Title: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Book Beginnings quote:
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, her sister. 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, a newspaper article announces 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 Publisher
Review: Back in 2007, or thereabouts, my book club selected The Blind Assassin as a monthly choice. I had a terrible time with the book. After reading less than 100 pages I abandoned the effort. It was so unlike me to not finish a book but I found the book-within-a-book-within-a book format terribly confusing. I went to the meeting empty handed and had to listen to the discussion without having much to offer to it. Since that time over thirteen years ago, it has bothered me that I didn't finish the book, especially since I learned about the bucket-full of awards it gleaned the year it was published, even capturing The Booker Prize in 2000.
I added The Blind Assassin back onto my TBR list a few years ago and finally got started reading it in August. Well, more accurately, I started listening to the audiobook. And do you know what? The problems I encountered in 2007 persisted. The book was still so confusing, the plot so twisted, the mix of genres so disturbing, the mystery was so ill-defined, and the romance so unromantic. I once again had a hard time with it. Because library checkouts have an expiration date, I wasn't able to finish the audiobook in the three weeks. Three months went by before I was able to get it back. Equally irritating and frustrating I only listened to about 100 pages of the book this second time, which got me to the point where I left off the first time. (Cue the eye-rolling.) But I was determined. So when the library gave me another turn on the audiobook in November I reluctantly started listening from that point forward finishing it the day the book was due. I'm done with the darn thing. Whew.
After sitting on the book for a few days trying to figure out how to review it, I opened up a few reviews written back when it was first published in 2000 and guess what? The reviewers for the New York Times and The Guardian newspapers didn't really like the book either. So how did it end up winning the Booker?
Announcing the 2000 Booker Prize winner at a ceremony at London's Guildhall, Simon Jenkins, chairman of the judges, said:
"The Blind Assassin is a complex book that works on many different levels. Far reaching, dramatic and structurally superb, it demonstrates Atwood's immense emotional range, as well as her poet's eye for both telling detail and psychological truth.
"The book demonstrates the mature pessimism of age and does so brilliantly."
So there you are. It was brilliant and pessimistic. It was written with a poet's eye to detail. Yet, it was still confusing and I only gave it three out of five stars.
What did you think of it? Let me know.
Publishing Info: McClelland and Stewart. September 5, 2000. 521 pages.