Margaret Atwood takes the art of storytelling to new heights in a dazzling new novel that unfolds layer by astonishing layer and concludes in a brilliant and wonderfully satisfying twist.
For the past twenty-five years, Margaret Atwood has written works of striking originality and imagination. In The Blind Assassin , she stretches the limits of her accomplishments as never before, creating a novel that is entertaining and profoundly serious.
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 1945 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 1947 newspaper article announcing the discovery of a sailboat carrying the dead body of her husband, a distinguished industrialist.
Told in a style that magnificently captures the colloquialisms and clichés of the 1930s and 1940s, 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 more.
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.
"Stories spin within stories in this spellbinding novel of avarice, love, and revenge. It begins in Toronto in 1945 when Laura Chase, 25 years old, drives a car off a bridge. Iris Chase Griffen, her older sister and wife of a wealthy and conniving businessman, seems more concerned with the proper attire for her trip to the reporter-ringed morgue than with her sister's fate, but readers should never underestimate an Atwood heroine's capacity for self-discipline and subterfuge. Iris has had to perfect the art of self-abnegation ever since her mother's death, when her father, a compassionate manufacturer, asked her to look after Laura. Sheltered and naive, the girls were ripe pickings for Richard, to whom their father handed over his business and family property, including 18-year-old Iris, and Alex Thomas, a labor activist implicated in arson and murder, who may or may not be Laura's lover. Atwood, whose wit, metaphorical descriptions, and elegant characterizations are breathtaking in their beauty and resonance, weaves an intriguing trifurcate narrative. Newspaper articles document Canada's Red scare, the political and industrial jockeying for war profits, and high-society goings-on. Iris' wry memoir, which she is writing in the present at the end of her difficult life, reveals at long last the wrenching truth about herself and Laura amid hilariously acerbic commentary on the inanities of contemporary life. And then there are the most mysterious sections, chapters from Laura's posthumously published novel, The Blind Assassin, an erotic and poignant story of illicit love between a socialite and a radical fugitive, who charms his lover with fantastic stories about the planet Zycron, where a blind assassin falls in love with a mute sacrificial virgin. Aptly enough, figurative forms of blindness and silence are both bane and antidote in the thwarted lives Atwood conjures so masterfully. --Donna Seaman"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Family secrets, sibling rivalry, political chicanery and social unrest, promises and betrayals, "loss and regret and memory and yearning" are the themes of Atwood's brilliant new novel, whose subtitle might read: The Fall of the House of Chase. Justly praised for her ability to suggest the complexity of individual lives against the backdrop of Canadian history, Atwood here plays out a spellbinding family saga intimately affected by WWI, the Depression and Communist witch-hunts, but the final tragedy is equally the result of human frailty, greed and passion. Octogenarian narrator Iris Chase Griffen is moribund from a heart ailment as she reflects on the events following the suicide in 1945 of her fey, unworldly 25-year-old sister, Laura, and of the posthumous publication of Laura's novel, called "The Blind Assassin." Iris's voiceDacerbic, irreverent, witty and cynicalDis mesmerizingly immediate. When her narration gives way to conversations between two people collaborating on a science fiction novel, we assume that we are reading the genesis of Laura's tale. The voices are those of an unidentified young woman from a wealthy family and her lover, a hack writer and socialist agitator on the run from the law; the lurid fantasy they concoct between bouts of lovemaking constitutes a novel-within-a-novel. Issues of sexual obsession, political tyranny, social justice and class disparity are addressed within the potboiler SF, which features gruesome sacrifices, mutilated body parts and corrupt, barbaric leaders. Despite subtle clues, the reader is more than halfway through Atwood's tour de force before it becomes clear that things are not what they seem. Meanwhile, flashbacks illuminate the Chase family history. In addition to being psychically burdened at age nine by her mother's deathbed adjuration to take care of her younger sibling, nave Iris at age 18 is literally sold into marriage to a ruthless 35-year-old industrialist by her father, a woolly-minded idealist who thinks more about saving the family name and protecting the workers in his button factories than his daughter's happiness. Atwood's pungent social commentary rings chords on the ways women are used by men, and how the power that wealth confers can be used as a deadly weapon. Her microscopic observation transforms details into arresting metaphors, often infused with wry, pithy humor. As she adroitly juggles three plot lines, Atwood's inventiveness achieves a tensile energy. The alternating stories never slacken the pace; on the contrary, one reads each segment breathlessly, eager to get back to the other. In sheer storytelling bravado, Atwood here surpasses even The Handmaid's Tale and Alias Grace. BOMC main selection; author tour. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
|| New York :Nan A. Talese/Doubleday,2000.
||1st ed. in the U.S.A.
521 pages ; 25 cm