After being impressed by my first Atwood novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, I picked up The Blind Assassin with a lot of expectations. If I have to sum up my opinion about this book in one word, it would be ‘indifference’.
The Blind Assassin is about two sisters, Iris and Laura. The book moves back and forth in time – Iris is narrating her present life as an old, depressed woman who is separated from her granddaughter and she often visits her past where she tells us about her with her parents and her sister. Within this main story, there is another story going on, which is a book written by Laura and within this book is another story written by the protagonist of Laura’s book. Confusing? It was, for me. With three different threads going on, it was very confusing to me and difficult to keep track of what I was reading.
I can’t tell you anything more about the story unless I flag it as a spoiler. The narrator, Iris, seemed so hollow to me. I felt a strong urge to give her a nice shake to bring her out of her reverie and scream in her ears ‘Show some emotion’. Laura, on the other hand, is interesting. As a child, especially, where she takes things literally that one can’t jest with her and say ‘Go jump in a well’. The way she takes things which we term as completely normal and the way she questions (“Does God lie?”) makes her character very interesting. The other characters just exist to fill in the blanks in the sister’s lives. Oh, one character which caught my attention is Reenie, Iris’s caretaker – she was the most interesting in the book.
When it is Atwood, I don’t really need to say anything about her writing. Beautiful words, thought provoking analogies, lovely flow.
I was sand, I was snow — written on, rewritten, smoothed over.
Mother might be resting, or doing good deeds elsewhere, but Reenie was always there. She’d scoop us up and sit us on the white enamel kitchen table, alongside the pie dough she was rolling out or the chicken she was cutting up or the fish she was gutting, and give us a lump of brown sugar to get us to close our mouths. Tell me where it hurts, she’d say. Stop howling. Just calm down and show me where. But some people can’t tell where it hurts. They can’t calm down. They can’t ever stop howling.
A hot wind was blowing around my head, the strands of my hair lifting and swirling in it, like ink spilled in water.
Farewells can be shattering, but returns are surely worse. Solid flesh can never live up to the blind shadow cast by its absence.
You can read more quotes from this book on goodreads.
The book was enjoyable as long as I read it, but it has nothing memorable in it. I loved the language as long as it lasted. It’s not a book that I would ask someone not to read, but I wouldn’t highly recommend it either. I am indifferent towards this book, so it’s left to you.