With that in mind, today’s answer is The Blind Assassin.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about the degree of difficulty in a novel: what is too much, or too little?
Partly this is on my mind because of the chatter about Anna Burns’ recent Man Booker Prize win for Milkman, reputedly a challenging novel.
And partly because of the varying responses I have seen to Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black, a novel whose careful crafting, all its layers and echoes, can be easily overlooked in favour of reading for story.
Finally, partly because I love puzzle novels but I also want to feel some kind of a connection, even if it is only with a sense of feeling disconnected which is shared by a character.
The Blind Assassin is one of the first instances in which I can recall feeling all-aswim with the story at one point and still managing to negotiate my way through that disorientation.
It begins simply enough, with a narrative which pulls readers into the past, into the story of the Chase sisters. But, eventually, there are not only bits of the past to reconcile with the present-day narrative, but also glimpses of the future. And, even more disturbingly, a future invented, by a character who has been inspired by reading pulp science-fiction novels and stories (much as young Margaret Atwood, herself, was inspired).
These layers of storytelling are intimately and skilfully connected, and what a flush, what a thrill, to have moved from confusion to comprehension with The Blind Assassin.
And, now that I live in the city in which the story opens, I really should reread.
And marvel at it all over again.
And what is your favourite Margaret Atwood?