Thursday, 7 June 2012

My thoughts about The Blind Assassin

TThe image is of an amazing paragraph in the book, found at this blog.
(A scheduled blog post, how exciting. If all goes well, I should be in Sweden right now.)

Last year in June I bought three books, which I assumed I'd finish pretty quickly. And for some reason I only ever finished the first book (When God Was A Rabbit, by Sarah Winman), started the second and then I forgot about it. I have read several books since then (perhaps not as many as I would've liked, coursework reading has to take priority above everything else) but the book that I started has just been lying on the bedside table, and I'd only ever read a few pages at a time, once every month.

The book is The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. When I bought the book I had read an extract from Lovereading and I was very excited about it because of the main character who is portrayed by an old woman and it starts with her reminiscing about her sister's death in 1945. It is a difficult story to describe, because there's actually three, no four, stories being told at once. The main character is the narrator, and so we briefly get to follow her currently lonely existence, while she tells us about her and her sister's life in a small town in Canada from WWI to around WWII. Meanwhile, we also get to read chapters out of her sister's controversial book, The Blind Assassin. In The Blind Assassin, the male character also tells a science fiction story (about a blind assassin), as he is a writer by trade. As you might understand, it's quite a thick book. 

The first half is slowly read, partly because not much happens in the old woman's current life (and if you like me have trouble with facing death, it's quite depressing reading as well) and because before she gets into the actually interesting events in her early adulthood, she tells us about her grandparents and parents, and about her childhood. All this is necessary to get a feeling for the her and her sister, who the book is mainly about, but it does make the book quite slow. Her sister's book and the story about the blind assassin are both refreshing to read, breaking up the monotony of the narrator's life. The second half is quickly read, however. Suddenly things start to happen, the different pieces of the story come together a bit more, and you find yourself having a hard time putting the book down. In other words, you might struggle with the first third of the book, but keep going, because it is well worth it. 

It goes without saying that the book is very well-written, and the characters are brilliant. It wasn't the kind of book that you finished and wanted more from, rather I finished it and sighed of relief. It's a story told from the beginning to the end and you're left satisfied. There's a couple of nice quotes that I scribbled down.
"In case you're wondering, vanity never ends." is one of them, p. 355. Isn't that heartbreaking and bittersweet at the same time? I have now started Kafka On The Shore by Hakuri Murakami, the third book that I bought last summer. 

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