Saturday, August 21, 2010

Spreading the gospel of Margaret

It's not often that I'm asked for book recommendations beyond asking my opinion about The Hunger Games (very favorable, btw). When I am, my go-to rec is "anything by Margaret Atwood," with a particular plug for The Blind Assassin.
(cover loving!)
A few years ago, in between school semesters, I spent my summer devouring any Atwood book placed in my path. She's an author with the amazing ability of creating a complete, believable, and absolutely unique first-person voice for each novel she writes. Her narrators are realized so fully that initially I thought she wrote autobiographical fiction. And while some aspects of her stories are probably autobiographical, Cat's Eye in particular, most of them are simply life stories told by complete, rounded characters.

Many of her books deal with feminist issues, some through realistic fiction and others through science-fiction. One of her most-read titles is The Handmaid's Tale, often referred to as a feminist 1984. While I like The Handmaid's Tale, I think The Blind Assassin is her most interesting and successful combination of genres.

The Blind Assassin is a "novel within a novel," a science fiction/romance book that's broken up and woven between the story of two sisters and their lives in Toronto. The younger sister dies as a young woman, but becomes a beloved literary celebrity when her science-fiction/romance book is published posthumously. Her novel is interspersed between the voice of the oldest sister, now an old woman, explaining her decisions and coming clean about all the mistakes she's made. It's extremely engaging - the stories are placed together and combined perfectly.

All of this is to say that a patron read The Blind Assassin on my recommendation and came in to tell me about how much he loved it/Margaret Atwood. It made me feel happy and I decided that I've picked the right career.