Review: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

The Blind Assassin opens with these simple, resonant words: “Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.”

They are spoken by Iris, whose terse account of her sister’s death in 1945 is followed by an inquest report proclaiming the death accidental. But just as the reader expects to settle into Laura’s story, Atwood introduces a novel-within-a-novel.

Entitled The Blind Assassin, it is a science fiction story told by two unnamed lovers who meet in dingy backstreet rooms. When we return to Iris, it is through a 1947 newspaper article announcing the discovery of a sailboat carrying the dead body of her husband, a distinguished industrialist. Brilliantly weaving together such seemingly disparate elements, Atwood creates a world of astonishing vision and unforgettable impact.


A historical and contemporary fiction masterpiece, The Blind Assassin is Margaret Atwood’s finest work by far. Encompassing three stories in this one novel, 83-year-old narrator Iris Chase Griffin shares with the reader her dead sister’s controversial novel (published after her suicide), the story of her upbringing (born in 1915, she covers both World Wars and the Great Depression) and the fascinating, but sad, reality of aging. Deeply introspective, Atwood uniquely shapes each of her characters and draws her reader into what life undoubtedly felt like during and after war, the roles of men and women, and the evolution of what it meant to be “proper” in the early twentieth century compared to what is “proper” now.

Overall, this novel is a grand journey that spans close to a hundred years. After the first few chapters I was completely engrossed. What would make a woman in her early twenties write a mystery novel then drive her car off a cliff? How does it feel to see the horrors of war, get severely injured, and then come home to a family that could never possibly understand what you have been through? How does a marriage survive that and how is it seen through the eyes of a child?

This book is a great read and is one that I wish I could read again for the first time! I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in historical fiction novels or loves to get lost in emotionally captivating journeys. It was an intense roller coaster ride with laughs as well as tears, and by the end you feel as if you understand a little bit more about the complexity of life.

  • Genre: Historical Fiction-Contemporary Fiction
  • Demographic: Older YA and up
  • Rating out of five: 5
  • Format: Paperback
  • Find At: The Book Depository
  • Published: 2000

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