As seen on The ReadventurerI have to admit, I often do not get Margaret Atwood s books But I am pretty sure I got The Blind Assassin Otherwise how can I explain the feeling of sadness that is overwhelming me right now It s so hard to express what exactly this book is about any synopsis you read doesn t do it justice and explains nothing Mine probably will be as misleading and pointless as all others The Blind Assassin is a puzzle of a story, with multiple tales within tales It starts with the main character, Iris, telling us of the day when her sister Laura drove off a bridge, then shifts to Laura s posthumously published novel The Blind Assassin about two unnamed lovers who meet clandestinely and in which the man entertains his lover with pulpy science fiction stories, mostly about a blind assassin and a sacrificial virgin who fall in love against all odds Then the story shifts again to Iris who, now an old woman, recalls her early years and the events leading to Laura s death What is it all about I wondered Why did Laura die Why novel within a novel Who are these secret nameless lovers I didn t understand the significance of Laura s The Blind Assassin for a while awful sci fi junk and all, and yet it turned out to be the most symbolic, the most intimate piece of bad fiction I have ever read Atwood always writes about women and this novel is no exception Ultimately, The Blind Assassin is a story of two young sisters who were unlucky to be born at a wrong time when women were expected to be wholly satisfied with shiny things and not much else There is plenty of stories that explore submissive status of women in this world, the constraints they live under, but this one, I am sure, will stick with me for a long time IDK how she does it, but Atwood writes it so well these two girls raised not to be independent, who, although they are full of life and vigor, are locked inside the prison of their own home It doesn t really matter if they dare to escape their golden cages or not They are powerless, either outwardly or inwardly.I know I am rambling here I find it difficult to rave and explain what I loved about The Blind Assassin It s just I am so full of feelings right now of understanding and compassion for Iris and Laura s plight, of frustration over their weaknesses and pride over their moments of strength Not many books can make me feel so much. The Novel Opens With These Simple, Resonant Words Ten Days After The War Ended, My Sister Drove A Car Off The Bridge They Are Spoken By Iris, Whose Terse Account Of Her Sister Laura S Death In 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 Newspaper Article Announcing The Discovery Of A Sailboat Carrying The Dead Body Of Her Husband, A Distinguished IndustrialistTold In A Style That Magnificently Captures The Colloquialisms And Clich S Of The S And S, The Blind Assassin Is A Richly Layered And Uniquely Rewarding Experience The Novel Has Many Threads And A Series Of Events That Follow One Another At A Breathtaking Pace As Everything Comes Together, Readers Will Discover That The Story Atwood Is Telling Is Not Only What It Seems To Be But, In Fact, Much The Blind Assassin Proves Once Again That Atwood Is One Of The Most Talented, Daring, And Exciting Writers Of Our Time Like The Handmaid S Tale, It Is Destined To Become A Classic All stories are about wolves Anything else is sentimental drivel Atwood doesn t write sentimental drivel and I don t read it , and there are several wolves in this stunning book This is my tenth Atwood, and it s even better than any of the others I ve enjoyed The scope and variety of her work is impressive, but here, she accomplishes that within the covers of a single book it should be shelved as historical fiction, memoir, espionage thriller, and sci fi It grabs the reader in the first brief chapter less than three pages , which would work as a short story so much is implied, but so little stated, you can t help but read on, eagerly This also sets a pattern of foreshadowing you know many key events long before they happen , but have to wait and think to find out how and why.The pacing is perfect, too I guessed some crucial elements well before they were revealed, but there was enticing uncertainty, and always another conundrum in the pipeline This creates a pleasing balance between pride and doubt in the reader Matryoshka stories within storiesThe analogy with a nest of Russian dolls applies far to this than David Mitchell s Cloud Atlas The different layers constantly switch, but it s never confusing 1 Iris, the narrator, is an elderly woman, describing her daily life, with a backdrop of weather, seasons, and fear of losing independence It s painfully poignant, lightened with waspish and often self deprecating humour.2 Iris also tells the story of her life and that of her sister Laura , from childhood to the present day, with a backdrop of two world wars, the Depression, and political union unrest Born to wealth and respectability, but lacking