The Blind Assassin
★ Man Booker Prize 2000
UK Bloomsbury Publishing (2000, 521 pages)
Canada McClelland & Stewart Inc
‘Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.’ Thus begins The Blind Assassin , Margaret Atwood’s stunning novel.
Laura Chase’s older sister Iris, married at eighteen to a politically prominent Industrialist but now poor and eighty-two, is living in Port Ticonderoga, a town dominated by their once-prosperous family before the First War. While coping with her unreliable body, Iris reflects on her far from exemplary life, in particular the events surrounding her sister’s tragic death. Chief among these was the publication of The Blind Assassin, a novel which earned the dead Laura Chase not only notoriety but also a devoted cult following: as Iris says, she herself lives ‘in the long shadow cast by Laura’.
Sexually explicit for its time, The Blind Assassin describes a risky affair in the turbulent thirties between a wealthy young woman and a man on the run. During their secret meetings in rented rooms, the lovers concoct a pulp fantasy set on the Planet Zycron. As the invented story twists through love and sacrifice and betrayal, so does the real one, as events in both move closer to war and catastrophe.
By turns lyrical, outrageous, formidable, compelling and funny, this is a novel filled with deep humour and dark drama. It is Margaret Atwood at her breathtaking best.