01 January 2014

The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood

So wonderful. Maggie can't miss, it seems.

This is a complex, multi-layered novel, but not a bit confusing. Atwood tells several stories here, not the least of which is the history of the decade before the outbreak of World War II, and the repression of unions and progressives.

The central characters are sisters, Laura and Iris. Their father is a minor industrialist with a factory near Toronto. Laura, we learn early on, does not live long, but becomes famous posthumously for writing a novel, the title of which is the title of this book. We get segments of the novel-within-a-novel throughout the work. Atwood also uses news clippings (fictional) among the chapters, which switch back and forth in time. All this is done with great skill; one has the impression that this is the way to tell these stories, that no other method would be as satisfying.

Among other lessons, The Blind Assassin teaches us that greed, a lust for power, and the forces of unbridled capitalism have human and individual consequences, some of which are quite specifically illustrated, others hinted at or implied.

Iris and Laura are women, though born into a wealthy family, they are still without power. We see them treated as children at best, and slaves at worst. Since they are both very intelligent and resourceful, they manage to wrest some freedom and self-determination from the world, but not without great cost, especially in Laura's case.

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