Every Sunday I will be recommending a work of fiction or non-fiction written by a woman who has influenced and shaped my intersectional feminist perspective, with special emphasis on women of colour, women in translation, LGBTQ+ women and women of different religions.
Was that the beginning, that evening – on the dock at Avilion, with the fireworks dazzling the sky? It’s hard to know. Beginnings are sudden, but also insidious. They creep up on you sideways, they keep to the shadows, they lurk unrecognised. Then, later, they spring.The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Told from the perspective of 83-year-old Iris Chase Griffen who is writing down her truth for the benefit of a grandchild she hasn’t seen for decades, The Blind Assassin unpacks the difficult and precarious task of remembering. There are, in fact, numerous layers of narrative embedded in this slow-moving, yet incredibly intriguing, tale. Newspaper clippings, family history, revisited childhood memories, excerpts of ‘The Blind Assassin’ – a fictional and scandalous story presumably written by Iris’s sister, Laura, and posthumously published – and the actual blind assassin within this story-within-a-story are all threaded through a narrative that is surprisingly easy to follow. Though each layer adds to the difficulty of trying to form a coherent whole in order to find the ‘truth’, Atwood artfully achieves this seamless narrative, creating a novel that is well-deserving of the Man Booker Prize.
Spanning the breadth of the twentieth century, Iris recalls a time before her and Laura were born. Beginning with the inception of her grandfather’s button-factory – of which they are still reaping the benefits, though in a somewhat declining way – and the romanticised account of her grandmother Adelia, Iris paints a vivid picture of the family home she was brought up in. Witty, bleak and full of wisdom, the narrative is beautiful and the truth of what Iris has to say gains impact as soon as the novel comes to a close.
Margaret Atwood is a Canadian writer, poet and essayist. She has published numerous novels which have also been adapted for the TV. The Blind Assassin won the Booker Prize in 2000.