parental love, their lives and relationship with each other take many turns This is the main bulk of the story historical fiction, sweeping most of the 20th century, set in SE Canada 3 As a young woman, Laura drives off a bridge not a spoiler it s in the first sentence of the book , and a few years later, after going through Laura s papers, Iris publishes her novel Blind Assassin , excerpts of which are in this book of the same name It s the story of a pair of covert lovers, each with secrets and something to lose He is short of money, constantly on the move Clandestine meetings in a series of seedy bedsits and borrowed rooms are hard to arrange The vague politics of this overlap with the specific labour unrest in the main story 4 Within that novel, the nameless man, a writer of pulp sci fi, tells stories of planet Zyrcon to the nameless woman The title of both books comes from the fact that slave children are trained to create beautiful carpets to the point at which they go blind Some then go into the sex trade, and some become assassins This then, is a pastiche, of a lowbrow genre, rather than the speculative fiction Atwood often writes, and is meant to echo the politics of its fictional author are you still following this.5 The world of Zyrcon has its own myths, some of which are told There are parallels with ancient cultures on Earth In addition, there are occasional newspaper reports, and the odd letter from a school or doctor.This is a brave format that could alienate readers who like one style genre and dislike another, but I think it worked very well, in part because most chapters are short, so you never feel trapped in a style that is not your favourite I paid a little less attention to the details of what happened on Zycron, but that was mainly because I was so anxious to know what happened to Iris and Laura On a reread, I would study Zycron closely, to see the parallels with the stories around it I made a similar mistake with the historical chapters of people and gods coming to America, in Gaiman s American Gods, which I reviewed HERE Warning to Apatt Some of the sections use quotation marks and some don t it didn t bother me, though.The TitleThe title clearly refers to the novel within the novel of that name, and which features assassins who are literally blind However, there are other characters in the real stories who could be classed as such, in a metaphorical sense Few characters are troubled by guilt, though Aging IrisIris is a wonderful creation old, cranky, lonely, feisty, sharp, and something of an outsider all her life, even from her own family She grudgingly accepts a modicum of help from Myra and Walter I am what makes her so good in the eyes of others Iris carries her laundry like Little Red Riding Hood except that I myself am Granny, and I contain my own bad wolf Nevertheless, she resists as much as she can, while painfully noting the effects of time on her body I feel like a letter deposited here, collected there But a letter addressed to no one I yearn for sleep yet it flutters ahead of me like a sooty curtain After having imposed itself on us like the egomaniac it is the body s final trick is simply to absent itself For all that Iris cultivates curmudgeonliness, it s largely a carapace, and sometimes for entertainment sarcastic letters to fans of The Blind Assassin, wanting to interview her about Laura the really nasty piece of work is her arriviste sister in law, Winifred Youthful LauraLaura doesn t live to be old She s an enigma as a child, and so after death to Iris and the reader Nothing is difficult than to understand the dead Nothing is dangerous than to ignore them Iris assembles a series of impressions, but you can never quite grasp her which is entirely appropriate Laura was interested in forms and wanted essences , but not in facts and logic and yet she was a literalist with a heightened capacity for belief Being Laura was like being tone deaf the music played and you heard something, but it wasn t what everyone else heard She was too cozy with strangers It wasn t that she flouted rules she simply forgot about them Hence, she had only the haziest notions of ownership She was not selfless she was skinless Unlike Iris, she had the courage of her decidedly odd convictions and didn t care what other people thought Sisters sharingThere is an essay to be written on what Laura and Iris share and what they don t It s not just the obvious things Class Winifred and RichardSnobbery, especially looking down on new money, is not just a British ailment Iris and Laura were the granddaughters of a wealthy industrialist who married above himself, gaining respectability for the family Iris s husband, Richard, is very new money His ghastly sister runs his life as well as lots of charity committees and then moulds and controls young, newlywed Iris Her teaching method was one of hint, suggestion So I seemed to myself erased, featureless, like an avalanche of used soap, or the moon on the wane As Iris