The Blind Assassin

Margaret Atwood
The Blind Assassin Cover

My First Atwood Book



My first Atwood. This book would be a great subject for a group read/discussion. I liked it mostly on the strength of the writing. It is, at times, mesmerizing. Atwood's ability to turn an ironic phrase had me laughing out loud while the poignance of other phrases made me stop and ponder.

What I Liked:
Really enjoyed the forays into pulpy SF meta-fiction. The identity of the science fiction writer is fairly easy to suss out but the mystery woman is more difficult to pin down. I vacillated back & forth on that for most of the book. What I loved most is the unreliable narrator. Iris is, by turns, tragically pitiable and incredibly self-serving. One moment you feel deep sympathy for what she has been through. In the next moment you begin to hate her for her seeming lack of spine and for her moral terpitude. A complex and compelling character to be sure. Her unreliablity also makes you question how terrible or good other characters truly were.

What I Didn't Like:
Due to the constant shifts between multiple narratives and different times in the lives of the characters, it takes a while to get your bearings. If the reader persists, there is plenty of payoff but it takes a bit of work to get there as Atwood requires you to read between the lines. This didn't bother me too much but I can understand it might be a deterrent for some people. My main complaint is actually with the story as told by Iris. While I loved her unreliability, I found the detailed descriptions of things and surroundings really slowed the pace. Paragraphs about the clothing that people are wearing, about the color of the sky, the color of flowers in the garden, the types of plants and trees in the park, etc. These are things that rarely help move a story forward and that holds doubly true here. This aspect of Atwood's writing style negatively impacted my enjoyment of the book the most.

To sum up: Don't give up too early on this one. Atwood does a marvelous job of weaving the disparate storylines together into a cohesive whole. Also, don't forget that you are only getting one side of the story throughout.