The Blind Assassin

blind assassinAbout four years ago I was staying with friends in Swansea, Wales.  I was in need of some reading material and my friend had a shelf in her bookshelf devoted to her very favorite books.  I picked The Blind Assassin to start reading.  Start is the key word here.  I loved the book, but could only get through the first 100 pages.

I meant to pick up a copy of the book and finish it, but never came across a copy in a second hand bookstore.  Sure, I could get it out of the library, but I knew reading the book was going to be a battle and it was going to take some time.  And, the longer I waited the more I needed to start again at the beginning.

I was so right.  This book took almost two months to read.  I was really thankful that I had the memory of loving the first 100 pages as I found it really hard to get through the second time.

Here’s the thing, I don’t like science fiction.  I generally can’t follow it and lose interest quickly.

The Blind Assassin intertwines three stories.  The narrator, Iris, moves back and forth between the present and earlier in her life.  Added to that are parts of a book about a blind assassin set in some alternative world.   I was fine as long as the book stayed with Iris past or present.  The writing was fantastic and I really enjoyed reading as she worked through the suicide of her sister.  Then it would switch to the other book and I was fight the urge to nod off.

Hanging over all of this was the feeling that I should love this book.  It’s a Canadian classic.  I must love Margaret Atwood.  She’s a great Canadian writer and I’ve loved her interviews.  The book won an award.  Jurors chose this book over all others that year.  This is a lot of pressure, particularly when at least 1/3 of the book is in a genre I really don’t like.

I love Atwood’s descriptions.  I love her turns of phrases.  I love the plot twists.  Atwood writes women really well.  Iris and her sister Laura are great characters.  I felt I knew them and yet they still kept me guessing.

I know that this is a great book.   It’s just a great book that I don’t understand 1/3 of it.  My loss I guess.  I’m so glad I finished the book.  It felt like a huge victory to reach the last page.


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