Read The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood Online


"Ten days after the war ended, my sister drove a car off the bridge". With those almost literally haunting words, Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin begins. As readers we thread our way through the 1945 inquest hearings only to reach an abutment, a novella within the novel. This science fiction tale called, of all things, The Blind Assassin; is narrated by two lovers. Wh"Ten days after the war ended, my sister drove a car off the bridge". With those almost literally haunting words, Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin begins. As readers we thread our way through the 1945 inquest hearings only to reach an abutment, a novella within the novel. This science fiction tale called, of all things, The Blind Assassin; is narrated by two lovers. When the period-piece novella ends, we lurch forward into other documents such as articles and newspaper clippings, wrapping us deeper and deeper into this novel's seductive mysteries. The narrator Iris, now eighty-two, spins out the story of herself and her deceased sister with fastidious precision. The writing, like poetry on a tight budget, holds us close to the page. The conception is ambitious, the finale, surprising....

Title : The Blind Assassin
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780307428172
Format Type : ebook
Number of Pages : 544 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Blind Assassin Reviews

  • Manny
    2019-04-23 06:32

    - So are you still trudging through the Margaret Atwood? - George, you should stop being so dismissive! Have you ever read it? - Well, I think I got as far as chapter three. Typical po-mo cleverness with a story inside a story inside... anyway, I decided I couldn't take any more, so I gave up. - So do you want to know what it's about?- You're going to tell me, aren't you?- Only if you want me to. - Okay, okay. I want you to. Snuggle up and tell me all about it. Satisfied?- Mmm. Well, satisfied for now anyway. You know, George, you actually might like it. Some of it's a bit depressing, but there's this very sexy thread where in each episode she meets her lover, and they lie in bed together and he tells her this bizarre science-fiction story...- A bit like we're doing now?- A bit.- I like that. So what kind of story is it?- Well, he's a pulp SF writer, so it's very pulpy, but in a good way. There's this planet with three suns and seven moons and deadly mountains haunted by beautiful nude undead women with azure hair and eyes like snake-filled pits...- That does sound sexy. I like the snake-filled pits too.- I knew you would. And he's telling it in a very clever, ironic way, and some of the time he's just having fun, and some of the time it's sort of about him and her. - Where does the blind assassin come in?- Well, in the science-fiction story, there's this character who's a blind master assassin. That's sort of the guy telling the story. And he falls in love with this beautiful girl, who's supposed to be sacrificed on the altar. She's sort of the girl he's telling the story to.- How could a master assassin be blind?- Honestly, George, don't be so literal about everything. Anyway, you liked Daredevil, didn't you?- Okay, you got me. Carry on.- Well, the science-fiction story is the innermost one. The guy and the girl are characters in a book that was written by a girl who killed herself by driving off a bridge...- Why did she kill herself?- You don't find out until the end of the book. It's a whydunnit...- You mean there's a plot and everything?- Honestly, George, of course there's a plot! There's even a twist.- Wow. Okay, so the girl killed herself driving off the bridge?- Yes, and her sister, who's now very old, is writing about her and her book, and what happened to make her write it.- And I suppose the book she wrote is about stuff that happened to her and her sister?- Could be. I don't want to drop too many spoilers.- I still don't see why it has to be so complicated. - Well, you thought Inception was great, didn't you? All those layers?- Yeah...- Okay, it's a bit like that. It really works. But you'd have trouble explaining why to someone who hadn't seen it.- Mmm.- Mmm?- You know, it's Valentine's Day.- It is. Sorry, I won't try and sell you any more Margaret Atwood for a while. George. Mmm.- Mmm.- Mmm!*************************- George?- Mmm?- Were you having a dream?- I think so.- What kind of dream? You had such a funny look on your face.- A dream inside a dream inside a dream. You know, I might read that book after all.

