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The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

The Blind Assassin (original 2000; edition 2000)

by Margaret Atwood

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11,361None240 (3.94)784
Title:The Blind Assassin
Authors:Margaret Atwood
Info:Nan A. Talese (2000), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 544 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:read2012, Iris, Laura, siblings

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The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (2000)

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English (267)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  Finnish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (271)
Showing 1-5 of 267 (next | show all)
A book I remember vividly long after I finished reading it. ( )
  LisaFoxRomance | Apr 6, 2014 |
Amazing Atwood! It took me a long time to get into this book, I started it several times before I was actually able to commit to it. Radically different from my favorite Atwood (Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake), it still carries similar themes of women raging against oppression of their time. The historical setting makes it especially poignant. ( )
1 vote steadfastreader | Mar 18, 2014 |
A long, long novel about inadequacy and incompetence. None of the protagonists presented seem to have any grip on their lives at all. I never read any novel of this length with so many inept characters. All of them are so frantically biased and prejudiced, that it becomes difficult to take them completely serious. Worst is the characterisation of husband Richard, a thoroughly one-dimensional person, something which Atwood at the end of the novel admits herself. She offers an apology for this at the very end of the text, which is at least some kind of consolation.
The architecture of the novel is a shambles, or, more positively viewed, a sprawling puzzle. It takes more than half of the text to finally discover some structure. There is a parody of a science fiction story woven into this, told by the ‘revolutionary’ and illicit lover of main character Iris, so commonplace that it defies description. Perhaps the fractured structure is an analogy of the attempts of Iris trying to bring some order into her memories.
On the positive side there is the easily flowing language and the (as always) surprisingly well-chosen metaphors (without which the novel would be unreadable) showing great insight and quite a lot of fine seasonal descriptions too.
Undoubtedly Atwood can write very well, but with this overload of ineptitude and impotence in the characters, it’s hardly a rewarding read. Probably she tries to be ‘honest’ about them, but too much is too much, no matter how noble the motives. ( )
1 vote karamazow | Mar 18, 2014 |
I don't know why I keep trying to read and like Atwood. ( )
  CaliSoleil | Mar 5, 2014 |
I loved this book, there's just something about the authors writing, where I can just lose myself in reading, and this book was no exception. There were multiple times while reading this book I was completely immersed in the story, forgetting everything around me, and just enjoying a spectacular read.

Iris, as a character was one I enjoyed a lot. She was bitter at times, but witty and I think her narrative was a very fitting one for the book. I enjoyed her a lot as a character, far more than I expected to. She was hard to like a times, but that worked for the book. She was a well written character, and she was one that was fully fleshed out. She was also a memorable character, even after you've finished the book, she's a character that sticks with you, and I think using Iris as the narrator, really helped make the book as good as it was.

The book was a long one, which covers a long period of time and often jumps around from past to present. It was also very complex on how all the components of the book are written and slowly pulled together, particularly with having the story within the story. But I think this aspect of the book was executed wonderfully. All aspects of the story flowed together nicely and naturally, and I think having the story within the story, something I was initially worried I wouldn't like, worked out amazingly. Although, I did prefer the main storyline, I think the author did fantastic job at creating the second plot, and merging into the main part of the book.

I also enjoyed just how complex the book became. With everything that was revealed at the end, some of which I had guessed at, some of which ended up being a clever twist, it all came together creating an excellent reading experience.

Overall, this was an absolutely stunning book, one that has me wanting more, and despite the size of the book, this is one I'd likely re-read again at some point in time.

Also found on my book review blog Jules' Book Reviews - The Blind Assassin ( )
1 vote bookwormjules | Mar 1, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 267 (next | show all)
Margaret Atwood poses a provocative question in her new novel, "The Blind Assassin." How much are the bad turns of one's life determined by things beyond our control, like sex and class, and how much by personal responsibility? Unlike most folks who raise this question so that they can wag their finger -- she's made her bed, and so on -- Atwood's foray into this moral terrain is complex and surprising. Far from preaching to the converted, Atwood's cunning tale assumes a like-minded reader only so that she can argue, quite persuasively, from the other side.
added by stephmo | editSalon.com, Karen Houppert (Dec 12, 2000)
In her tenth novel, Margaret Atwood again demonstrates that she has mastered the art of creating dense, complex fictions from carefully layered narratives, making use of an array of literary devices - flashbacks, multiple time schemes, ambiguous, indeterminate plots - and that she can hook her readers by virtue of her exceptional story-telling skills. The Blind Assassin is not a book that can easily be put to one side, in spite of its length and the fact that its twists and turns occasionally try the patience; yet it falls short of making the emotional impact that its suggestive and slippery plot at times promises.
added by stephmo | editThe Guardian, Alex Clark (Sep 30, 2000)
Ms. Atwood's absorbing new novel, ''The Blind Assassin,'' features a story within a story within a story -- a science-fiction yarn within a hard-boiled tale of adultery within a larger narrative about familial love and dissolution. The novel is largely unencumbered by the feminist ideology that weighed down such earlier Atwood novels as ''The Edible Woman'' and ''The Handmaid's Tale,'' and for the most part it is also shorn of those books' satiric social vision. In fact, of all the author's books to date, ''The Blind Assassin'' is most purely a work of entertainment -- an expertly rendered Daphne du Maurieresque tale that showcases Ms. Atwood's narrative powers and her ardent love of the Gothic.
In her ingenious new tale of love, rivalry, and deception, The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood interweaves several genres — a confessional memoir, a pulp fantasy novel, newspaper clippings — to tease out the secrets behind the 1945 death of 25-year-old socialite Laura Chase.
Nearly 20 years ago, in speaking of her craft, the novelist Margaret Atwood observed that ''a character in a book who is consistently well behaved probably spells disaster for the book.'' She might have asserted the more general principle that consistent anything in a character can prove tedious. If we apply the old Forsterian standard that round characters are ones ''capable of surprising in a convincing way,'' Atwood's new novel, for all its multilayered story-within-a-story-within-a-story construction, must be judged flat as a pancake. In ''The Blind Assassin,'' overlong and badly written, our first impressions of the dramatis personae prove not so much lasting as total.

