The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood

A lot of the books I’ve been reading this year are ones that other people have said are good. They’ve won awards, they’re critically acclaimed, and their authors can just about pay the rent (O, heady success). The Blind Assassin was one of these. It’s won the Booker, and the Hammet Prize. It’s been nominated for the Orange Prize and is listed by Time as one of the greatest 100 novels since 1923.

I’m also a pretty huge Atwood fan, so let’s just say I had high expectations. The story is told predominantly by Iris Chase, who is reflecting on her life and the mysterious death of her sister. They grew up well off, but sheltered and without a mother, and Iris reflects on this childhood and her her life later on as an unhappily married woman.

The book includes a novel within the novel, which Iris publishes on her sister Laura’s behalf after her death. Inside it is the story of the blind assassin, told by the protagonist’s lover to her after their trysts. I found this story to be the most gripping thing in the book, but then it’s science fiction, and I’ve been in a sci-fi mood of late. A story within a novel within a novel: STORYCEPTION.

I found the going a bit slow at first. Sometimes that can be the case with hefty books — I feel like I’m not getting anywhere with them — but, I sped through the last 200 or so pages. I solved the mysteries myself, before she revealed them. Which means I found myself exclaiming: “I knew it!” a lot, though Atwood leaves enough doubt in your mind that you’re never 100% sure that your assumptions are correct, which means that the reveals never feel too predictable.

It was exceptionally well done, and I enjoyed it, but it didn’t immediately jump into my all-time-faves list. I did cry a bit at the end. The last two pages gave me feels. I’ll admit that.

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