  • Paquita Maria Sanchez
    2019-05-06 08:52

    This is the first book I have dog-eared since I was a child. I generally find such behavior to be shameful in a major way, as I a) cherish the hard text of a book, and see the decline of its role as a sacred object, the slipping away of its tactile comforts of touch, of smell, of PRESENCE, and our new-found, technologically-driven disregard of its certainty and necessity in the face of the newest electronic thingamajigs and whatchamahoos as a shame and b) am cheap, and constantly rotate my books out to where (with a few exceptions for favorites) I never own a collection of books that I have actually read. I almost immediately trade them for new ones, you see. We have our little dance, and I am gentle and kind as I am able, being certain that I have left as few dings in it as possible so that it may be salvageable for the next reader. I keep nothing but the fondest, sweetest memories of the books that I let go of. Of course, there is an element of loss involved, a sense of regret as I hand it over to whatever book re-salesman will have it. Setting something free from your clutches is never easy for thinking, feeling creatures, no matter the size of the “thing,” and regardless of its importance to you and your sense of being. This rant has reminded me of one of my favorite lines from the Woody Allen film Sweet and Lowdown, where one of the characters is describing her thoughts on the lead’s love of the locomotive: its power, its virility, its certainty…he responds most simply with "You sound like you want to go to bed with the train." Maybe I am personifying this book, but it did take on a very real presence as I read it, and for the first time in many years, I beat the thing to shit. I cried on it, I threw it around, I spilled coffee and wine and beer all over it, I accidentally tore a section of the dustjacket and used it as a bookmark in the midst of immense frustration, I reread passages while resisting the urge to spit on them; it was hard. In fact, it has been some time since a book that I started in one stage of life so effectively coincided with the tides of mine, until finally merging with me at the finish line. I thank it. I hate it. It made me feel sane and insane.I stood outside my house, my former house, waiting to have an emotion of any kind at all. None came. Having experienced both, I am not sure which is worse: intense feeling, or the absence of it.This tale is one of hushed voices, of regret, of horrible timing for the meeting of otherwise serendipitous souls, and of false-starts and poorly situated culminations which swell up into a frenzy of pain. Pain, right? Well, pain is not without its lessons, and is not necessarily restricted to the bounds of being painful alone. It is never without a shimmering truth which can mean more than love or loss, than pride and readjusting. From this book, I came to a solemn yet serene conclusion: the pain I have dealt with in life, the misguided steps, the selfishness and selflessness combined, are not symbolic of a pattern. They are, rather, the infinite self (you, everyone you have met, everyone who has mattered a lot or very little to you, and you to them) breathing in and out, in and out, at various speeds, in varying depths, and when those depths are actually deep, you should look back and breathe a contented sigh. These are your experiences, and live though you may within the realm of what-ifs, there are still glorious fits of sincere awakening to be gleaned from these moments. The important thing is to hold on to them. To keep them in your heart (your brain, of course), and never cast them off as fickle. Love is a vortex, or so says this book in its sideways, coiling fashion. Circumstance is the same. Take what you can from it, and let it be useful and important to you as a human. True connection is rare, and convenient circumstances for such are even rarer. All you can pull away is warm, gratifying associations of memory, of sensation. In this novel, they took on the form of a sci-fi novel within a novel within a novel within a novel…a deceit within a deceit within a deceit…a culmination of enunciated dreams bursting like the bubbles in a pot of boiling water, searing everything around that dares to reach out. Fantasies met with the cruelties of reality, with friends, family, money, station, sense, and notable nonsense. All the same, they are still there, embedded in your skull to be elevated or demonized at will. I choose to stash mine away and honor them, much like the photograph of the lost love which is held to the chest of the narrator of this sorry, hopeful story. I choose to keep them dear to me, to keep them close. All of them. Complexity in the face of true communion with another human is a lot of what this book is about. Atwood spells it out well, acrid though it may be. In a way, she tells you to keep trying, to cradle the good parts even if they are intangible and unspoken. And she’s right. Follow your heart, dork, even if it tells you to be really, really stupid sometimes. Life is short and love is a bitch, but isn’t it all pretty fascinating? Aren’t you thankful? I am. I welcome pain and see it as potential awakening. As your folks or grandfolks may have said: "I walked fifty miles barefoot in the snow uphill both ways and blah blah blah"…yeah, it's a pretty decent analogy. Here’s a beautiful quote, as this review is too long, and I want you to have at least some feel of the novel from it:"Was this a betrayal, or was it an act of courage? Perhaps both. Neither one involves forethought: such things take place in an instant, in an eyeblink. This can only be because they have been rehearsed by us already, over and over, in silence and darkness; in such silence, such darkness, that we are ignorant of them ourselves. Blind but sure-footed, we step forward as if into a remembered dance."