matures, she increasingly sees through this and resists or retaliates, and of course she s telling it with the wisdom of old age It s amusingly, but painfully catty You could be charming with a little effort Avilion the family home had once had an air of stability that amounted to intransigence , but after Winifred and Richard refurbish it, it no longer had the courage of its pretensions Overdoing it somewhat, Atwood adds between those two phrases, a large, dumpy boulder plunked sic down in the stream of time, refusing to be moved for anybody but now it was dog eared, apologetic, as if it were about to collapse in on itself Richard is a shadowy in every sense figure something Iris Atwood acknowledges As the days went by I felt I knew Richard less and less I myself however was taking shape the shape intended for me, by him coloured in Later, I ve failed to convey Richard, in any rounded sense He s blurred, like the face in some wet, discarded newspaper In their marriage, Placidity and order with a decorous and sanctioned violence underneath because he preferred conquest to cooperation in every area of life Chillingly, It was remarkable how easily I bruised, said Richard, smiling Classless Alex Thomas is classless his background, even if you believe his own account child refugee of unknown family gives no clue That might enable him to fit in anywhere, but really, he s alien everywhere not in a literal, lizardy sense GreenIn The Handmaid s Tale, red is a recurring colour Here, it s green, often for clothing, and occasionally in conjunction with the colour watermelon However, the symbolism isn t as clear here as in Handmaid it s usually related to coldness, rather than jealousy A few examples out of than twenty Her slip is the chill green of shore ice, broken ice Sober colours hospital corridor green Laura s typical attire Richard chose an emerald engagement ring though his sister, Winifred, overruled that, so he proffered a diamond Just before a tornado, the sky had turned a baleful shade of green A bombe desert at dinner was bright green and honeymoon salad tasted like pale green water Like frost.Quotes truth, secrets, memory, writingAfter years of negligible education, the girls have a fierce new tutor, We did learn, in a spirit of vengefulness What we really learned from him was how to cheat as well as silent resistance and not getting caught Useful skills It s not the lying that counts, it s evading the necessity for it The best way to keep a secret is to pretend there isn t one Secret lovers proclaiming love, withholding the particulars It was an effort for me now to recall the details of my grief the exact forms it had taken although at will I could summon up an echo of it Is what I remember the same things as what actually happened The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read not even by yourself Looking back at her wedding photo, I don t recall having been present I and the girl in the picture have ceased to be the same person I am her outcome I can see her but she can t see me Quotes weather, seasons, nature The light like melted butter trees with exhausted leaves In a park, disregarded corners leggy dandelions stretching towards the light Light filtered through the net curtain, hanging suspended in the air, sediment in a pond When hot and humid, The words I write feather at the edges like lipstick on an aging mouth The sky was a hazy grey, the sun low in the sky, a wan pinkish colour, like fish blood Icicles as if suspended in the act of falling Wild geese creaking like anguished hinges Grudging intimations of spring Quotes other Only the blind are free A blind assassin sees through the girl s clothing with the inner eye that is the bliss of solitude There s nothing like a shovelful of dirt to encourage literacy I guess EL James proves that Tourist trinkets History was never this winsome, and especially not this clean The other side of selflessness is tyranny and He can t have found living with her forgiveness all that easy The mother of a difficult baby lost altitude lost resilience , so the sibling found silence, helpfulness the only way to fit in She has a soft dense mouth like a waterlogged velvet cushion and tapered fingers deft as a fish Children believe that everything bad that happens is their fault but they also believe in happy endings Dowdy to the point of pain A black dress, simply cut but voraciously elegant Beginnings are sudden, but also insidious They creep up on you sideways, they keep to the shadows, they lurk unrecognized Then, later, they spring On a virgin s bed, The arctic waste of starched white bedsheet stretched out to infinity Touch comes before speech It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth A flashy lawyer s office has an abstract painting compose of pricey smudges they bill by the minute just like the cheaper whores Shaving and plucking to create A topography like wet clay, a surface the hands would glide over Downtrodden people are Broken verbs The