Book for April 2004
The work was awarded the Man Booker Prize in 2000 and the Hammett Prize in 2001. It was also nominated for Governor General's Award in 2000, Orange Prize for Fiction, and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2002. Time Magazine named it the best novel of 2000 and included it in its list of the 100 greatest English-language novels since 1923.
The novel centres on the protagonist, Iris Chase, and her sister Laura, who committed suicide shortly after the Second World War ended. Iris, now an old woman, recalls the events and relationships of her childhood, youth and middle age, as well as her unhappy marriage to Richard Griffen, a rival of her industrialist father. Interwoven into the novel is a story within a story, a roman à clef attributed to Laura and published by Iris about Alex Thomas, a politically radical author of pulp science fiction who has an ambiguous relationship with the sisters. That novel itself contains a story within a story, the eponymous Blind Assassin, a science fiction story told by Alex's fictional counterpart to that novel's protagonist, believed to be Laura's fictional counterpart.
The novel takes the form of a gradual revelation, illuminating both Iris' youth and her old age before coming to the pivotal events of her and Laura's lives around the time of the Second World War. As the novel unfolds, and the novel-within-a-novel becomes ever more obviously inspired by real events, it is revealed that Iris, not Laura, is the novel-within-a-novel's true author and protagonist. Though the novel-within-a-novel had long been believed to be inspired by Laura's romance with Alex, it is revealed that The Blind Assassin was written by Iris based on her extramarital affair with Alex. She later published the work in Laura's name after Laura committed suicide upon learning of their affair. The novel ends with Iris posthumously leaving the truth to be discovered in the form of an unpublished autobiography left to her sole surviving granddaughter.
The book is set in the fictional Ontario town of Port Ticonderoga and in the Toronto of the 1930s and 1940s. It is a work of historical fiction with the major events of Canadian history forming an important backdrop to the novel. Greater verisimilitude is given through a series of newspaper articles that comment on events and on the novel's characters from a distance.
Atwood is also the inventor, and developer, of the LongPen and associated technologies that facilitate the remote robotic writing of documents. She is the Co-Founder and a Director of Syngrafii Inc. (formerly Unotchit Inc.), a company that she started in 2004 to develop, produce and distribute the LongPen technology.She holds various patents related to the LongPen technologies.