  • Tatiana
    2019-04-30 11:56

    As seen on The ReadventurerI have to admit, I often do not get Margaret Atwood's books. But I am pretty sure I got The Blind Assassin. Otherwise how can I explain the feeling of sadness that is overwhelming me right now?It's so hard to express what exactly this book is about - any synopsis you read doesn't do it justice and explains nothing. Mine probably will be as misleading and pointless as all others. The Blind Assassin is a puzzle of a story, with multiple tales within tales. It starts with the main character, Iris, telling us of the day when her sister Laura drove off a bridge, then shifts to Laura's posthumously published novel The Blind Assassin about two unnamed lovers who meet clandestinely and in which the man entertains his lover with pulpy science fiction stories, mostly about a blind assassin and a sacrificial virgin who fall in love against all odds. Then the story shifts again to Iris who, now an old woman, recalls her early years and the events leading to Laura's death. What is it all about I wondered? Why did Laura die? Why novel within a novel? Who are these secret nameless lovers? I didn't understand the significance of Laura's The Blind Assassin for a while - awful sci-fi junk and all, and yet it turned out to be the most symbolic, the most intimate piece of (bad) fiction I have ever read. Atwood always writes about women and this novel is no exception. Ultimately, The Blind Assassin is a story of two young sisters who were unlucky to be born at a wrong time when women were expected to be wholly satisfied with shiny things and not much else. There is plenty of stories that explore submissive status of women in this world, the constraints they live under, but this one, I am sure, will stick with me for a long time. IDK how she does it, but Atwood writes it so well - these two girls raised not to be independent, who, although they are full of life and vigor, are locked inside the prison of their own home. It doesn't really matter if they dare to escape their golden cages or not. They are powerless, either outwardly or inwardly.I know I am rambling here. I find it difficult to rave and explain what I loved about The Blind Assassin. It's just I am so full of feelings right now - of understanding and compassion for Iris and Laura's plight, of frustration over their weaknesses and pride over their moments of strength. Not many books can make me feel so much.

  • mark monday
    2019-05-14 12:44

    atwood's Booker Prize-winning novel is a slow and melancholy downward movement, one in which the melancholy becomes cumulative. despite the sad and tragic tone, there are many paths to pure enjoyment present: through the precise, judgmental, drily amusing recollections of the narrator as she recounts her current life and her past life between the world wars; through the intense, intimate, yet almost metaphorical scenes of two lovers connecting, not connecting, reconnecting; through the wonderful pastiche of golden era science fantasy tales featuring mute sacrificial victims, blind child assassins, erotic peach women, deadly lizard men. but despite those paths to enjoyment, each narrative strand is based in despair, in missed opportunities, in moribund ritual, in the end of things. there is no wish fulfillment available on any level, and the novel's main mystery - although surprising and having a revenge-filled punch at the end - is still such a sad one to contemplate. motivations are revealed, characters you thought you knew become transformed, reversals of fortune happen in the space of a paragraph, and yet what i was left with by the end was a sadness at recognizing the impossibility of true happiness, true love, true fulfillment. well, at least in the world of Blind Assassin!the novel is bleak. and yet it is beautiful as well, and truly compassionate towards the two women at its heart. the writing itself is, in a word, awesome. i'm not sure there is an English language writer living who can construct so many artful, evocative, poetic passages without sliding into over-writing. time and again i would stop to re-read a phrase or a paragraph just to enjoy the beauty and depth of what was written. nor does Blind Assassin beat the reader down with despair; much of the time i was so absorbed with the careful description of life in port ticonderoga between the wars and with enormously well-developed characters that i was able to not feel as if i was in a boat slowly drifting towards a waterfall. but in the end, that waterfall was there, and the characters and the reader all eventually tumble over. such as sad experience!ONLY SPOILERS AHEAD:poor laura chase, the secret and tragic hero of Blind Assassin. a fascinating, frustrating character. by the end, her motivations revealed, it all made so much sense. not a temptress, neither vindictive nor vacant, but simply a person out of place and out of her time. her motivation: to do good, to understand God, to live for herself, to not live in a world of deceit or corruption. i fell in love with her a little bit. but really, she's too deep for me, too strange, too...not for this world.iris griffen: i was reminded of many things when trying to understand her character: the tunnel-vision of those madly in love, their inability to recognize the thoughts and feelings of others; the frustrating blankness of those who let life carry them along, the placidity that may appear to conceal depth but often is only a symptom of disengagement; and the potential villainy of that passivity, that blankness. this is a woman who thoughtlessly destroys her sister's reason for living, who does nothing when that sister is carted off to an asylum, who rejects the obvious need for love from her daughter, who lets her daughter and granddaughter get carted away from her, whose primary attribute is inaction. until she is, at long last, able to engage in some good old fashioned revenge. Blind Assassin has a pair of truly repulsive villains, but the the reader is not allowed to see inside of them. their motivations remain both shallow and shadowy. but iris griffen is the real deal: a character whose motivations the reader comes to understand, a person whose yearning for love and for redemption and for independence is expressed in no uncertain terms, a woman who is rendered so three-dimensionally that the reader comes to understand almost every part of her, a villain whose passivity allows the destruction of those she should protect.

