Title: The Blind Assassin
Author: Margaret Atwood
Genre: Literary fiction, historical fiction
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
Number of pages: 521
First line: Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.
Goodreads blurb: 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.
Oh, Margaret Atwood – I feel like you pulled the old “bait and switch” on me. First, you lured me in with the brilliance that is The Handmaid’s Tale, and then you slapped me upside the head with whatever The Blind Assassin is supposed to be. Really – what is it supposed to be? Bad pulp science fiction? Literary fiction about a woman who lets life happen to her and is completely passive to everything? The sad story of an abused and misunderstood young woman? Or historical fiction about class relations and the Great Depression? Sigh. I’m afraid that I simply didn’t get what you were trying to do with this book.
As you (I’m talking to my readers now) can see, I didn’t have a very good reading experience with The Blind Assassin. To be honest, if it wasn’t for this challenge, I never would have made it past page 50. I was determined to finish it, however, and while the last 100 pages did finally grab me and make me want to find out what happened, that isn’t saying much when a book is over 500 pages long.
First of all, the format of this novel didn’t work for me. I understand what she was trying to do, but I spent too much time trying to get pulled back into each storyline. The transitions were abrupt, and the different threads were so disparate that it felt very convoluted. Second, I really HATED Iris’s character. She was so passive, and I got so angry at her as I read. How could she have been so blind to what was going on right in front of her? How could she have believed her lying husband, when she had doubts about him from the very beginning?
I feel like Atwood was simply trying to do too much with this book, and so none of her goals were accomplished at all. Did any of you read along with me – or read The Blind Assassin at some point in the past? What did you think? Is this just a case of the book not being a good fit for me, or did you have some issues with it, too? Let me know in the comments section. If you post your own review, please link it here.