Posted by: beansai | August 5, 2007

The Blind Assassin

I know that I have been on a bit of a Margaret Atwood kick lately, but I really enjoy experiencing a wide variety of novels within a new author that I have found I enjoyed. So, with keeping in line with this current theme I am going review another Atwood novel. This time it is The Blind Assassin.

Margaret Atwood outdoes herself in this novel with the degree of intertwining story lines. Following the lives of one woman and her sister, the novel spans through the First World War beyond the Second World War and to the tail end of the 20th century. Not only does this novel have multiple story lines to it, but a novel within a novel as well. Atwood does an amazing job organizing the chapters so that when you are switching between the character plot and the inner-novel, you don’t find yourself wondering which is which.

This book is all about the multiple facets of humanity. Every character has secrets and closet lives, even the ones that you wouldn’t expect to. You learn about the characters and the depths of their personalities little by little as revelations occur even in the most mundane aspects of their lives. So often we think life has become more and more complicated in modern days, but reading this book that is primarily set in the immediate years after the World Wars, it is amazing how intricate and complex life was then, as it is now. Atwood’s ability to create characters that are well rounded and realistic astounds me every time and this novel was no exception.

From the very first line the book pulls you in and hooks you with the instant happenings and an overall air of mystery. In order to find out how the characters got to where they are at the beginning of the novel, you have to read it all through, but don’t worry, it was never a painful process except in the moments of sharing the characters’ anguish. All in all though, this book is all about the suspense. Not perhaps suspense in the way of action and heros and all of that, but in the steadily acquired knowledge to the point that the reader comes to the stories revelation, just before it is spelled out for you. The book also has a very cyclical feel to it in the fact that you end where the story begins, but after learning all the details to the circumstances, the meaning to the beginning has transformed into something entirely different.

Is this novel my favorite of Margaret Atwood’s? I’d have to admit that it isn’t. While I enjoyed it immensely and her attention to detail in the settings of the time period are always mind boggling, it wasn’t as emotionally moving for me as some of her other works. The characters are set in circumstances where their own emotions must be repressed and as a result it lends the overall novel an oppressive feel to it. Perhaps this is the point, otherwise how could we really understand what the characters go through unless we too, feel like we are constantly under someone’s thumb. There are moments that are moving and my heart goes out to some of the characters (while my scorn was reserved for others), but this piece wasn’t connective enough to make me cry or even tear up or yell and rant in frustration. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I feel that there was never a point in the novel that was emotionally relieving, no outburst of uncontrollable crying or screaming or yelling from any of the characters. All the revenges and thumbing-of-noses happen in very passive situations, and most of them you don’t even recognize for their ill-intent until the end of the novel. As a result it only made me feel as bottled up as the characters. Perhaps, again, this was the intention of Margaret Atwood or maybe it is just me and my repressed nature wanting to find an outlet in the books that I read.



  1. I know this might not be a specific comment to this review I would like to say I have been enjoying each one you put here on Lit Bit.

    I have a suggestion.

    When setting us up for your review and you introduce the book, could you include the date the book was written. I know this isn’t a tell tale of the style of the novel but it gives a little insight of the author’s experience regarding the time the novel takes place. Or maybe I just like those kinds of details as well.

    Anywho, the more I read your reviews the more your taste in novels interests me. I admit you are almost getting the best of my curiosity. I guess I am just stubborn. 😉

  2. I’ve thought about that before too. Wasn’t sure how I would implement things like date of publication, publishing company, translator and other facts of those kinds. I think maybe at the end of the review I will list the specs with that kind of information on them. It is definitely something that has crossed my mind before too. So I’ll look and see what I can do about that and get around to updating some of the reviews I’ve done. 🙂

    P.S. – You ARE stubborn. HAHA!

  3. I don’t think you need to go back through your reviews and add the dates in, but it is something I would like to see in future reviews.

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