  • Cecily
    2019-05-01 05:46

    “All stories are about wolves… Anything else is sentimental drivel.”Atwood doesn’t write sentimental drivel (and I don’t read it), and there are several wolves in this stunning book. This is my tenth Atwood, and it’s even better than any of the others I’ve enjoyed. The scope and variety of her work is impressive, but here, she accomplishes that within the covers of a single book: it should be shelved as historical fiction, memoir, espionage/thriller, and sci-fi. It grabs the reader in the first brief chapter (less than three pages), which would work as a short story: so much is implied, but so little stated, you can’t help but read on, eagerly. This also sets a pattern of foreshadowing: you know many key events long before they “happen”, but have to wait and think to find out how and why.The pacing is perfect, too. I guessed some crucial elements well before they were revealed, but there was enticing uncertainty, and always another conundrum in the pipeline. This creates a pleasing balance between pride and doubt in the reader. Matryoshka – stories within storiesThe analogy with a nest of Russian dolls applies far more to this than David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. The different layers constantly switch, but it’s never confusing:1. Iris, the narrator, is an elderly woman, describing her daily life, with a backdrop of weather, seasons, and fear of losing independence. It's painfully poignant, lightened with waspish and often self-deprecating humour.2. Iris also tells the story of her life and that of her sister (Laura), from childhood to the “present” day, with a backdrop of two world wars, the Depression, and political/union unrest. Born to wealth and respectability, but lacking parental love, their lives – and relationship with each other - take many turns. This is the main bulk of the story: historical fiction, sweeping most of the 20th century, set in SE Canada. 3. As a young woman, Laura drives off a bridge (not a spoiler; it’s in the first sentence of the book), and a few years later, after going through Laura’s papers, Iris publishes her novel “Blind Assassin”, excerpts of which are in this book of the same name. It’s the story of a pair of covert lovers, each with secrets and something to lose. He is short of money, constantly on the move. Clandestine meetings in a series of seedy bedsits and borrowed rooms are hard to arrange. The vague politics of this overlap with the specific labour unrest in the main story. 4. Within that novel, the nameless man, a writer of pulp sci-fi, tells stories of planet Zyrcon to the nameless woman. The title of both books comes from the fact that slave children are trained to create beautiful carpets – to the point at which they go blind. Some then go into the sex trade, and some become assassins. This then, is a pastiche, of a "lowbrow" genre, rather than the speculative fiction Atwood often writes, and is meant to echo the politics of its fictional author (are you still following this?).5. The world of Zyrcon has its own myths, some of which are told. There are parallels with ancient cultures on Earth. In addition, there are occasional newspaper reports, and the odd letter from a school or doctor.This is a brave format that could alienate readers who like one style/genre and dislike another, but I think it worked very well, in part because most chapters are short, so you never feel trapped in a style that is not your favourite. I paid a little less attention to the details of what happened on Zycron, but that was mainly because I was so anxious to know what happened to Iris and Laura. On a reread, I would study Zycron more closely, to see the parallels with the stories around it. (I made a similar mistake with the historical chapters of people and gods coming to America, in Gaiman's American Gods, which I reviewed HERE.)Warning to Apatt: Some of the sections use quotation marks and some don’t (it didn’t bother me, though).The TitleThe title clearly refers to the novel within the novel of that name, and which features assassins who are literally