Review: Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Book Reviews

“Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge”

More than fifty years on, Iris Chase is remembering Laura’s mysterious death. And so begins an extraordinary and compelling story of two sisters and their secrets. Set against a panoramic backdrop of twentieth-century history, The Blind Assassin is an epic tale of memory, intrigue and betrayal…

The Blind Assassin opens with one of the most memorable first lines in literary history. Laura Chase, tragic, strange and famous Laura Chase drove her car off a bridge.In her twilight years, Iris Chase is living on her own, her estranged daughter is dead, her husband too, her granddaughter is somewhere in Africa and wants nothing to do with her grandmother. How did it come to this?

While, at times, the story may be slow – after all, it’s almost a century of family life we’re talking about – Margaret Atwood’s writing is simply divine.   The narrative structure is strange and extraordinary at the same time. The timeline jumps from present-day Iris to the glory days of her family and the tragic years leading up to Laura’s death. Some parts of the story are told through newspaper clippings, others – through a novel inside a novel, written by Laura and published by Iris after her suicide.

We are left to assume that the main characters of the novel in question, called the Blind Assassin, are Laura and Alex Thomas. We are left to assume a lot of things. Without venturing into the spoiler zone, I should say that the ending of the novel is one of the most fulfilling plot twists that I’ve ever read. It radically changed my perception of the main characters and made me fall ardently in love with Margaret Atwood’s writing.

The Blind Assassin is the winner the 2000 Booker Prize.


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