109. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

When I first saw a “Margaret Atwood novel” sitting in the bookstore, I grabbed at it like a vulture to an easy prey.

No seriously, the bargain I got for this hardcover was so mind blowing that I would’ve been a fool to let it go.

Despite being terrified by The Handmaid’s Tale,(review linked here) I was expecting something not similar in terms of the theme; but at least thrilling.

And IT WAS thrilling,  but with a slow build up!

I’m really at odds on how to summarize this novel, so if you find it confusing, trust me I can’t help it! It is a maze of stories!

Novels within a novel.

Pathways leading to new doors!

Summary:

The Blind Assassin is a story of two sisters; Iris and Laura, during the 1930s and 40s in Canada.

“This is how the girl who couldn’t speak and the man who couldn’t see fell in love.”

 

It begins with the Laura driving herself off the cliff and Iris being informed about it.

“Women have curious ways of hurting someone else. They hurt themselves instead; or else they do it so the guy doesn’t even know he’s been hurt until much later…”

Followed by the first chapter of Laura’s novel – that was published after her death – about two lovers who meet in secret, where the guy is on the run from the law but is a writer. And the woman belongs to a well-known family and sneaks out to meet him.

“Beginnings are sudden, but also insidious. They creep up on you sideways, they keep to the shadows, they lurk unrecognized. Then, later, they spring.”

During their many rendezvous, the guy tells her a pulp fiction story of a Blind Assassin hired to kill a sacrificial virgin who has her tongue cut out so she can’t scream.

“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date.

While this story goes on between the two lovers, the main novel shifts between the past and the present, taking us into the lives of Iris and Laura (as told by Iris), their father’s profitable button business, their mother’s death, the business going to bust, and the house keeper taking care of the girls.

“The young habitually mistake lust for love, they’re infested with idealism of all kinds.”

We get to know how Iris’s certain actions had consequences for Laura, and how Iris got married in order to save her father’s business. But despite the luxuries, her narcissistic husband, and the big house… she couldn’t fit in.

“If you knew what was going to happen, if you knew everything that was going to happen next—if you knew in advance the consequences of your own actions—you’d be doomed.”

 

And Laura? Well she was an odd one who couldn’t adjust to life as it was changing.

“The best way of keeping a secret is to pretend there isn’t one.”

In the end, the two lovers meet an end, as do the blind assassin and the mute virgin after escaping, and the circumstances leading upto Laura’s death and Iris’s marriage are revealed.

“She goes to him for amnesia, for oblivion. She renders herself up, is blotted out; enters the darkness of her own body, forgets her name. Immolation is what she wants, however briefly. To exist without boundaries.”

Slowly…

Like pushing a curtain back, trying not to disturb the sleep of the person lying in bed, but eventually waking them up anyway…

Review:

Atwood’s writing is eerily magical. There is no doubt about that!

But this book, was a sad one, as it told how the lives of two girls, always sheltered from the vices of the world are suddenly demanded to grow up beyond their years.

Make certain decisions for the collective good at the hands of their life. And you suddenly realize that isn’t a story of the past, but it is a very cruel reality of the present. One, you or your friend may be living.

However, I do want to mention that the “novel within novel within novel” concept is so mind blowing! It is really clever and it leaves you feeling you just finished multiple novels when in fact it is the same one.

The Pulp Sci-Fi story was so so so good, oh man I can’t get over it!

Neither can I get over Atwood’d writing!

Her mind would be an intense maze to get lost in, and I wouldn’t even mind.

Onto the basics:

  1. Rating: 4.0/5.0
  1. Favorite quote: “I was sand, I was snow—written on, rewritten, smoothed over.”
  2. Reader level: Fairly easy. A lot of mountaineering terminology that some Googling will completely resolve.
  3. Should you read:  Yes, I highly recommend it
  4. Would I read it again: I will! And watch the movie again.

Till next time,

-Sarah

 

 

 

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