blind. However, there are other characters in the "real" stories who could be classed as such, in a more metaphorical sense. Few characters are troubled by guilt, though. Aging IrisIris is a wonderful creation: old, cranky, lonely, feisty, sharp, and something of an outsider all her life, even from her own family. She grudgingly accepts a modicum of help from Myra and Walter: “I am what makes her so good in the eyes of others”; Iris carries her laundry like Little Red Riding Hood “except that I myself am Granny, and I contain my own bad wolf”. Nevertheless, she resists as much as she can, while painfully noting the effects of time on her body.“I feel like a letter – deposited here, collected there. But a letter addressed to no one.”“I yearn for sleep… yet it flutters ahead of me like a sooty curtain.”“After having imposed itself on us like the egomaniac it is… [the body’s] final trick is simply to absent itself.”For all that Iris cultivates curmudgeonliness, it’s largely a carapace, and sometimes for entertainment (sarcastic letters to fans of The Blind Assassin, wanting to interview her about Laura); the really nasty piece of work is her arriviste sister-in-law, Winifred. Youthful LauraLaura doesn’t live to be old. She’s an enigma as a child, and more so after death – to Iris and the reader. “Nothing is more difficult than to understand the dead… Nothing is more dangerous than to ignore them.”Iris assembles a series of impressions, but you can never quite grasp her – which is entirely appropriate: Laura was “interested in forms” and “wanted essences”, but not in facts and logic – and yet she was a literalist with “a heightened capacity for belief”. “Being Laura was like being tone deaf: the music played and you heard something, but it wasn’t what everyone else heard.”She was “too cozy with strangers… It wasn’t that she flouted rules: she simply forgot about them.” Hence, she “had only the haziest notions of ownership”. She “was not selfless… she was skinless”. Unlike Iris, she had the courage of her (decidedly odd) convictions and didn’t care what other people thought. Sisters sharingThere is an essay to be written on what Laura and Iris share - and what they don't. It's not just the obvious things. Class: Winifred and RichardSnobbery, especially looking down on new money, is not just a British ailment. Iris and Laura were the granddaughters of a wealthy industrialist who married above himself, gaining respectability for the family. Iris’s husband, Richard, is very new money. His ghastly sister runs his life (as well as lots of charity committees) and then moulds and controls young, newlywed Iris. “Her [teaching] method was one of hint, suggestion.” So “I seemed to myself erased, featureless, like an avalanche of used soap, or the moon on the wane”. As Iris matures, she increasingly sees through this and resists or retaliates, and of course she’s telling it with the wisdom of old age. It’s amusingly, but painfully catty. “You could be charming… with a little effort”.“Avilion [the family home] had once had an air of stability that amounted to intransigence”, but after Winifred and Richard refurbish it, “it no longer had the courage of its pretensions”. Overdoing it somewhat, Atwood adds between those two phrases, “a large, dumpy boulder plunked [sic] down in the stream of time, refusing to be moved for anybody – but now it was dog-eared, apologetic, as if it were about to collapse in on itself”!Richard is a shadowy (in every sense) figure – something Iris/Atwood acknowledges. “As the days went by I felt I knew Richard less and less… I myself however was taking shape – the shape intended for me, by him… coloured in.” Later, “I’ve failed to convey Richard, in any rounded sense… He’s blurred, like the face in some wet, discarded newspaper.”In their marriage, “Placidity and order… with a decorous and sanctioned violence… underneath” because he “preferred conquest to cooperation in every area of life”. Chillingly, “It was remarkable how easily I bruised, said Richard, smiling.”Classless?Alex Thomas is classless: his background, even if you believe his own account (child refugee of unknown family) gives no clue. That might enable him to fit in anywhere, but really, he's alien everywhere (not in a literal, lizardy sense). GreenIn The Handmaid’s Tale, red is a recurring colour. Here, it’s green, often for clothing, and occasionally in conjunction with the colour watermelon. However, the symbolism isn’t as clear here as in Handmaid; it’s usually related to coldness, rather than jealousy. A few examples (out of more than twenty!):• “Her slip is the chill green of shore ice, broken ice.”