Review of "The Blind Assassin" by Margaret Atwood - A Multifaceted Tale of Love, Loss, and Literary Wizardry

21 July 2023
Margaret Atwood's "The Blind Assassin" is a mesmerizing tour de force that enchants readers with its intricate narrative, compelling characters, and thought-provoking themes. Published in 2000, the novel has garnered widespread critical acclaim and solidified Atwood's position as a literary icon. 

Within the pages of "The Blind Assassin," readers are transported to a world where reality and fiction intermingle, and secrets unfold like a delicate origami. As we delve into this review, we shall uncover the brilliance of Atwood's storytelling, the complexity of her characters, and the layers of meaning that reverberate long after the final page is turned.

Set in the post-World War II era, "The Blind Assassin" revolves around the life of Iris Chase Griffen, an elderly woman reflecting on her past. The novel opens with a heartbreaking revelation: Iris's sister, Laura, tragically committed suicide at a young age. As Iris grapples with grief, her narrative intertwines with newspaper clippings and excerpts from Laura's science fiction novel, the titular "The Blind Assassin."

These layers of storytelling immerse readers in a tale of forbidden love, political unrest, and a clandestine affair between Laura and Alex Thomas, the enigmatic blind assassin. As the novel unfolds, we journey through decades of family secrets, political intrigue, and ultimately, a compelling exploration of the blurred lines between truth and fiction.

the blind assassin margaret atwood

Atwood's mastery of character development shines through the portrayal of Iris Chase and her complex relationship with her deceased sister, Laura. Iris, as the novel's primary protagonist, emerges as a multidimensional character, stoic yet vulnerable, navigating the trials of a loveless marriage and societal expectations.

Her interactions with Laura, both past and present, are tender and fraught with unresolved emotions. Laura, on the other hand, exudes a rebellious spirit, seeking solace in her clandestine romance with Alex Thomas. Their love story unfolds within Laura's science fiction novel, a captivating tale of interstellar lovers forbidden to be together. As we delve deeper into their parallel narratives, we witness the intertwining of reality and imagination, further blurring the boundaries between the characters' lives and their literary creations.

"The Blind Assassin" stands as a testament to Atwood's unparalleled creativity, as she masterfully employs a multi-layered narrative structure to construct her literary masterpiece. The novel seamlessly weaves together various storytelling techniques, blurring the lines between past and present, truth and fiction. Iris's memoir serves as the primary framework, inviting readers to explore her recollections of her life alongside the evolving mystery of Laura's death. 

Through newspaper clippings, readers gain insights into the political and social landscape of the times, complementing the larger themes of societal upheaval and the entanglement of the personal and the political. Moreover, Laura's science fiction novel, interwoven within the main narrative, introduces a metafictional element that challenges readers to question the nature of storytelling and the relationship between author and audience.

Atwood's exploration of profound themes elevates "The Blind Assassin" to a work of literary brilliance. Central themes, such as love and betrayal, female agency, and the power of storytelling, resonate with readers on a deeply emotional level. Love, in its various forms, shapes the destinies of the characters, driving them towards unexpected actions and consequences. 

Betrayal, both personal and political, is portrayed with heartbreaking authenticity, illustrating the devastating ripple effects it creates. Moreover, the novel delves into the complexities of female agency, deftly illustrating how societal constraints impact the choices women make. Symbolism abounds throughout the novel, with the enigmatic figure of the blind assassin serving as an allegory for hidden truths and the blurred line between hero and villain. The science fiction tale within the story serves as a powerful reflection of the characters' innermost desires and fears, elevating the novel to a multi-layered exploration of the human psyche.

Margaret Atwood's writing style is nothing short of enchanting. Her prose is lush with vivid imagery and evocative descriptions, painting a vivid picture of the novel's settings and characters. The language she employs is both eloquent and accessible, allowing readers to immerse themselves effortlessly in the world she has created. Atwood's ability to craft sentences that resonate with emotional depth is evident throughout the novel, compelling readers to reflect on the complexities of the human experience. Her exploration of memory, through Iris's memoir, is especially poignant, as she elegantly captures the nuances of recollection and the malleability of the past.

Set against the backdrop of post-World War II Canada, "The Blind Assassin" touches upon significant social and historical issues. Atwood deftly weaves themes of class struggle, feminism, and the impact of war on society into the narrative, offering a profound commentary on the human condition. The novel sheds light on the struggles faced by women during this period, exposing the societal expectations that limited their choices and opportunities. Moreover, the political events of the time are skillfully integrated into the story, providing a backdrop of societal unrest and political intrigue that heightens the novel's tension.

"The Blind Assassin" received widespread critical acclaim upon its release and continues to be celebrated as one of Margaret Atwood's most remarkable works. Its profound exploration of complex themes and its inventive narrative structure earned it the prestigious Booker Prize (as did Atwood's The Testaments), solidifying Atwood's reputation as a literary luminary. Over the years, the novel has left an indelible mark on the literary world, inspiring readers and fellow authors alike to contemplate the power of storytelling and the enduring impact of hidden truths.

In conclusion, "The Blind Assassin" is an extraordinary literary achievement that captivates readers with its layered storytelling, compelling characters, and profound themes. Margaret Atwood's ability to blur the lines between reality and fiction, while delving deep into the human psyche, is a testament to her brilliance as a storyteller. 

Through Iris's poignant memoir, Laura's captivating science fiction tale, and the overarching themes that resonate long after the final page, Atwood crafts a mesmerizing tapestry that explores the intricacies of love, loss, and the power of words. "The Blind Assassin" stands as a timeless classic, continuing to bewitch and inspire readers across generations.

Check out Atwood's other famous novel, The Handmaiden's Tale.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

At The Astromech, you can expect to find a variety of articles, reviews, and analysis related to science fiction, including books, movies, TV, and games.
From exploring the latest news and theories to discussing the classics, I aim to provide entertaining and informative content for all fans of the genre.

Whether you are a die-hard Star Trek fan or simply curious about the world of science fiction, The Astromech has something for everyone. So, sit back, relax, and join me on this journey through the stars!
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