Set in 1940s in a fictional Canadian town, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood is a novel-within-a-novel. Sounds complicated?? It is!!!
Iris has witnessed her younger sister's death--she "drives her car" off a bridge in Toronto. Officially termed as accidental, this incident plays a pivotal role around which the events in the book gradually unfurl, slowly intertwining into the present day life if Iris.
Flashbacks reveal that after being burdened with the care of her younger sister at the age of nine due to her mother's death, Iris is literally sold into marriage to a rival industrialist by her father who thinks more of saving his family name and industrial repute than the happiness of his daughter.
Years after the death of her younger sister Laura,an elderly and ailing Iris Chase puts pen to paper to record the history of her family, recalling the incidents of her childhood and youth and her unsuccessful marriage to an industrialist and the decline of her family. Being set in the 1940s, major events of Canadian history also form a backdrop to the novel.
And in the novel that Iris pens, in an almost sci-fi plot, she depicts an un-named privileged woman and her lover - a radical agitator. As the plot unfurls touching upon issues of issues of sexual obsession, political tyranny, social justice and class disparity, it is slowly revealed that unlike what most readers perceive, its not Laura - the dead sister, who's the protagonist but Iris herself and that Laura commits suicide upon learning about her sister's affair. This novel is later published in Laura's name.
Atwood's social commentary describes the ways women are used by men and how wealth is used as a weapon by the wealthy. This novel and the novel within, both play with each other, maintaining a distinct uncertainty about who's done what.. to whom.. and why.. making this a very compelling read.