• “Sober colours… hospital-corridor green” (Laura’s typical attire).• Richard chose an emerald engagement ring (though his sister, Winifred, overruled that, so he proffered a diamond).• Just before a tornado, “the sky had turned a baleful shade of green”.• A bombe desert at dinner was “bright green” and honeymoon salad “tasted like pale-green water… Like frost”.Quotes – truth, secrets, memory, writingAfter years of negligible education, the girls have a fierce new tutor, “We did learn, in a spirit of vengefulness… What we really learned from him was how to cheat” as well as “silent resistance… and not getting caught”. Useful skills.• “It’s not the lying that counts, it’s evading the necessity for it.”• “The best way to keep a secret is to pretend there isn’t one.”• Secret lovers “proclaiming love, withholding the particulars”.• “It was an effort for me now to recall the details of my grief – the exact forms it had taken – although at will I could summon up an echo of it.”• “Is what I remember the same things as what actually happened?”• “The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read… not even by yourself.”• Looking back at her wedding photo, “I don’t recall having been present… I and the girl in the picture have ceased to be the same person. I am her outcome… I can see her… but she can’t see me.”Quotes – weather, seasons, nature• “The light like melted butter… trees with exhausted leaves.”• In a park, “disregarded corners… leggy dandelions stretching towards the light”.• “Light filtered through the net curtain, hanging suspended in the air, sediment in a pond.”• When hot and humid, “The words I write feather at the edges like lipstick on an aging mouth”.• “The sky was a hazy grey, the sun low in the sky, a wan pinkish colour, like fish blood. Icicles… as if suspended in the act of falling.”• “Wild geese… creaking like anguished hinges.”• “Grudging intimations of spring.”Quotes - other• “Only the blind are free.” A blind assassin “sees through the girl’s clothing with the inner eye that is the bliss of solitude”.• “There’s nothing like a shovelful of dirt to encourage literacy”. I guess EL James proves that. • Tourist trinkets: “History… was never this winsome, and especially not this clean”.• “The other side of selflessness is tyranny.” and “He can’t have found living with her forgiveness all that easy.”• The mother of a difficult baby “lost altitude… lost resilience”, so the sibling found “silence, helpfulness the only way to fit in”.• “She has a soft dense mouth like a waterlogged velvet cushion and tapered fingers deft as a fish.”• “Children believe that everything bad that happens is their fault…but they also believe in happy endings.”• “Dowdy to the point of pain.”• “A black dress, simply cut but voraciously elegant.”• “Beginnings are sudden, but also insidious. They creep up on you sideways, they keep to the shadows, they lurk unrecognized. Then, later, they spring.”• On a virgin’s bed, “The arctic waste of starched white bedsheet stretched out to infinity.”• “Touch comes before speech. It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth.”• A flashy lawyer's office has “an abstract painting compose of pricey smudges… they bill by the minute… just like the cheaper whores.”• Shaving and plucking to create “A topography like wet clay, a surface the hands would glide over.”• Downtrodden people are “Broken verbs.”• The kettle “began its lullaby of steam”.• In a seedy hotel, “wallpaper, no longer any colour”.• “He killed things by chewing off their roots.”• “Unshed tears can turn you rancid.”

