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Crescent Blues Book ViewsImage:four moon gifDoubleday (Hardcover), ISBN 0-385-47572-1
For months after Margaret Atwood's Blind Assassin won the 2000 Booker Prize for Fiction I avoided it like green vegetables. I tend to read for entertainment, just as I eat for comfort. Junk food supports my food pyramid; escapist genres bulge out of my bookshelves. But then I read the first sentence: "Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge."

Book: Margery Atwood, Blind assassinAtwood grabbed me by the eyelashes and wouldn't let go. I marvel at the ease with which the author puts pictures and images and complete social commentaries into my mind with just one paragraph. She breaks rules and glues them back together in a way that makes me groan in pleasure. Better than a banana split, she serves cliches sprinkled with irony in this example that leaves me squirming in delight.

"The planning and decoration of this house were supervised by my Grandmother Adelia. She died before I was born, but from what I've heard she was as smooth as silk and as cool as a cucumber, but with a will like a bone saw. Also she went in for Culture, which gave her a certain moral authority. It wouldn't now; but people believed, then, that Culture could make you better -- a better person. They believed it could uplift you, or the women believed it. They hadn't yet seen Hitler at the opera house."

She describes grandma with cliches, speaks of the Victorian Culture and moral authority and then whacks me up side of the head with Hitler at the opera house. So much said! So MUCH SAID!

Tolstoy once noted, "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." The Chase-Griffen family -- the family of sister Laura and Grandmother Adelia -- embodies unhappiness even as it personifies the fall of the aristocracy in the 1930s.

Book: Margery Atwood, A handmaid's TaleAtwood masterfully creates a maze of stories that meander in and around an old woman's life story. She writes with the urgency of one who had much to say and little time to say it. Similar to Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence, the story recounts the life of a young wife, Iris Chase Griffen. Iris writes of family secrets. While she writes her story, Iris introduces readers to a series of illicit romantic encounters, complex relationships and an intriguing tale that could come from The Arabian Nights.

This book talks of romance, love, wealth, politics and greed. It describes old age, obsession, friendship, poverty, aristocracy, power and powerlessness. Atwood even includes suggestions to writers on how to craft their own novels.

Be careful reading this book. It's rich, thought provoking and will stay with you long after you've put it back on the shelf.

Dawn Goldsmith

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