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The Blind Assassin Review

March 3, 2009

From the Publisher:19316430

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.

Review and Grade: B-

I liked this book, but I was expecting so much more. I have a feeling that this is the kind of book I need to discuss to fully understand it because I can sense layers of meaning that just aren’t coming into focus for me on my own. Even so, I have a few thoughts beyond the nagging feeling of missing something big.

Atwood creates characters in this book that are painfully real. They are more real than I usually want characters to be. No one is really good or bad, they are just human, with many different virtues and just as many faults. There is no denying that Atwood is a master in this area and I have to take a moment just to admire her incredible skill for creating such true to life characters. However, I never felt invested in them, partially because they seemed so complete in their little world. I didn’t get a sense of transformation or growth and the one character that did undeniably change did so without the reader really getting to follow as it happened. It just happened. (Read it and that will make more sense, I don’t want to give anything away)

Also, I found the plot to be incredibly slow (I marked down that it wasn’t until page 199 that I remotely cared about the characters) and while the back cover told me the three plots would weave together, I found them to be distracting and detracting from the overall story. I spent too much time puzzling over the last section I had read to be focused on the section I was reading and once I pieced them together, I didn’t feel like it added anything. I love that feeling in a mystery when you finally know who did it, but in Blind Assassin, that feeling never came, even once all the ends were tied up.

I really think that this book has something else to it that I’m missing. There is some angle I’m not taking, some important detail that slipped by me, but I just can’t figure it out. It could be that the overall message of the book is one that I find so dissatisfying and goes so entirely against the way I live my life that I’m just rejecting it as an answer. (Ok, now that I say that, it seems more likely). The theme, rather explicitly stated at the end, is this,

“In Paradise there are no stories, because there are no journeys. It’s loss and regret and misery and yearning that drive the story forward, along its twisted road.”

Also reviewed at:

Farm Lane Books

Reading Room

6 Comments leave one →
  1. farmlanebooks permalink
    March 3, 2009 10:39 am

    I wasn’t very impressed with this book either. I was expecting a lot more from it, as it has won the Booker prize. I think I described it as ‘very average’ As you say – perhaps there is something we’re missing?

  2. March 3, 2009 8:34 pm

    I bought this book awhile ago, but haven’t started it yet. I know the feeling of reading a book and feeling like there is something about it you just don’t get — those are the times I miss English class the most. Maybe when I eventually read this book we can chat about it 🙂

  3. March 8, 2009 6:41 am

    This is one author that I want to read, and for some reason I have not. Thanks for this review and reminding me to add some of her books to my TBR list.

  4. April 25, 2009 4:44 pm

    I love this book. I think she won the booker, not for the plot but for the writing. What I loved the most about this book was the story within the story within the story. This almost makes it into my top five. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it!
    If you want to read a really good Atwood, you should try Alias Grace.


  1. The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood – Farm Lane Books Blog
  2. The Blind Assassin, Part 2 and Weekly Geeks « Care’s Online Book Club

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