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Kiln People
Beth Meacham, David Brin

The Blind Assassin

The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood I don't read a lot of lit fic, I'm just not wired for it I suppose. Margaret Atwood is a rare exception though, because she often wanders into my sci-fi neighborhood and generally does a splendid job of it so I wanted to check out her lit fic which I imagine is like a day job for her. I chose The Blind Assassin because it won the prestigious Man Booker Prize (Man! Booker Prize!) for the year 2000 so I thought I’d go for that (not that I have ever read any of the past winners).

The Blind Assassin basically concerns Iris Chase and her sister Laura. Their mother died when they were still kids, they are mainly taken care of by their maid/nanny Reenie, their industrialist father being quite useless in the paternal department. After WWII, the father’s business fails and Iris is coerced into marrying a thoroughly unpleasant and untrustworthy but rich businessman named Richard Griffen. Things go from bad to completely pear-shaped for poor Iris and her sis.

My apologies to Ms. Atwood (and Cecily) if the above brief synopsis makes the book sounds like a load of crap. It is hard to synopsize because it is so densely plotted and once you are familiar with the characters everything they do is of some interest, even the most mundane activities like going to the doughnut shop or the toilet. Having said that, none of the characters is particularly likeable. It is a cliché in GR book reviews for the reviewer to complain that none of the characters are likeable, but, in this case, I am not complaining, they don’t need to be likeable if they are interesting. All the characters are vividly drawn, some are even grotesque, and it is fascinating to see what they get up to.

I haven’t even mentioned “the sci-fi bits” yet. They are parts of an improvised and orally narrated story made up “on demand” by an unnamed clandestine lover who is himself a fictional character within the “reality” of the novel. I love sci-fi, but I have to admit the sci-fi bits (they are not even whole chapters) in this book don’t do anything for me, Oryx and Crake Atwood gave a shoutout to Twisted Sister, in The Blind Assassin she mentions Judas Priest a couple of times. This leads me to the conclusion that Margaret Atwood is a headbanger. Awesome!