There is something to be said for reading a book slowly. Sometimes you may not even know why you are reading it so slowly, especially if the book is that good. But as I was to learn, sometimes not rushing the reading process will be to your benefit.
I was dumbfounded as to why Margaret Atwood’s “The Blind Assassin” was taking me forever to read. I could only read a few chapters before having to put the book down. I couldn’t understand it because the book was good and the writing … simply beautiful. I felt like the words were skipping along the page. However, I am glad that I listened to myself and allowed the necessary time to read this book because I think I appreciate it all that much more.
Many people know Margaret Atwood for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but since she has been writing for years, I was determined to read something else of hers. I knew going into this that it was going to be different, and oh, how it was. The book is not a dystopian novel in any sense, but it can’t even be classified into one specific genre. It includes multiple story lines as well as different writing styles. You wouldn’t even think this is the same author of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but it just goes to show the range Atwood has as a writer.
“Ten days after the war ended, my sister drove a car off the bridge.”
With this opening line, Atwood introduces the reader to the main character Iris who begins to tell the story of her sister Laura. Her narrative is then interrupted by a report about Laura’s death followed by a few news clippings. Ok, you think, she is setting us up for a journey on how Laura got there. But wait, the next page has a new chapter heading labeled The Blind Assassin. Using only gender pronouns, the reader quickly realizes that this is a completely different story within the story. It’s kind of off-putting at first, especially because we don’t know who the “he” or “she” is. But soon there is a rhythm to the book that the reader easily gets swept into, almost like a dance. It’s almost as if this side story gives the reader a little break to the main story.
When we get back to Iris, we learn she is an old lady that has decided that her story and that of her sister has to be told. And she starts all the way at the beginning, when the two were children, right before the death of their mother. Iris is the older of the two and is the responsible one, whereas Laura is the more sensitive child that takes everything literal and personal. As the two grow older, the two grow apart. Iris marries in order to save the family while Laura is flightier and more affected by the life around her until she grows so distant that Iris can’t understand her anymore.
The parallel story of The Blind Assassin focuses on a couple who are having an affair. While together, the “he”, who happens to be writer, shares a sci-fi story of “The Blind Assassin” that gradually builds with each meeting between the two.
“The best way of keeping a secret is to pretend there isn’t one.”
You can’t help but continue to read this book because the more you read the more questions you have. What is wrong with Laura? Why does she grow so distant? What is going to happen to Iris and her marriage? And then most of all, who is having the affair? Why does “he” keep telling this story of “The Blind Assassin”. How does it all connect? Does it even connect?
Once I was three quarters of the way through the book, the answers were slowly beginning to reveal themselves and that is when things really began to pick up. My grip tightened on the book, almost as if I was afraid it would jump out of my lap before I could get to the end. And when I did finally get to the end, all I could think was WOW!
This book takes some time to digest with all of its layers and it is why this review is particularly late. I didn’t even think that I would be able to write a coherent review that would give this book justice. And maybe this review still doesn’t make sense, but if that’s the case, all you need to know is this: You should definitely read this book.