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The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Published by Virago, 2001

Iris Chase is the 83 year old narrator of this story. The year is 1998 and she is reflecting on her life and all its intricacies. She is writing her story in the hope that one day her granddaughter Sabrina will read it and understand. Iris hadn't seen Sabrina in years because of a family dispute, though the details of this feud are not revealed until later on in the story. The book opens dramatically in the 1940's - "Ten days after the war ended my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge." Laura was aged 25 at this time, a little younger than Iris.

A 1947 newspaper article tells of the death of Iris' husband, Richard Griffen. His body was found on a sailboat. His death (suicide) coincides with the posthumous publication of Laura's novel "The Blind Assassin". This is the title of the novel within the actual novel. It is a science fiction story told by two lovers. Newspaper extracts are used throughout the book to give us another slant on events as the story of these two sisters unfolds.

Opinions were divided at the Book Club this month. "The Blind Assassin" is not a quick read and is obviously not for everyone. Some people found it was an effort to read to the end, others simply found it too tedious to finish. Iris Chase is not a very likable character. She frustrates some readers in not taking responsibility for her own life. The plot is complicated, though some described it as predictable.
Other readers found this book absorbing. It is a story of many layers, telling of families and of their secrets and betrayals. Margaret Atwood's descriptions of old age are excellently written. The difficult years of the Great Depression are well documented, as is the political unrest of the time. There are many mysteries and questions but all is eventually revealed. However, you must read right to the end of the book to get all the answers.
"The Blind Assassin" was winner of the 2000 Booker Prize

Reviewed by a local Book Club