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‘The Blind Assassin’ is a captivating read

Despite weighing in at more than 500 pages Atwood's work is never a heavy read

Posted: January 16, 2009 4:06 p.m.
Updated: January 16, 2009 4:09 p.m.
The fine line of writing a book review is to entice the reader into wanting to read the book without giving away too much of the book's storyline.

However, it's not necessary to delve too deeply into the plot's twists and turns in Margaret Atwood's brilliant novel, "The Blind Assassin." This is simply the best book I've ever read.


Written by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, "The Blind Assassin" is a must read for anyone who loves language. Atwood weaves a multi-layered, spellbinding story while using the English language to its fullest potential.

Within the narrative there is poignant insight: "Breakfasts, picnics, ocean voyages, costume balls, newspapers, boating on the river. Such items do not assort very well with tragedy.

But in life, a tragedy is not one long scream. It includes everything that led up to it. Hour after trivial hour, day after day, year after year, and then the sudden moment: the knife stab, the shell-burst, the plummet of the car from the bridge."

The truth of the above passage almost jumps from the page to mug the reader with relevance.

I received the book as a Christmas gift from my cousin Bill and at more than 500 pages "The Blind Assassin" at first appeared to be a major undertaking of time. However, I had some time during the holidays so I cracked open the book - and from the first page I was hooked and never looked back.

The lyrical language and intriguing plot, told in a flash-back, flash-forward style, is captivating.

The novel's unlikely protagonist is Iris, an elderly woman who recounts her life story, often with an unflinching eye. Iris is a sympathetic character, but hardly a "heroine." Whenever the reader starts to feel smug or superior it is important to remember one important truth... we're all deeply flawed individuals. The tragedies, big and small of Iris' life, as well as her small triumphs are laid out in Atwood's melodious prose. It is impossible not to be caught up in her story.

Atwood is a Canadian author whose other works include "The Edible Woman" (1969), "Surfacing" (1972), "Lady Oracle" (1976), "Life Before Man" (1979), "Bodily Harm" (1981), "The Handmaid's Tale" (1985), "Cat's Eye" (1988), "The Robber Bride" (1993), "Alias Grace" (1996), "Oryx and Crake" (2003 and "The Penelopiad" (2005).

Her latest work is "The Year of the Flood" (2009). She is also an accomplished poet and has written nonfiction and children's books.

I love to read and I'm always pleasantly surprised to discover a new-to-me author. "The Blind Assassin" was published in 2000. I don't mind being "late to the party" as it were, because now I can immerse myself in Atwood's previous books, without having to wait, impatiently for her next work to arrive.


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