Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Tittle: The Blind Assassin
Author: Margaret Atwood
ISBN: 1860498809
Publisher: Virago Press/2001
Pages: 637

After reading The Handmaid's Tale by Atwood, I decided to read all her books. I mooched it from bookmooch long time ago. I started the book in January but somehow or the other, I could not finish it sooner. The beginning is very slow and tends to ge boring too. I have had moments of giving it up altogether. I am glad I did not. Yesterday, I started from page 81 and after reaching halfway through, I just couldn't leave it. I am damn glad I persisted.

The Blind Assassin is a story about two sisters, Iris and Laura Chase, the lives they shared and about their relationship, bonding and secrets. It is a novel within a novel within a novel. It has many layers. It goes from present to past to future. Initially it gets a bit confusing as I can't keep track. Then each and every detail gets at me. What starts as a story about Laura, who had committed suicide at the age of 25 years some 50 years ago, ends with her sister Iris' story being told. Why is Iris recollecting all this. That too, after 50+ years?

Because she cannot leave it unsaid for her grand-daughter Sabrina, who needs to be told about her legacy. The grand daughter who knows nothing about her. And who truly deserves to be told the truth.

The memories of Iris go hand in hand with writing or reading of the novel, The Blind Assassin for which Laura Chase is acclaimed later, much after her suicide. This is about a woman and her two unknown lovers. By letting her novel published, Iris has kept Laura's memories alive.. It ruins her(Iris') husband, Richard's political aspiration. And drives him to death. Does he deserve it?

Despite Iris's stocism, we see her shimmering anger. Her precise revenge. She is calculated too in what she is doing. When she is telling her story, we get to hear her inner voice too and her introspection. Or her reasonings. Her explanations about why must a certain event happened in the past. Itis like getting inside her mind.

It also has a love story, two girls loving the same man but differently. How differently? Iris might have been the older sister, Laura has always been mature one who understood things much beyond her age. Laura can't lie, she can't hide, she is very honest in her likes or dislikes. She completely abhors Richard. She can see through him. Unlike Iris, who only realises after it is too late. After she has lost everything, her sister, her daughter. However, she sees to it that Laura should live on forever. She owes it to Laura. All the three stories converge in the end effortlessly.

This book also touches child abuse. Implies that Laura might have been abused by more than one person while still a child. First by her tutor, next by..well..I can't say it without spoiling it for you.

Like in The Handmaid's Tale, here too, the heroine/s is/are shown to be helpless, almost powerless which they overcome. I think they should have done that much before. I truly loved the sisters.

Atwood's prose is superb. The use of various colours is brilliant. which denote various moods. To understand what and who is the blind assassin, one must read this book. I know it is a fat book and has a slow start but well worth the effort. Atwood never disappoints.

Also reviewed by:

Kim L