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Anne Shulock 38_The Blind Assassin.jpg

A Preview of This Month's Pajiba Book Club Selection

By Jen K. | Books | April 12, 2010 |

By Jen K. | Books | April 12, 2010 |

This month, I have the honor of hosting the book club, and I admit, writing the preview for Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin is a bit more daunting than I expected. Every time I started to write something, I realized I was writing more of a review than an introduction or preview. On the one hand, it is a very straight forward novel; on the other hand, it has several layers that reveal themselves as the novel progresses and it is hard to know how much to say without giving it away or how to little to say and still make it sound interesting. Not even the structure is straightforward: there are newspaper clippings inserted throughout, and there is a story within a novel within a memoir.

Margaret Atwood’s most famous work may well be The Handmaid’s Tale, sometimes described as a feminist 1984. Many of her other novels revolve around women’s friendships and interactions, and this novel is no exception. She is a feminist and her socio-political views often show through in her writing. Focusing on two sisters, Laura and Iris Chase, the novel intersperses newspaper clippings and excerpts of Laura’s sci-fi romance novel with Iris’s memoirs, written over 50 years after her sister’s death and the actions of this novel. In ways, there are no surprises — within the first 15 pages, it is established that Laura drove her car off the road in 1945, that Iris married an older man named Richard Griffen and that he died two years after the war. The tension in the novel comes not from wanting to know how everything ends but a desire to find out why it ended as it did. Various people online referred to the “whodunit” structure of the novel, but I read it more as a family drama.

Another word that I saw associated with this novel quite a lot was Gothic fiction. While reading this, it might help to compare this to other examples of Gothic fiction, and the general themes. I know when I think Gothic fiction, my first thought is “dark castle in the middle of nowhere, controlling man, victimized woman/girl, and mysterious background.” While I can definitely see the label apply, I’ll leave it up to all of who to determine whether or not you agree with it.

I knew basically nothing about this novel the first time I picked it up, and I loved it. I don’t want to give too much more detail because while I have a lot to say about this novel, I also want to let everyone experience it on their own without feeling like there is something they aren’t getting or should be looking for, and instead of just enjoying the journey that Atwood takes us on. I am looking forward to see what everyone thinks about this. It’s not a cliff-hanger page turner, but it is a beautiful novel.

This month’s book club discussion will take place on Friday, April 30th, and hopefully, it will extend well into the weekend.

The May selection is A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments by David Foster Wallace.

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.