Review: The Blind Assassin

The Blind AssassinThe Blind Assassin
by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blind Assassin / 0-385-72095-5

I have always been an avid Margaret Atwood fan, ever since I first picked up "The Blind Assassin" and found myself swept away by Atwood's stunning interplay of literary layers and imagery. "The Blind Assassin" is the story of two sisters as they grow up to be caught in a terrible situation, and yet at the same time, is also a story about a single woman yearning for love and affection from the world. Each sister is superbly rendered both as realistic characters in their own right, but also each as a half to the overall whole.

Iris and Laura are totally realistic as sisters, complete with childhood bickering and maneuvering for affection and attention. And yet, as an unnamed lady speaks quietly throughout the novel with her secret lover, we come to understand that she is both Iris and Laura at the same time. If Iris is the responsible, resigned voice, then Laura must represent the hopeful, optimistic voice. Each sister manages to rebel in her own ways; Laura breaks the rules of society by refusing to acknowledge them, and Iris breaks the rules by learning to secretly work around them.

It's fascinating that ultimately both of the sister-sides accuse the other of being blind, asleep, or unwilling to face the truth. Laura will only listen to events that meet her approval, and flamboyantly refuses to deal with facts that she does not like; Iris, on the other hand, mentally avoids anything unpleasant and walks through her long life in a haze of depression. Both girls represent, in their own ways, the same iron will, the same patient martyrdom, and the same inability to fully accept that which is abhorrent to them. The only difference is how these "halves" manifest into the whole. As such, the real beauty of this novel is just as much about two sisters loving each other as it is about learning to love yourself.

~ Ana Mardoll

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