Author: Margaret AtwoodEdition: PaperbackRating: 5 Stars
This is a book that's so out of my regular genre it's a wonder I even picked it up. This year, on campus, I joined the book club, and this was what they picked to read. I was a little wary because it didn't exactly sound like my favorite thing to read, but hey, it's won a bunch of awards so it's probably pretty good. And I can guarantee that it is pretty good! But, it's definitely not for everyone.
The book starts with the narrator's sister driving her car off the road and dying. That's more or less the first line of the novel. From that point on, the story is told in a number of ways. There's the chapters from the book that the main character's sister wrote, the book being called "The Blind Assassin" and within this fictional book is another fictional book. There are also newspaper clippings and announcements that help fill in the holes that the story really doesn't get to tell. And then there's the main character's story- Iris- who tells both about her present day life as an old woman and the history of her family in the novel she is writing. That's a lot of threads, and at first it's hard to follow and a little annoying to be switching in between plots so often. As the story progresses, this becomes less of a problem as the reader begins to figure out there are ties between everything.
There aren't really "likable" characters in this book. There are a lot of characters you want to like, but everyone has at least one flaw that prevents them from becoming truly lovable by the reader. Which i didn't mind at all. It came off as realistic and stylistic. Less the author saying no one is perfect and more the author saying, because of their situations, these characters can't be perfect, and I liked that. Because it centers around Iris and her sister Laura, they were my favorites in the book. The way other characters treated them made me extremely sympathetic to them. They were also an interesting window into the life of the upper class during that time period.
The plot is also slow and meandering. It's supposed to be since it's more a narrative of a life and lives don't tend to have narrative arcs or they seem more fantastical and this wanted to be grounded in reality. Because of the slow plot, I don't recommend reading this quickly. It took me about four weeks to read this book, and that was a good length of time to get through it without being either overwhelmed or underwhelmed. Don't rush through this one, actually take the time to enjoy it's small pleasures and the wonderful writing.
TL;DR? It's not the perfect book for everyone, but if you have the time and patience you'll enjoy the flawed characters and wandering plot.