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Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
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Blind Assassin (original 2000; edition 2001)

by Margaret Atwood

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12,638317188 (3.94)932
Member:andrewcardus
Title:Blind Assassin
Authors:Margaret Atwood
Info:Virago (2001), Paperback, 656 pages
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The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (2000)

  1. 182
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    KayCliff: Laura Chase in The Blind Assassin falls to her death from a bridge over a ravine, just as Stella falls to hers from a roof. The Blind Assassin is concerned with finding out why Laura fell, with newspaper reports given, excerpts from a novel quoted, and passages of narration from Laura's sister -- all out of chronological sequence; just as the cause of Stella's fall is sought through Ullmann's novel by a variety of narrators, with excerpts from a video, all simililarly out of chronological order. Both Stella and Laura act as nurses, and fall prey to unprincipled men. Both novels include a pair of sisters whose mother dies when they are young, leaving the elder girl to take care of the younger; children with absent or unknown fathers; and someone very old, near to their own death, who loved Laura/Stella. Laura's sister fancies, `there was no floor to my room: I was suspended in the air, about to plummet. My fall would be endless -- endlessly down'. Stella's daughter tells her sister, `Mama fell off a roof, Mama's falling still. She falls and falls and never hits the ground'.… (more)
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» See also 932 mentions

English (313)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Dutch (1)  Finnish (1)  English (318)
Showing 1-5 of 313 (next | show all)
I was genuinely enjoying this book but there are just too many other things I want to read right now! Too many choices!
  Heather_Brock | Nov 23, 2016 |
I'll start with a bit of personal baggage, because my first exposure to Margaret Atwood's writing was The Handmaid's Tale, which I read when I was young because my parents had a copy. That book is probably the best known of her early novels, which does her a disservice, as it seemed one-dimensional, humourless and cold (though I would almost certainly be more charitable if I re-read it now).

This got me thinking about how one's perceptions of a writer can be shaped by how and where we first experience them, and how much can be lost if something unrepresentative gets overhyped or taught at schools and colleges, or even how reading something before you are ready for it can prejudice you. I did make one further attempt a few years later when I picked up a second hand copy of the story collection Bluebeard's Egg, but to be honest I don't really remember that. Since then I have never returned to Atwood until now. This seems criminally negligent in the light of the Blind Assassin, which is brilliant.

The Blind Assassin has quite a complex structure. It begins with Iris, an embittered old woman remembering her younger sister Laura's death, a suicide that was covered up. Laura has a fanatical posthumous following due to a book, also called the Blind Assassin. This forms most of the sections that alternate with Iris's memoir, and it tells the story of its writer's affair with a fugitive writer and the stories he and the narrator make up about a mythical society. This novel within a novel (a device that reminded my quite strongly of A.S. Byatt's Babel Tower, another book that contained excerpts from a novel written by one of its characters) is itself interspersed with pithy newspaper articles which give the "official" version of the events of Laura and Iris's lives, and their families.

The plot is ultimately much more complex than the family story or the novel within a novel, but the whole thing has much to say about sibling rivalry and secrets. Iris recounts her own family story, the story of their childhood and the story of her disastrous marriage to a wealthy but insensitive businessman and her relationship with his scheming sister. This account does occasionally come close to getting tedious, but is invariably redeemed by wry observations and occasional clues that the story is not as simple as it seems at first glance, many of which are much more significant than they appear initially.

The denouement is brilliantly plotted and very moving. This is a wonderful, clever and richly nuanced book which thoroughly deserved its Booker Prize. I will be reading more of Margaret Atwood's work. ( )
  bodachliath | Nov 15, 2016 |
Wanted to love this more than I did. Beautiflly written and masterfully structured, but in the end I never felt immersed in the story. ( )
  jjaylynny | Nov 12, 2016 |
Hands down my favorite Margaret Atwood, as well as one of my favorite books I've read in some time. ( )
  abbeyhar | Nov 8, 2016 |
A mystery novel of a novel within a novel.
  PendleHillLibrary | Sep 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 313 (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.
 

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Atwood, Margaretprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dionne, MargotNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tarkka, HannaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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 inhabited 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
Dedication
First words
Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge. The bridge was being repaired: she went right through the Danger sign. The car fell a hundred feet into the ravine, smashing through the treetops feathery with new leaves, then burst into flames and rolled down into the shallow creek at the bottom. Chunks of the bridge fell on top of it. Nothing much was left of her but charred smithereens.
Quotations
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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:47 -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)

» see all 10 descriptions

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