  • Annet
    2019-05-10 04:29

    ‘It’s loss and regret and misery and yearn that drive the story forward, along its twisted road’, Margaret Atwood towards the end of this book. It describes the story of the Blind Assassin, which starts with the famous sentence: ‘Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.’…. I’m deeply impressed and affected by this book. Without a doubt one of the best I ever read. I started this book last year, had it on my shelves for a long time already. I couldn’t really bring myself to start on it, but I am a big fan of the apocalyptic books of Atwood and really thought I should do this. I started, and a couple hundred pages in, I stopped in October… and resumed the book in January. Don’t quite know why. It’s not an easy to read book. It takes all your attention, effort, energy. You need to stay alert. No easy reading here. And… the book deserves all that attention. Because every sentence, description, character is interesting, the story is so beautifully written. I just needed a break I guess. Without getting into detail, because that would soon mean spoiling. It’s a dramatic mysterious story and you keep wondering who is who, what am I missing, who did what… in the end, it all fell into place for me (I think). I absolutely loved the story telling of Iris, the sister of Laura. Iris, an old lady now, tells the story of her family, her father, her sister Laura, her political and unloving husband Richard and gruesome sister in law Winifred… It’s a story of tragedy, love, guilt, power and powerlessness. Iris’ stories are personal, sad, guilt felt, but also sharp, cynic, humorous. Her observations witty. About her husband… ‘He was putting on weight, he was eating out a lot; he was making speeches, at clubs, at weighty gatherings. Ponderous gatherings, at which weighty, substantial men met and pondered, because, everyone suspected it, there was heavy weather ahead. All that speechmaking can bloat a man up. I’ve watched the process, many times now. It’s those kinds of words, the kind they use in speeches. They have a fermenting effect on the brain…’ The scenes for example where she sits in the toilet of the doughnut shop, to read the new sentences added to the toilet door are great little scenes. ‘The newest message was in gold marker: You can’t get to heaven without Jesus. Already the annotators had been at work: Jesus had been crossed out and Death written above it, in black. And below that in green: Heaven is in a grain of sand. Blake…..’ Her stories are alternated by chapters called ‘The Blind Assassin’ of a man and woman meeting each other secretly in sleezy places, having an affair obviously, who are they? And always accompanied by a science fiction type story about the planet Zycron and the city Sakiel-Norn, a story that the man tells the woman in parts. I took the last part of the book in stages of 30-50 pages, slowly reading on and taking everything in. I don’t know quite what to say anymore. I will be thinking a lot about this impressive story... For those who find it hard to get through the start, do keep at it, it’s worth it…. Truly, a grand book.

  • Jenn(ifer)
    2019-05-04 04:47

    "Let's forget about the tongue-tied lightning.Let's undress just like cross-eyed strangers.This is not a joke, so please stop smiling.What was I thinking when I said it didn't hurt?"****I need to stop reading on trains. I could feel the tears welling, the water rising, brimming, and then spilling over before anything bad even happened. But I could feel it coming. And I braced myself for the inevitable. Heart break. Loss. Old age. Why can’t we start old and get younger?****Tennyson wrote, ‘tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.’ I call bullshit. I can’t be placated by that. People who believe that are the same ones who believe in soul mates and destiny and happily ever after. What remains when love is lost? A suffocating, gnawing ache? Contempt? Melancholy and the infinite sadness? Certainly not warm fuzzy memories. So why isn't it better to have never loved at all? I don’t mean to sound jaded, it’s just that this book brought back too many memories.That’s the thing about memories, you never know when they’ll creep up behind you stealthily, tiptoeing like a villain in a silent film. ****I suppose you want to know a bit about the book.The Blind Assassin tells the story of Iris Chase Griffen. Iris is now 83 years old and she wants what we all want I suppose, she wants to believe that her life has meant something. And more than that, she wants to tell the truth. We feel what it must be like for her, at one time wealthy and glamorous and loved. Now the fortune is gone, she is alone and old age has crept up on her and taken away everything it can. “Yet what has become of my real clothes? Surely these shapeless pastels and orthopedic shoes belong to someone else. But they’re mine; worse, they suit me now.”Iris tells us her story, partly through a diary or a journal and partly through the observations of two young lovers in stolen moments. I’m really not big on rehashing the plot in reviews and I’m sure you can find plenty of them that will do exactly that. The salient message is this: Iris loved fiercely and suffered tremendous loss. As we all do; as we all will. For now I guess I will bask in the rosy glow of youth for as long as I can, before everything I love withers and dies. ****I could have summed this all up with the same Bolaño quote I used in my SD review “…What a shame that time passes, don’t you think? What a shame that we die, and get old, and everything good goes galloping away from us.” ****I am trying to break your heart. I am trying to break your heart.I am trying to break your heart…

  • Marita
    2019-04-24 12:47

    Complex, multi-layered and skillfully crafted, The Blind Assassin is a worthy winner of the Booker Prize (2000)*. An unequivocal 5-star rating for what was one of my best reads in 2017. I thoroughly enjoyed Ms Atwood’s acerbic wit and subtle satire.*It became the Man Booker Prize in 2002.

