The Blind Assassin

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The Blind Assassin
Novel the blind assassin cover.jpg
First edition cover
Author Margaret Atwood
Country Canada
Language English
Genre Historical fiction
Publisher McClelland and Stewart
Publication date
September 2, 2000
Media type Print (paperback and hardback), audio-CD
Pages 536pp
ISBN 0-385-47572-1
OCLC 45202107
813/.54 21
LC Class PR9199.3.A8 B55 2000c

The Blind Assassin is a novel by the Canadian writer Margaret Atwood. It was first published by McClelland and Stewart in 2000. Set in Canada, it is narrated from the present day, referring back to events that span the twentieth century.

The work was awarded the Man Booker Prize in 2000 and the Hammett Prize in 2001. It was also nominated for Governor General's Award in 2000, Orange Prize for Fiction, and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2002.[1] Time magazine named it the best novel of 2000 and included it in its list of the 100 greatest English-language novels since 1923.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

The novel centres on the protagonist, Iris Chase, and her sister Laura, who grow up well-off but motherless in a small town in Southern Ontario. As an old woman, Iris recalls the events and relationships of her childhood, youth and middle age, including her unhappy marriage to Toronto businessman Richard Griffen.

The novel takes the form of a gradual revelation illuminating both Iris' youth and her old age before coming to the pivotal events of her and Laura's lives around the time of the Second World War.

The book is set in the fictional Ontario town of Port Ticonderoga and in the Toronto of the 1930s and 1940s. It is a work of historical fiction with the major events of Canadian history forming an important backdrop. Greater verisimilitude is given by a series of newspaper articles commenting on events and on the novel's characters from a distance.

Main characters[edit]

  • Iris Chase Griffen: The narrator and protagonist of the tale.
  • Laura Chase: Iris' sister, whose suicide opens the book and who is named as the author of the novel within.
  • Richard E. Griffen: Iris's ruthless, older husband with political ambitions.
  • Winifred Griffen Prior: Iris' fashionable, manipulative, and social-climbing sister-in-law.
  • Alex Thomas: A young author with Communist sympathies who has an affair with Iris and is one of the protagonists in the novel within.
  • Cpt. Norval Chase: The father of Iris and Laura. After being seriously injured in World War I and later widowed, he begrudgingly runs the family button business while descending into alcoholism and depression.
  • Reenie: The loyal Chase family housekeeper who becomes like a mother to Iris and Laura.
  • Myra Sturgess: Reenie's daughter, who later aids Iris in her old age.

Reception[edit]

Reception was mixed. A reviewer for Salon described the book as a "cunning tale" "sketched with Atwood’s trademark dark humor and deft hand."[3] The Christian Science Monitor critic commented on "Atwood's crisp wit and steely realism" and said the book "brilliantly ... works to flesh out the dime-novel culture of the 1930s and to emphasize the precarious position of women."[4] The The New York Times critic was unimpressed, calling the book "overlong and badly written".[5] The Guardian was less negative but characterized the book as a "romantic tale" with political elements bolted on.[6]

The novel was awarded the Man Booker Prize in 2000 and the Hammett Prize in 2001. It was also nominated for Governor General's Award in 2000, Orange Prize for Fiction, and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2002.[7] Time magazine named it the best novel of 2000 and included it in its list of the 100 greatest English-language novels since 1923.[8]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Disgrace
Booker Prize recipient
2000
Succeeded by
True History of the Kelly Gang