Atwood, Margaret Entries

The Blind Assassin

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I know she's one of the Most Important Living Novelists and everything, but historically I've been kind of lukewarm about Margaret Atwood's work. The Handmaid's Tale is obviously important to read, and makes a point with which I agree, but it makes it in a way that feels like being hit over the head with a shovel. The only other Atwood novel I've read - The Edible Woman - left me similarly unsatisfied. So I was especially glad that I decided to give The Blind Assassin a chance, because oh man, I loved it. It was one of those books that I cursed every morning for keeping me up until one in the morning, even when I knew I had to get up at six. And then, even while cursing it, I would try to read a few pages before setting off for work.

This novel had all the elements that make reading nourishing for me: lovely, flowing prose, thought-provoking metaphors, a compelling authorial voice. On top of that, the characters were intriguing and the plot was ingeniously constructed in several interrelated parts (a "book within a book," as well as various newspaper articles and pieces of correspondence) that shifted their apparent relation to one another as the narrative progressed. Beginning with an old woman recalling her sister, a series of newspaper obituaries, and the perhaps-fictional story of two anonymous lovers making up stories together, the novel twists and turns its way towards a conclusion that's gut-wrenching, yet satisfying. Atwood's feminist passion is still here, but it's incorporated more smoothly and less didactically than in either of her other novels I've read, and is just one part of a seamless, enthralling story. Reading The Blind Assassin inspires me to pick up some of Atwood's other more recent fiction, and it's always lovely to discover that such a prolific author holds riches for me, after all.

June 2012

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link to Wolves 2011 reading list
link to more disgust bibliography