. I love books like this, with several stories going on at once and jumps back and forth in time. I figured out most of the “surprise twists” but it didn’t detract at all from the novel. I really got to know and to like Iris (and to detest her sister-in-law!! not to mention her husband…). I enjoyed the pulp erotic sci-fi parts and the biographical-family history parts in which Iris chronicles the rise and decline of the Button Factory and Port Ticonderoga. Fantastic book. I probably would’ve had more to say if I hadn’t waited 3 months to post about it. :(

Now we know by the end (though I suspected much earlier) that Richard had had his way with young Laura. I kept getting the sense throughout that there was also something incestuous going on between Richard and Winifred—she seems awfully attached to him…

I imagine some people will be annoyed by Iris’s lack of independence and will to be so controlled like that and not to apprise herself of what was going on with Richard and the factory and Richard and Laura and actively change things, but I think the point is that she was “sold off” at a fairly early age and was taken advantage of by Richard and Winifred.

1 Comment »

  • waternixie said:  
    (On September 21st, 2007 at 12:29 pm)

    (May contain spoilers)I love this book. I got my bookcrossing screen name from it, as I’m sure a lot of people have noticed. I read it about three years ago and it was probably my favorite book of 2004. The business about Richard and Laura was a surprise to me, as was the other big surprise twist in the story.
    I read quickly through the “story within a story” portions, because they were so brutal and I also wanted to get back to the parts with the contemporary characters.
    If people give Iris a hard time for letting her husband and sister-in-law victimize her, then they are either naive about the times in which Iris lived, or the kind of life she had. Losing a parent at an early age and living the sort of sheltered way she and Laura did is not the best way to start out. Yes, they had money, but money doesn’t make your problems go away, it just makes them easier to bear. In the old days, it was not uncommon for young girls to make marriages of convenience for family business reasons. If Richard had had better character, it could have worked out.
    This is one of the things that makes this book so good-Atwood manages to capture the mood and spirit of the time much better than a lot of writers who set novels in the past,but give the characters 21st century sensibilities and ideas.

    I am very grateful to find this blog. I have loved Canadian writers since I was in my teens.

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