Wednesday 26 November 2008

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Another Booker Prize winner made the choice for our Book Group. I'm not sure why they keep choosing Booker Prize winner because it is obvious to me that they have neither the desire nor the motivation to read these novels of substance but they persist. I wonder if anyone else read the book. (NB: I always write my reviews in advance of the book group if only so as not to colour my initial review. I do put a note at the bottom just to tell y'all what the others thought.)

Regardless I was thrilled to have an excuse to read this book. Both The Handmaiden's Tale and Alias Grace are in my top 20 favourite book list. I read The Handmaiden's Tale over 20 years ago and it had a profound effect on my opinions towards women's reproductivity rights.

But it has to be said that Atwood books are not for the faint of heart. She unexpectedly veers into the science fiction realm every so often and that is not my favourite literary genre. The book group read Oryx and Crake a few years back and I remember struggling to turn every page.

The Blind Assassin is considered by many to be Atwood's best novel and a literary classic so convincing me to give it a read wasn't a hard sell despite the sci-fi undertones.

And I was not disappointed. The book starts at the turn of the 20th century, the start of the industrial age and is set in a small Canadian town. The focus is on twin sisters, Iris and Laura.

The book alternates between present day and moving forward through the sisters lives. although you know quite early on that Laura committed suicide the events in their lives which occurred around the Second World War when their lives are truly shaped are not revealed until the end of the book.

The book is a gripping page turner although there are these odd chapters of a story interwoven between the chapters of their lives. I was left wondering what in the world they had to do with the rest of the story being told and was tempted to skip them as they didn't interest me as much. Fortunately, I persevered and a good thing that was because at the end it becomes obvious that to have skipped those would have meant you missed out on a vital part of the story.

Atwood is a master for setting time and place. Her descriptions of the village and the people who populate it are exquisite. The details of the women's clothing is pitch perfect. My mind's eye was filled with precise pictures. I don't know of an author who does this quite so expertly.

The ending is a shock and I won't give it away here in the hopes that my blog fans will race out and based on my recommendation, read the book. Go on, do it. It's time well spent.

Book Group Verdict: I've decided to take a break from my book group and see if I can find another group which is more closely aligned to my objectives for a book group. I may reconsider this decision at a later date but for now this is a reader looking for a new home.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh Ladawn. Your comments are very spiteful. FYI we all read the book, loved it and had a very good discussion about it. Okay, I understand you might have outgrown our group but being nasty is really uncalled for.