kettle began its lullaby of steam In a seedy hotel, wallpaper, no longer any colour He killed things by chewing off their roots Unshed tears can turn you rancid. atwood s Booker Prize winning novel is a slow and melancholy downward movement, one in which the melancholy becomes cumulative despite the sad and tragic tone, there are many paths to pure enjoyment present through the precise, judgmental, dryly amusing recollections of the narrator as she recounts her current life and her past life between the world wars through the intense, intimate, yet almost metaphorical scenes of two lovers connecting, not connecting, reconnecting through the wonderful pastiche of golden era science fantasy tales featuring mute sacrificial victims, blind child assassins, erotic peach women, deadly lizard men but despite those paths to enjoyment, each narrative strand is based in despair, in missed opportunities, in moribund ritual, in the end of things there is no wish fulfillment available on any level, and the novel s main mystery although surprising and having a revenge filled punch at the end is still such a sad one to contemplate motivations are revealed, characters you thought you knew become transformed, reversals of fortune happen in the space of a paragraph, and yet what i was left with by the end was a sadness at recognizing the impossibility of true happiness, true love, true fulfillment well, at least in the world of Blind Assassin the novel is bleak and yet it is beautiful as well, and truly compassionate towards the two women at its heart the writing itself is, in a word, awesome i m not sure there is an English language writer living who can construct so many artful, evocative, poetic passages without sliding into over writing time and again i would stop to re read a phrase or a paragraph just to enjoy the beauty and depth of what was written nor does Blind Assassin beat the reader down with despair much of the time i was so absorbed with the careful description of life in port ticonderoga between the wars and with enormously well developed characters that i was able to not feel as if i was in a boat slowly drifting towards a waterfall but in the end, that waterfall was there, and the characters and the reader all eventually tumble over such as sad experience ONLY SPOILERS AHEAD poor laura chase, the secret and tragic hero of Blind Assassin a fascinating, frustrating character by the end, her motivations revealed, it all made so much sense not a temptress, neither vindictive nor vacant, but simply a person out of place and out of her time her motivation to do good, to understand God, to live for herself, to not live in a world of deceit or corruption i fell in love with her a little bit but really, she s too deep for me, too strange, toonot for this world.iris griffen i was reminded of many things when trying to understand her character the tunnel vision of those madly in love, their inability to recognize the thoughts and feelings of others the frustrating blankness of those who let life carry them along, the placidity that may appear to conceal depth but often is only a symptom of disengagement and the potential villainy of that passivity, that blankness this is a woman who thoughtlessly destroys her sister s reason for living, who does nothing when that sister is carted off to an asylum, who rejects the obvious need for love from her daughter, who lets her daughter and granddaughter get carted away from her, whose primary attribute is inaction until she is, at long last, able to engage in some good old fashioned revenge Blind Assassin has a pair of truly repulsive villains, but the the reader is not allowed to see inside of them their motivations remain both shallow and shadowy but iris griffen is the real deal a character whose motivations the reader comes to understand, a person whose yearning for love and for redemption and for independence is expressed in no uncertain terms, a woman who is rendered so three dimensionally that the reader comes to understand almost every part of her, a villain whose passivity allows the destruction of those she should protect. It s loss and regret and misery and yearn that drive the story forward, along its twisted road , Margaret Atwood towards the end of this book It describes the story of the Blind Assassin, which starts with the famous sentence Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge I m deeply impressed and affected by this book Without a doubt one of the best I ever read I started this book last year, had it on my shelves for a long time already I couldn t really bring myself to start on it, but I am a big fan of the apocalyptic books of Atwood and really thought I should do this I started, and a couple hundred pages in, I stopped in October and resumed the book in January Don t quite know why It s not an easy to read book It takes all your attention, effort, energy You need to stay alert No easy reading here And the book deserves all that attention Because every