Laura Chase's older sister Iris, married at eighteen to a politically prominent industrialist but now poor and eighty-two, is living in Port Ticonderoga, a town dominated by their once-prosperous family before the First War. While coping with her unreliable body, Iris reflects on her far from exemplary life, in particular the events surrounding her sister's tragic death. Chief among these was the publication of The Blind Assassin, a novel which earned the dead Laura Chase not only notoriety but also a devoted cult following.
Sexually explicit for its time, The Blind Assassin describes a risky affair in the turbulent thirties between a wealthy young woman and a man on the run. During their secret meetings in rented rooms, the lovers concoct a pulp fantasy set on Planet Zycron. As the invented story twists through love and sacrifice and betrayal, so does the real one; while events in both move closer to war and catastrophe.
By turns lyrical, outrageous, formidable, compelling and funny, this is a novel filled with deep humour and dark drama.
'The Blind Assassin' is the title of Margaret Atwood's 15th novel; it is also the title of the cult novel written by one of its characters, Laura Chase, posthumously published by her sister Iris. As you might guess from this, Atwood's novel is about how stories console us, and mislead us. It is also about the crimes wrought, consciously and unconsciously, by Love. Laura's death is a mystery that keeps us tantalized for over 500 pages - but is it accident, suicide or murder? This rich and marvellous novel is, like Alias Grace, partly a thriller, but its complex layers explore capitalism and communism, sisterhood and betrayal, life and art. Iris the narrator dilates and contracts as she tells us about the Chase family, whose rise and fall is spread out for the better part of a century. The Chase sisters' girlhood under the care of the redoubtable Reenie is one of the best things Atwood has ever written. Iris is forced into learning the ways of the world, but Laura is the moral touchstone of the novel, at once funny and tragic. Interwoven with Iris's narrative are hilarious extracts from newspapers of the time, describing the life of the Canadian haute bourgeoisie, and the altogether darker passages from The Blind Assassin, in which a wealthy young woman has a passionate love affair with a Communist man on the run. Their assignations are spiced by the science fiction stories he tells her - which, cruel, crude and exotic, she clings to as hope and sanity collapse. 'It's loss and regret and misery and yearning that drive the story forward,' Iris tells us - but it's also Atwood's sublime prose which transforms the pulp SF story, the thriller and the family saga into art. Reviewed by Amanda Craig. Editor's Note: Amanda Craig is the author of In a Dark Wood. Marina Warner says of The Blind Assassin: It's a short three years since Alias Grace, and unbelievably, Atwood has produced another tour de force of psychological insight and storytelling. This novel's more self-consciously writerly, and, in interesting ways, more challenging: Atwood has cunningly nested a book-within-a book-within-a-book in a flourishing display of styles, and the novel resonates with the evident glee the author had in her dexterity. She's parodied sci-fi comics of the 1920s, out of Poe via H P Lovecraft, embedded these sinister and hilarious fantasies in an account of a sulphurous love affair (borrowed pink towels, smoke-filled hotel rooms, dodgy parts of town), and at the same created a richly detailed, characteristically tough-minded study of the aspiring bourgeoisie of provincial, colonial Canada and the coming of the new men and the new money. The novel prickles with Atwood's usual wit (and even malice), but she strikes deep, unexpected notes of empathy and even gentleness as she untangles the lives and rivalrous love of the two sisters at the heart of the book, Iris and Laura Chase. Atwood goes from strength to strength: I liked The Blind Assassin better than any of her books, and I've long admired her. (Kirkus UK)
Number Of Pages: 656
Published: October 2009
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Dimensions (cm): 19.7 x 12.9 x 4.1
Weight (kg): 0.51
Edition Number: 1