I just finished The Blind Assassin on my trek to read all of Atwood’s massive body of work. And I have to admit, this was a hard one. It started a bit slow (but, Lauren, how can you call a suicide slow?) and it seemed so long, but then again that may have been the fact that my life as been a bit … wackadoo lately. Reading this was like broccoli, sometimes I had to gag it down, and then others I munched away not even trying. But I think that’s all part of this journey I’m on with this project. I’m incredibly fascinating with the relationship that will appear through all of this. Reading Atwood through various stations of her life, through various genres, through space and time. She has taught me so much about my own writing and acts as a true example of a sustainable and diverse writing career.
The Blind Assassin is a story within a story within a story. The main character is retelling her life through a memoir she is actively writing in the present moment. So there is the present moment story and the back story. Then, there is the story that the main character’s sister (who commits suicide in the first chapter) wrote, and within THAT story is a character who is dictating a sci-fi story. And somehow, SOMEHOW Ms. Atwood makes it all work, seamlessly. I am never lost, and each story is completely rich and enticing. My only complaint is it’s a lot to chew, and I’m feeling a tad bit overwhelmed in life for a book that demands an emotional investment.
But! On to the awesome parts, the oh-so-Atwood parts:
My bones have been aching again, as they often do in humid weather. They ache like history: things long done with, that still reverberate as pain. When the ache is bad enough it keeps me from sleeping. Every night I yearn for sleep, I strive for it; yet it flutters on ahead of me like a sooty curtain. There are sleeping pills, of course, but the doctor has warned me against them. (Part III, Avilion, Pg. 56)
Walter appeared, Walter shovelled. He’d brought a paper sack of doughnut holes; we ate them at the kitchen table, me cautiously, Walter wholesale, but contemplatively. He’s a man for whom chewing is a form of thinking. (Part VII, The Eggshell Hat, Pg. 310)
A paradox, the doughnut hole. Empty space, once, but now they’ve learned to market even that. A minus quantity; nothing, rendered edible. I wondered if they might be used – metaphorically, of course – to demonstrate the existence of God. Does naming a sphere of nothingness transmute it into being? (Part VII, The Eggshell Hat, Pg. 310)
Like I said, this novel was vegetables, the good kind, the kind that you pat yourself on the back for after eating, the kind that give you shiny hair and manageable cuticles. It actually inspired a story in me, a story you may very well be reading sometime soon.
Good books work your imagination beyond the page, they change the way you view your life, they bring things to the surface you would have never paid attention to before. This book is not a beach read, but it isn’t difficult either. If you’re looking for something to chew on, to remind you of your grandma, to make you long to be born in the 1920s, to suddenly lose hours to, this is it. Read it and then email me and tell me what you thought.