sentence, description, character is interesting, the story is so beautifully written I just needed a break I guess Without getting into detail, because that would soon mean spoiling It s a dramatic mysterious story and you keep wondering who is who, what am I missing, who did what in the end, it all fell into place for me I think I absolutely loved the story telling of Iris, the sister of Laura Iris, an old lady now, tells the story of her family, her father, her sister Laura, her political and unloving husband Richard and gruesome sister in law Winifred It s a story of tragedy, love, guilt, power and powerlessness Iris stories are personal, sad, guilt felt, but also sharp, cynic, humorous Her observations witty About her husbandHe was putting on weight, he was eating out a lot he was making speeches, at clubs, at weighty gatherings Ponderous gatherings, at which weighty, substantial men met and pondered, because, everyone suspected it, there was heavy weather ahead All that speechmaking can bloat a man up I ve watched the process, many times now It s those kinds of words, the kind they use in speeches They have a fermenting effect on the brain The scenes for example where she sits in the toilet of the doughnut shop, to read the new sentences added to the toilet door are great little scenes The newest message was in gold marker You can t get to heaven without Jesus Already the annotators had been at work Jesus had been crossed out and Death written above it, in black And below that in green Heaven is in a grain of sand Blake Her stories are alternated by chapters called The Blind Assassin of a man and woman meeting each other secretly in sleezy places, having an affair obviously, who are they And always accompanied by a science fiction type story about the planet Zycron and the city Sakiel Norn, a story that the man tells the woman in parts I took the last part of the book in stages of 30 50 pages, slowly reading on and taking everything in I don t know quite what to say any I will be thinking a lot about this impressive story For those who find it hard to get through the start, do keep at it, it s worth it Truly, a grand book. The readers from Sakiel Norn, due to their long and drawn out labor, have been known to fall asleep during their readings Though it is not typical of the readers, even their most prolific colleagues would admit to having stolen a few quiet moments of rest in between pages The Blind Assassin, was an exception for one of the readers He dropped the 600 page tomb again and again on his unsuspecting face, rousing himself from a newly established slumber If you haven t gathered, I found this one pretty slow.After Oryx Crake became one of my all time favorite sci fi novels early in my university days, I was disappointed by both follow up instalments in the Maddadam trilogy So I took a break from Atwood, but fully intended to return to her prolific back catalogue The Blind Assassin seemed like the ideal next step sci fi, mysterious family dealings, AND a Booker Prize Winner It had all the makings of a novel I d enjoy.But Well, it isn t bad, that s for sure I ll spare you a synopsis that you can find it easily in any of the other reviews, and instead tell you that the book s structure ticks along like fine clockwork Iris present day recounting is contrasted with the installments in the book within the book, the eponymous The Blind Assassin, and newspaper clippings It all does come together neatly but messily for the characters Both the story in the present and that in the past compliment one another, and influenced my interpretation of one another But Man, is it ever slow I ll admit to having read a lot of shorter novels lately, and I first wracked up The Blind Assassin s slow opening to my relative naivet with larger undertakings Yet, by the time I was 200 pages deep, it was obvious that the speed Atwood set was what could be expected for the duration of the journey There are passages here that are extremely strong Some resonated with me deeply, or provided a profound point that stuck with me after I put the book back down But there s so much writing that seemed superfluous and some sentences seem designed by thesauruses they are so stiffly constructed Atwood s writing is generally strong throughout, but she indulges in some stuffy writing that absolutely detracted from my reading experience Of course, what s the good in the writing if the story isn t any good After having completed the novel, the story is definitely a good one The concept is solid, the characters have strong motivations, and though I saw a lot of the ending twist coming, Atwood pulls it off in the final 100 pages with such style that I didn t mind that I d already figured it out But The novel is overblown, and could have accomplished all it did a good 100 to 150 pages lighter There are so many passages that seem like they could have been snipped away by a keen eyed editor and I would have been none the wiser The girls childhood story