The Blind Assassin Review
From the Publisher:
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.”