Sunday, January 29, 2012

This book changed my life. No, seriously.

"Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge."
Thus begins "The Blind Assassin" by Margaret Atwood. It pretty much goes downhill from there, at least for Iris Griffen, an elderly woman from a once prominent family in Port Ticonderoga, Canada. The book is a memoir of her and her sister's life beginning in the 1920s. More accurately, its an expanation for her granddaughter, whom never speaks to her. Iris and Laura's life is fraught with hardships, from their Mother's death, to the market collapse, wars, marriage, and other unspeakable things I wont give away. The book jumps between the life of Iris now and her life then, mostly in chronological order. There is also a novel within a novel, written by two lovers in back alleys and seedy hotels. You're not really sure who they are, and as the book progresses, more and more clues are dropped so you think you know, but then something else happens to question your theory. There's a lot of mystery to be solved.
Honestly, its been a long time since I've read a novel that has grabbed my attention so completely. I snatched every available moment to read the 500+ pages as fast as possible. The characters are endearing and your heart breaks for them again and again. There isnt much happiness to be had for these sisters. Atwood has an incredible way with words. Her descriptions paint an exact picture without being excessive, which can sometimes bog down a story. Its like I say to Chase, "Too many words!! Just spit it out!" There is just such a beautiful usage here, almost like poetry, but without the fluff. Make sense? Apparently, I havent mastered this skill.
Yes, you'll cry. A lot. But you'll laugh as well. There are some great moments of humor for Iris, as a youth and in her old age. And in the end, there's hope. This is a book I would read again, and there are not many I can say that about. I also did something else I dont usually do while reading: scramble for a pen. I read one particular line over and over and in the end I had to highlight it. This will be my motto; how I want to be as a writer:
"The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it."
To write without fear of judgement, that is what I want to strive for. To first please myself, and afterwards others.
If I feel like it.

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