goes on a bit too long, and the story doesn t really start to become engaging until Iris is married off into a nest of vipers that comprise two particularly heinous villains The last 100 pages move quickly and are easily the most gripping in the novel The story reaches a tragic climax that pulls on what has come before, but also exposes what was not essential to the story My reading experience of Margaret Atwood s The Blind Assassin is well summed up by the following quote from the novel.But in life, a tragedy is not one long scream It includes everything that up to it Hour after trivial hour, day after day, year after year, and then the sudden moment Margaret Atwood, The Blind AssassinIt s sort of a shame to admit, but in reading The Blind Assassin I felt that I got all of the monotonous lead up, that took a bit of the impact out of the novel s sudden moment This is a slow and ponderous read, though I can t say I regret reading it The ending is quite good, and I really did enjoy Atwood s meticulously designed story structure For all of you who have enjoyed the book, I can totally see where you re coming from Unfortunately, The Blind Assassin just never clicked with me in the way I expected So, all in all, a book that I thought was good, but also one that I felt moved too slowly for its own good. Let s forget about the tongue tied lightning.Let s undress just like cross eyed strangers.This is not a joke, so please stop smiling.What was I thinking when I said it didn t hurt I need to stop reading on trains I could feel the tears welling, the water rising, brimming, and then spilling over before anything bad even happened But I could feel it coming And I braced myself for the inevitable Heart break Loss Old age Why can t we start old and get younger Tennyson wrote, tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all I call bullshit I can t be placated by that People who believe that are the same ones who believe in soul mates and destiny and happily ever after What remains when love is lost A suffocating, gnawing ache Contempt Melancholy and the infinite sadness Certainly not warm fuzzy memories So why isn t it better to have never loved at all I don t mean to sound jaded, it s just that this book brought back too many memories.That s the thing about memories, you never know when they ll creep up behind you stealthily, tiptoeing like a villain in a silent film I suppose you want to know a bit about the book The Blind Assassin tells the story of Iris Chase Griffen Iris is now 83 years old and she wants what we all want I suppose, she wants to believe that her life has meant something And than that, she wants to tell the truth We feel what it must be like for her, at one time wealthy and glamorous and loved Now the fortune is gone, she is alone and old age has crept up on her and taken away everything it can Yet what has become of my real clothes Surely these shapeless pastels and orthopedic shoes belong to someone else But they re mine worse, they suit me now Iris tells us her story, partly through a diary or a journal and partly through the observations of two young lovers in stolen moments I m really not big on rehashing the plot in reviews and I m sure you can find plenty of them that will do exactly that The salient message is this Iris loved fiercely and suffered tremendous loss As we all do as we all will For now I guess I will bask in the rosy glow of youth for as long as I can, before everything I love withers and dies I could have summed this all up with the same Bola o quote I used in my SD review What a shame that time passes, don t you think What a shame that we die, and get old, and everything good goes galloping away from us I am trying to break your heart I am trying to break your heart.I am trying to break your heart Dynastic MisfortuneThat strip of Canada from the Niagara River to Lake St Clair along the shore and hinterland of Lake Erie is a very peculiar place Culturally it is best defined in negative terms it is not the United States of those coarse and tasteless Yankees, and it is not French speaking as are their equally coarse and tasteless neighbours in Quebec Geographically I suppose it might be called lower rather than Southern Ontario, suggesting a certain psychic distance from the national capital in Ottawa and an obsessive concern about leakage of population from the multiplying Catholic hordes in Lower Canada which is in fact Upper Historically it was settled by American Anglican Loyalists fleeing retribution in their old homeland and, until after WW II, mostly by British and Irish fleeing theirs Socially it was perhaps one of the most class ridden, politically manipulated, and snobbish places on the planet, at least until Canada itself became highly cosmopolitan.Atwood combines all this to make that strip of land her principal character in The Blind Assassin. Using a combination of fictional press reports, conventional third party narration, and first person quasi memoir, along with an