Margaret Atwood – The Blind Assassin

Title: The Blind Assassin
Author: Margaret Atwood
Year: 2000

This being the third book I read by Margaret Atwood, expectations were pretty high. My first encounter with this author was with Oryx and Crake earlier this year, and even though I did not like The Handmaid’s Tale as much, these two books told me clearly that Atwood is a skilled author. As was the case with The Handmaid’s Tale I do not find the actual story in The Blind Assassin very interesting, but since it is so beautifully written, it is worthwhile anyway. This novel is also more complex and somewhat more interesting to regard from an author’s point of view.

The plot in The Blind Assassin is rather complex, because it consists of many stories superimposed and intermingled with each other. To begin with, the main protagonist is Iris Chase, who is writing an account of her own life, as well as that of her sister Laura’s, who has just committed suicide. In this perspective, there are two chronological threads, one in the present, when Iris is old, and the other in the past, when the two sisters grew up. Interspersed throughout this tale is a story called The Blind Assassin, published by Iris after Laura’s death, but drawing from both sisters’ ambiguous relationship with a certain Alex Thomas, a political radical. This story also contains a story-within-a-story; a fantasy tale about a blind assassin. Even though this multi-layered plot is hard to follow in the beginning, it is not a problem later on, but rather adds to the overall feeling of quality.

In fact, I think this novel would be very boring were it not for the complexity of the plot itself. Sure, the book is very well written and I will keep reading Margaret Atwood for this very reason, but apart from that, I cannot say the stories themselves are all that entertaining. I find the characters and settings convincing and described with great skill and depth, but their still are not overwhelmingly interesting. Regardless of that, however, language and composition are good enough to make this novel somewhat better than The Handmaid’s Tale, which is good because it means that I definitely will not hesitate to read more novels written by Margaret Atwood. Four snails is not brilliant, but it is still very good.

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