Monday, August 20, 2012

The Blind Assassin

Margaret Atwood is a writer who rarely fails to amaze. The Blind Assassin is a very cleverly put together story. Or rather, set of stories. It's like a russian doll, with stories nested within stories, narrators of varying degrees of reliability. It comes across as fairly straightforward initially, but the more you think about it, the more complexity you realize there is. It seemed like a rather dull book until about half way through, when I started to realize there was something tricky going on.

It's the story of the Chases, a well to do family in the fictional Port Ticonderoga, Canada. Iris Chase, now 83, is writing the story of her family, addressing it to her granddaughter. There are several dark secrets that lurk in this family, the reasons behind the various tragedies that have unfolded over the last sixty years. But it's not quite clear until right at the end who is responsible, and why these things happened.

It's also the story of Iris's dying days, as she writes this memoir; and interspersed through Iris's recollections is another story, the story of a torrid affair, of secret meetings and stolen moments of passion; and within that the tale of the blind assassin and the mute girl he loves is told, negotiated between the two lovers. All these weave together in a complicated fashion, and nothing is revealed before its time.

I've made sure that the next book I'll be reading isn't anywhere near as intimidatingly clever as this one - I need a bit of a rest after this. But I'll definitely be reading more Atwood in the future.

1 comment:

Krin said...

I'm increasingly in love with Margaret Atwood's work. Her MaddAddam trilogy (Oryx & Crake and The Year of the Flood) and the Handmaid's Tale got me thinking about some of the choices we're currently making as a society.

I'll give the blind assassin a go at some stage, be interesting to see what she does with a more contemporary setting.