accumulating internal allegory, she diffuses the book s point of view into a sort of literary montage of the place itself The narrative line is the saga of the prominent Chase family over the hundred years from the 1890 s, its rise and fall and ultimate disintegration But none of the family members is nearly as interesting as the cultural and political background in which they act, and within which they are effectively trapped.The inhabitants of this land are like the Boers of South Africa They came to dominance on the principle that might makes right and stay in power by treating it as a divine command One way or another all the members of the Chase family are sacrificed materially and spiritually to the Gods of Power family reputation, patriarchal will, a provincial ideal of aristocracy, subtle racism, less subtle misogyny, and a superstitious morality provided by the least educated but, paradoxically, most influential members of the community They look on these things as values, things to be protected and preserved They are in fact quasi genetic defects that are passed along to their children and ensure their inability to find satisfaction in that land, or any other As with the Boers, these people enact and execute a self imposed death sentence, an example of which opens the book.On the face of it, there is no reason to think that this fertile but otherwise rather nondescript piece of real estate in which nothing of world historical significance has taken place except perhaps the US retaliatory invasion and burning of York, later Toronto, during the War of 1812 might provide the substance for a longish novel of intricate family history But it works, in the same way, for example, that the television series Dallas works to make Eastern Texas interesting One can t help but be drawn into Schadenfreude by the obvious hypocrisy, betrayals, and machinations of each generation What Atwood reveals about the region s culture is not its hidden depths but rather its secret shallowness The waste of human effort and talent in maintaining itself is enormous But these things are captivating, perhaps even titilating Because Atwood only does the slowest of reveals, the reader is forced to pay attention to details as if the book were a murder mystery which in a way is exactly what it is. I ll start with a bit of personal baggage, because my first exposure to Margaret Atwood s writing was The Handmaid s Tale, which I read when I was young because my parents had a copy That book is probably the best known of her early novels, which does her a disservice, as it seemed one dimensional, humourless and cold though I would almost certainly be charitable if I re read it now This got me thinking about how one s perceptions of a writer can be shaped by how and where we first experience them, and how much can be lost if something unrepresentative gets overhyped or taught at schools and colleges, or even how reading something before you are ready for it can prejudice you I did make one further attempt a few years later when I picked up a second hand copy of the story collection Bluebeard s Egg, but to be honest I don t really remember that Since then I have never returned to Atwood until now This seems criminally negligent in the light of the Blind Assassin, which is brilliant, so many thanks to the 21st Century Literature group for choosing this book for one of this month s group discussions The Blind Assassin has quite a complex structure It begins with Iris, an embittered old woman remembering her younger sister Laura s death, a suicide that was covered up Laura has a fanatical posthumous following due to a book, also called the Blind Assassin This forms most of the sections that alternate with Iris s memoir, and it tells the story of its writer s affair with a fugitive writer and the stories he and the narrator make up about a mythical society This novel within a novel a device that reminded my quite strongly of A.S Byatt s Babel Tower, another book that contained excerpts from a novel written by one of its characters is itself interspersed with pithy newspaper articles which give the official version of the events of Laura and Iris s lives, and their families The plot is ultimately much complex than the family story or the novel within a novel, but the whole thing has much to say about sibling rivalry and secrets Iris recounts her own family story, the story of their childhood and the story of her disastrous marriage to a wealthy but insensitive businessman and her relationship with his scheming sister This account does occasionally come close to getting tedious, but is invariably redeemed by wry observations and occasional clues that the story is not as simple as it seems at first glance, many of which are much significant than they appear initially The denouement is brilliantly plotted and very moving This is a wonderful, clever and richly nuanced book which thoroughly deserved its Booker Prize I will be reading of Margaret Atwood s work.