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Margaret Atwoodprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dionne, MargotNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tarkka, HannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Imagine the monarch Agha Mohammad Khan, who orders the entire population of the city of Kerman murdered or blinded -- no exceptions. His praetorians set energetically to work. They line up the inhabitants, slice off the heads of the adults, gouge out the eyes of the children. . . . Later, processions of blinded children leave the city. Some, wandering around in the countryside, lose their way in the desert and die of thirst. Other groups reach inabited settlements...singing songs about the extermination of the citizens of Kerman. . . .

-- Ryszard Kapuściński

I swam, the sea was boundless, I saw no shore.
Tanit was merciless, my prayers were answered.
O you who drown in love, remember me.

-- Inscription on a Carthaginian Funerary Urn

The word is a flame burning in a dark glass.

-- Sheila Watson
First words
Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.
Farewells can be shattering, but returns are surely worse. Solid flesh can never live up the bright shadow cast by its absence.
What virtue was once attached to this notion - of going beyond your strength, of not sparing yourself, of ruining your health! Nobody is born with that kind of selflessness: it can be acquired only by the most relentless discipline, a crushing-out of natural inclination, and by my time the knack or secret of it must have been lost.
I'm sorry, I'm just not interested.
Or perhaps she's just softening me up: she's a Baptist, she'd like me to find Jesus, or vice versa, before it's too late. That kind of thing doesn't run in her family: her mother Reenie never went in much for God. There was mutual respect, and if you were in trouble, naturally you'd call on him, as with lawyers, but as with lawyers, it would have to be bad trouble. Otherwise it didn't pay to get too mixed up with him.
She knew the family histories, or at least something about them. What she would tell me varied in relation to my age, and also in relation to how distracted she was at the time. Nevertheless, in this way I collected enough fragments of the past to make a reconstruction of it, which must have borne as much relation to the real thing as a mosaic portrait would to the original. I didn't want realism anyway: I wanted things to be highly coloured, simple in outline, without ambiguity, which is what most children want when it comes to the stories of their parents. They want a postcard.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385720955, Paperback)

The Blind Assassin is a tale of two sisters, one of whom dies under ambiguous circumstances in the opening pages. The survivor, Iris Chase Griffen, initially seems a little cold-blooded about this death in the family. But as Margaret Atwood's most ambitious work unfolds--a tricky process, in fact, with several nested narratives and even an entire novel-within-a-novel--we're reminded of just how complicated the familial game of hide-and-seek can be:
What had she been thinking of as the car sailed off the bridge, then hung suspended in the afternoon sunlight, glinting like a dragonfly, for that one instant of held breath before the plummet? Of Alex, of Richard, of bad faith, of our father and his wreckage; of God, perhaps, and her fatal, triangular bargain.
Meanwhile, Atwood immediately launches into an excerpt from Laura Chase's novel, The Blind Assassin, posthumously published in 1947. In this double-decker concoction, a wealthy woman dabbles in blue-collar passion, even as her lover regales her with a series of science-fictional parables. Complicated? You bet. But the author puts all this variegation to good use, taking expert measure of our capacity for self-delusion and complicity, not to mention desolation. Almost everybody in her sprawling narrative manages to--or prefers to--overlook what's in plain sight. And memory isn't much of a salve either, as Iris points out: "Nothing is more difficult than to understand the dead, I've found; but nothing is more dangerous than to ignore them." Yet Atwood never succumbs to postmodern cynicism, or modish contempt for her characters. On the contrary, she's capable of great tenderness, and as we immerse ourselves in Iris's spliced-in memoir, it's clear that this buttoned-up socialite has been anything but blind to the chaos surrounding her. --Darya Silver

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:30 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Told in the story within a story fashion, the reader learns about the mysterious death of one sister from her surviving sister.

(summary from another edition)

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