Tuesday, 13 March 2012

‘The Blind Assassin’: A Review

By Louisa Stark


I read Margaret Atwood’s Booker-winning ‘The Blind Assassin’ for the first time at the beginning of the year and it has been on my mind ever since. 

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Spanning the 20th century, the novel focuses on the character of Iris Chase as she remembers her childhood and the circumstances leading up to her sister’s untimely death, ‘Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.’ From this first sentence the reader is sent on an inextricable journey in pursuit of the truth, driven by ‘loss and regret and misery and yearning’.  Atwood seamlessly and dextrously weaves together four threads into a panoramic tapestry, unrolled chapter by chapter;  through newspaper cutting’s, flashbacks and a story within a story, the reader gradually pieces together the plot with its intriguing twist, which Atwood teases 'But you must have known that for some time'.  Despite such a dramatic set-up, the ending is tragic in so simple a way that I surprised myself by sobbing huge tears into the final page.
At times, some characters can appear one dimensional: ‘bad’  Richard seems to have no more substance or motives than an ominous shadow cast over events and even Laura can seem distant and difficult to empathize with. Yet, it is the protagonist, with all her faults, who truly engages the reader and we are left feeling that although it is Laura’s tragedy, the story very much belongs to Iris.
Once Iris’s steamer trunk filled with of memories has been opened, like Pandora’s Box, it is impossible to forget.  Margaret Atwood’s captivating writing and ingenious storytelling resonates throughout with love and betrayal, and still retains its’ power long after the book has been closed.
An Interview with Margaret Atwood – http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/3293

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