The Blind Assassin
Reason for Reading: I’ve read many great things about this book and Margaret Atwood. Also, my sister is an Atwood fan so I thought I’d take a look. This was one of my choices for the Book Awards Reading Challenge as well.
Quotes: “Why is it we want so badly to memorialize ourselves? Even while we’re still alive. We wish to assert our existence, like dogs peeing on fire hydrants. We put on display our framed photographs, our parchment diplomas, our silver-plated cups; we monogram our linen, we carve our names on trees…”
“It was as if the illuminated dome of the Royal York Hotel had been wrenched off and I was being stared at by a malign presence located somewhere above the black spangled empty surface of the sky. It was God, looking down with is blank, ironic searchlight of an eye.”
This is a story about two sisters, beginning in the early 20th century, told through two lines of narrative. One sister dies in the opening pages leaving the other to tell their story with the aid of a novel-within-the-novel. Only as the book closes do you fully understand the complex lives of these two.
The story was much different than I expected. I suppose it is because the descriptions I read did not go into much detail as it might spoil some of the novel. I did not expect a story so tragic, for that is the best word I can use to describe what happens to the two sisters. I am left to wonder how common it was in that time period for women to be in such lonely and helpless positions. I hope it is extremely extraordinary, though I have a feeling there are many similarities between the book and the lives of early 20th century women at the fringes of high society.
Atwood certainly knows how to write. Her prose is confident and the reader can tell she is comfortable. Whether describing surroundings, dealing out dialogue or giving direction she knows what she’s doing. That is something that was reinforced for me throughout my reading.
However, though the story was certainly very sad, there was for me a sort of disconnect. I knew that it was all very depressing and hopeless for the two sisters, yet at the same time I never felt very emotionally involved. It may be because of the smoothness with which Atwood writes. Or it could have been the personality of the older sister who narrates much of the story.
Even though I never felt completely involved, I did enjoy the novel and will most definitely be reading more. As I have said, Atwood is a terrific writer and I look forward to seeing what she can do with other subjects.