I managed to crack through this 600+ page novel in just under a week; this was largely due to the extra reading time afforded me by having to catch the train to London and back each day last week, but  I also must admit that this is a gripping and brilliant read.

When you’re young, you think everything you do is disposable. You move from now to now, crumpling time up in your hands, tossing it away. You’re your own speeding car. You think you can get rid of things, and people too—leave them behind. You don’t yet know about the habit they have, of coming back.

The Blind Assassin is my first Margret Atwood novel (though I do have The Handmaid’s Tale and Surfacing temptingly sat on my shelves…). It is a difficult book to describe – a real mixture of different genres all bundled up together, each strand full of mystery and intrigue.

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

At first glance the novel appears to be the life story of Iris Griffin, the grand-daughter of a well known and once prominent industrialist. We learn about Iris’s family, her early years growing up with her sister, Laura, in their father’s large house, whilst he was off running the family button factory. Later we learn of the early death of their mother and its impact on the two girls, and of the decline in fortunes of the button business.  We then follow the course of Iris’s life as she gets older, covering her marriage of convenience to the newly-rich Richard Griffen, her entrance into high society, the birth of her daughter, separation and old age.

Interspersed with all of this there are newspaper cuttings, detailing various significant events of the time, often linked in some way to Iris’s family, yet also encompassing a fair slice of twentieth century history in the process. Plus there is the intense unfolding love story between a young political radical and an unnamed wealthy lady. This section itself includes the unfolding of a story which Alex, the young socialist, tells in instalments to his love, about an alien race on a distant planet, where blind assassins roam around, hired to kill off other citizens.

If my potted summary is a little disjointed, Margaret Atwood’s novel certainly isn’t. The book unfolds brilliantly, offering the reader more pieces of the jigsaw as it goes along; with later events often enabling earlier ones to be re-interpreted, often poignantly. A really beautiful piece of writing.