Posted by EPL Patron and guest blogger, Irv S.
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, copyright 2000, was the winner of the Man Booker Prize, the an award comparable to the Pulitzer. Little more need be said. It contains a tale within a tale within, or perhaps parallel to, another tale. The writing is exquisite, the plot intriguing, and characters complex, at least some of them. The novel combines love, mystery, and science fiction. Atwood constructs elaborate metaphors, some of which she explains, others she leaves for the reader to decipher.
The narrator Iris Chase Griffen is fascinating as a person and as a story teller. She says, "Farewells can be shattering, but returns are surely worse. Solid flesh can never live up to the bright shadow cast by its absence. Time and distance blur the edges; then suddenly the beloved has arrived , and it's noon with its merciless light, and every spot and pore and wrinkle and bristle stands clear." She also writes, "(W)hy bother about the end of the world? It's the end of the world every day for someone. Time rises and rises, and when it reaches the level of your eyes you drown."
She also includes a few newspaper clippings, some news, some social page, which give insights to the story and to the differences in editorial policies. The small town cheerleading of the Port Ticonderoga Herald and Banner provides an interesting contrast to the urbane, critical Toronto Star. But the heavy lifting is done by Iris, who keeps the several stories separated until the end, when she reveals the interconnections.
The two principal women, Iris and her sister Laura, are interesting and complex characters, who love, hate, fear, and rebel. They are kind and sensitive and can be forthright or sly. The two main males are shallow, greedy, lustful, and egocentric. The contrast of women vis-a-vis men is comparable to the contrast between the newspapers. Neither the small town paper nor the male characters fare very well. Feminism is a theme. The book will be appreciated by women, by men not so much.