Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin


Cover of the novel

Cover of the novel

*1001 Books Book (2006)

Atwood, M. (2000). The blind assassin. New York: N.A. Talese.

With as much as I have read about Margaret Atwood, it has taken a surprisingly long time for me to read any of her works. This and the intriguing book cover encouraged me to read The Blind Assassin.

Many reviews describe The Blind Assassin as being like a Russian nesting doll; a story within a story that is within yet another story. It is definitely like peeling an onion, reading The Blind Assassin. The novel weaves between various plot lines. However, I do promise that it is rather like a fractal and that are worthwhile. After all, it takes all the pieces to form the picture of The Blind Assassin. Atwood managed to integrate elements of Southern Ontario Gothic, Historical Fiction (1900s, 1930s, 1940s, etc), Mystery, Character Study, and Science Fiction into one slow burn of a novel.

The story begins with young wife Iris Chase Griffen saying, “Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge” (Atwood, 1). With sparse detail about this event, the reader is next taken to a report of Laura Chase’s death. Beyond this point, there are more news reports on deaths, including that of Iris’ powerful industrialist husband’s body being found a boat in 1947. This is where the reader discovers a book by Laura Chase was posthumously published. After the articles, the reader is taken headlong into to Laura’s work “The Blind Assassin.” “The Blind Assassin” tells the story of a pulp fiction writer and his girlfriend, a young unhappy wife. The pulp fiction writer makes up a story for his lover, also called “The Blind Assassin.” Beyond this point is yet another narrative, it is that of the aged, chilly Iris of eighty-two years of age in 1999.

Iris’ somewhat embittered voice dominates the novel. Through her scope, I found Iris to be a survivor. The unusual and delicate well-being of Laura brings much responsibility to Iris. On the one hand, it seems Iris is cold and careless with her fragile little sister. Otherwise, I find it unfair how Iris was made to take care of Laura simply because no one else did. Whether it is Iris’ nature or it is her upbringing is obviously debatable. Nonetheless, her biting wit and edge make her easily identifiable and sympathetic to me.

I am proud to say that I read this book. The coldness and cruelty of several characters within gave me chills and some weird dreams. Imagining this wicked glint of some characters that shall remain nameless made me sad. Atwood is definitely a master of her craft and I could see her characters and situations all too well. The Blind Assassin is well written but not exactly what I call an enjoyable read.

Three out of Five Pearls

PS (September 02, 2008) When I found out this had been removed from the 1001 Books List, I could have kicked Boxall and myself in one fell swoop. Ugh!

Places: Port Ticonderoga, Canada; Toronto, Canada; Europe; New York, NewYork


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2 thoughts on “Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin

  1. yeah… I have this very copy sitting waiting tbr but feel cheated that it’s been taken off the list. Will still read it though… eventually.

    Thanks for the link BTW!

  2. Pingback: Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland | Jorie's Reads by Starry Night Elf

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