The Blind Assassin opens with this line: “Ten days after the war ended , my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.” Powerful stuff. So from the start we already know the big climax, but it is not until the very end of the novel that we find out the ‘why’ of it all. This was such an engrossing read; every time I thought I had figured it out I realized there was much more I had yet to uncover.
A striking feature of this novel is that there is a story within a story. The narrator in her old age is looking back on the time when her sister drove a car off a bridge – everything that had led up to that point and what came after. And while she tells us that story, we as readers get to see chapters of a novel that the sister Laura wrote before her death. The story within the story was considered quite scandalous at the time; it tells the tale of illicit lovers who amuse each other by telling stories of a distant, fictional planet. The scandalous nature of the story, combined with Laura driving her car off a bridge, made her a legend. But all is not as it seems.
As the narrator shares Laura’s novel, as well as the story of their lives together, we have to wonder if she is an unreliable narrator, deliberately leaving key details out. At times I found this frustrating, and was almost more engrossed in Laura’s novel than the main plot line. But Margaret Atwood is such a brilliant writer. I continued to push through, even at times when it was a little slow, but by the end when all is revealed – what happened to Laura and the mysteries surrounding her novel and her death, I was in awe. If you get to a point in the middle of story and are thinking of putting the book down, just keep reading. Because by the time you finish, all of the frustrating teasing out of small details will finally make sense. This is one of those stories that definitely stays with you after you finish, and I’m sure on a second read would be even more impressive, because then we would know which clues to look for.
Availability: USMAI, SMCM, COSMOS
Review Submitted by: Kaylie Jasinski
Rating: Highly Recommended