I want everyone to read this review with a grain of salt: I am a Margaret Atwood fanboy. I have read many of her works and have never encountered one that I did not enjoy. Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, let me just say this: The Blind Assassin is the best novel I have ever read. Period.
This novel has a main plotline, that of Iris and Laura Chase growing up in the fictional Port Ticonderoga, Ontario, and it is told by Iris Chase near the end of her life. The octogenarian Iris is, as we discover, writing this story down to tell her estranged granddaughter. This alone would be enough to make it into my Top Ten Novels list.
But that’s not all. Interspersed throughout Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin is another novel also titled The Blind Assassin. And this novel-within-the-novel tells the story of two unnamed lovers in desperate situations during World War II. And this alone would be enough to place The Blind Assassin in my Top Five Novels list.
But that’s not all! The unnamed man within The Blind Assassin-within-The Blind Assassin is a pulp sci-fi writer, and throughout the course of the novel-within-the-novel, he tells several science fiction stories to the unnamed woman. The most prominent of these stories is about a blind assassin in the city of Sakiel-Norn on a faraway planet named Zycron.
This is a rare page-turner, a novel that refuses to be put down until you’re finished with it. And it’s the sort of novel that will never let you leave it alone for very long; it must be reread, reexamined. The prose is spot on all the way through. The young Iris’ voice evokes all the puerility of youth while still maintaining its own particular characteristics. The old Iris’ voice is Atwood’s own voice, the introspective and eternally questioning matriarch reminiscing on life. Both of the unnamed lovers’ voices are (somewhat paradoxically) their own unique voice and the voices of all lovers, everywhere.
And it is all of this—all of this and so very much more—that makes The Blind Assassin my favorite novel.