Book Review – The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

For this review I have the pleasure of introducing Patrisya M., whom I have collaborated with to exchange book recommendations and reviews with. The hyperlink will take you to her website, where you will find my review for Small Island by Andrea Levy, which Patrisya had recommended for me. Below is her review of my recommendation, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. Hope you enjoy!

Iris and her younger sister, Laura, grew up in well-off family in small town in Canada. Since early childhood Iris took care of Laura and was always that responsible one. When their father’s business faced financial difficulties Iris was the one who saved the family by sacrificing her own happiness. As an elderly woman, she reveals the shocking details of her life.

In the beginning, I thought the book was badly written but with each page I was finding it more and more interesting. Through a complex plot, the author created stories within the story. The book also has a very unique narration. In fact, the author made several narration layers which leaves the reader speechless. Moreover, the past is mixed with the present on some pages. When the author goes into the details of Iris’ childhood, at some moment everything is twisted and she reveals the facts that in other books would be dedicated for the end of the story! It is a kind of spoiler provided by the author herself.

Atwood always focuses on women in her work. Iris and Laura represent two different types of women. Since early childhood, Iris had to take care of her sister. She was always that responsible one. On the other hand, Laura had her head in the clouds most of the time and she saw the world differently from most other people. While Iris would chose safe and comfortable options, Laura would passionately risk all her life to do what she believed was right. She was never afraid to speak up, to express her believes, which for those around her were shocking and unacceptable.

Iris’s behavior symbolized conduct that was expected from women those times (the beginning and mid-20th century): to be fully submissive to men. Laura was what people hated the most: different and rebellious.

There is a third strong female character, Reenie, the Chase family’s housekeeper. She added a bit of humor to the otherwise devastating and gloomy story. Through her comical “life wisdom” she voiced the truths about our societies.

The stories of two sisters show the position and role of women in society in the past. They were expected to look good and smile. In other words, women were supposed to be nothing more than accessories for men. Nobody expected from them to be smart and to think for themselves. What men thought was absolutely enough.

Atwood put strong emphasis on misogyny. Iris’s husband hated her and treated her like she did not mean anything, like she was not a human being. People usually think that misogyny is attributed to men. No, it is not only men’s thing; women can be misogynist too. Iris’ sister- in- law did not have any respect for Iris. She discriminated and humiliated Iris her whole life. I deeply appreciated the author for touching upon this subject, which is a timeless and intrinsic problem around the world.

Margaret Atwood is one of those authors that are difficult to understand. There is not one interpretation of her words because there is not one meaning. You need to read between the lines and still you cannot be sure you got her right. She plays with your feelings and shocks you in at least expected moment. Atwood’s writing is enigmatic and leaves you speechless.

Patrick, thank you for the book recommendation and for hosting me on your blog!

You can find Patrick’s review of Small Island by Andrea Levy here

This has been a gamobo exchange. If you’d like swap book/movie recommendations and reviews, feel free to leave a comment or contact me! Thanks for reading.


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