Why is it we want so badly to memorialize ourselves? Even while we’re still alive. We wish to assert our existence, like dogs peeing on fire hydrants. We put on display our framed photographs, our parchment diplomas, our silver-plated cups; we monogram our linen, we carve our names on trees, we scrawl them on washroom walls. It’s all the same impulse. What do we hope from it? Applause, envy, respect? Or simply attention, of any kind we can get? At the very least we want a witness. We can’t stand the idea of our own voices falling silent finally, like a radio running down. -From The Blind Assassin, page 95-
In Margaret Atwood’s Booker Prize winning novel The Blind Assassin, we are treated to a novel which is a story within a story – a memorial of sorts to the life of two women…Iris Chase Griffin and her sister Laura. The novel opens with the death of Laura…and a mystery. Atwood builds her story through a series of newspaper clippings, flashbacks from Iris’ perspective on her life, and a piece of fiction about a man and a woman and the story they weave.
True to Atwood’s style, the characters are painstakingly created and come alive on the page. No less detailed, Atwood constructs a small town setting within the bigger context of World War II. The result is a tale Gothic in feel, full of shadowy half truths and complex relationships which come together for a satisfying finish.
To give more detail about the novel would be to reveal spoilers – and so I will simply say “Read it.” Atwood is a brilliant novelist that continues to amaze me with her scope and talent.