  • Matthew Quann
    2019-05-12 09:58

    The readers from Sakiel-Norn, due to their long and drawn-out labor, have been known to fall asleep during their readings. Though it is not typical of the readers, even their most prolific colleagues would admit to having stolen a few quiet moments of rest in between pages. The Blind Assassin, was an exception for one of the readers. He dropped the 600-page tomb again and again on his unsuspecting face, rousing himself from a newly established slumber. If you haven’t gathered, I found this one pretty slow.After Oryx & Crake became one of my all-time favorite sci-fi novels early in my university days, I was disappointed by both follow-up instalments in the Maddadam trilogy. So I took a break from Atwood, but fully intended to return to her prolific back catalogue. The Blind Assassin seemed like the ideal next step: sci-fi, mysterious family dealings, AND a Booker Prize Winner? It had all the makings of a novel I’d enjoy.But…Well, it isn’t bad, that’s for sure. I’ll spare you a synopsis that you can find it easily in any of the other reviews, and instead tell you that the book’s structure ticks along like fine clockwork. Iris’ present day recounting is contrasted with the installments in the book-within-the-book, the eponymous The Blind Assassin, and newspaper clippings. It all does come together neatly (but messily for the characters). Both the story in the present and that in the past compliment one another, and influenced my interpretation of one another. But…Man, is it ever slow. I’ll admit to having read a lot of shorter novels lately, and I first wracked up The Blind Assassin’s slow opening to my relative naiveté with larger undertakings. Yet, by the time I was 200-pages deep, it was obvious that the speed Atwood set was what could be expected for the duration of the journey. There are passages here that are extremely strong. Some resonated with me deeply, or provided a profound point that stuck with me after I put the book back down. But there’s so much more writing that seemed superfluous and some sentences seem designed by thesauruses they are so stiffly constructed. Atwood’s writing is generally strong throughout, but she indulges in some stuffy writing that absolutely detracted from my reading experience. Of course, what’s the good in the writing if the story isn’t any good? After having completed the novel, the story is definitely a good one. The concept is solid, the characters have strong motivations, and though I saw a lot of the ending twist coming, Atwood pulls it off in the final 100-pages with such style that I didn’t mind that I’d already figured it out. But…The novel is overblown, and could have accomplished all it did a good 100- to 150-pages lighter. There are so many passages that seem like they could have been snipped away by a keen-eyed editor and I would have been none the wiser. The girls’ childhood story goes on a bit too long, and the story doesn’t really start to become engaging until Iris is married off (into a nest of vipers that comprise two particularly heinous villains). The last 100 pages move quickly and are easily the most gripping in the novel. The story reaches a tragic climax that pulls on what has come before, but also exposes what was not essential to the story. My reading experience of Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin is well summed up by the following quote from the novel.But in life, a tragedy is not one long scream. It includes everything that up to it. Hour after trivial hour, day after day, year after year, and then the sudden moment.” -Margaret Atwood, The Blind AssassinIt’s sort of a shame to admit, but in reading The Blind Assassin I felt that I got all of the monotonous lead up, that took a bit of the impact out of the novel’s “sudden moment.” This is a slow and ponderous read, though I can’t say I regret reading it. The ending is quite good, and I really did enjoy Atwood’s meticulously designed story structure. For all of you who have enjoyed the book, I can totally see where you’re coming from. Unfortunately, The Blind Assassin just never clicked with me in the way I expected. So, all-in-all, a book that I thought was good, but also one that I felt moved too slowly for its own good.

  • Ted
    2019-05-08 10:46

    4 1/2 starsI can’t give the book 5 stars, because I know I will never read it again. The story is its own spoiler. But until it’s done, it’s a dark, almost gothic page turner.I usually start my reviews with something about the author, but unusually for me I’ve already read three books by this author (the dystopian Maddaddam Trilogy). Can you blame me for thinking that everyone must know this author, if I’ve read four novels by her? Of course you can’t.First off, this novel is in no way a science fiction novel, even though that phrase is seen now and then in reviews. A novel that has science fiction elements is involved, but it’s not the novel you hold in your hand when you read The Blind Assassin (BA). It’s inside that novel you’re holding. And darned if it doesn’t have the same name as the book in your hand.So you won’t believe how dense I am. I never really made the connection between the sort-of SF novel written by one of the book’s characters (called “BA”), and some of the chapters in the book in my hands that were actually titled The Blind Assassin: …. I simply noticed that these chapters were written by a normal narrator, whereas the other chapters (if they weren’t brief newspaper notices) were written by a character in the first person. Well, are you confused yet?The novel is actually an evocative historical novel, about a family in Canada, starting in the nineteenth century, building a modest empire of button factories, whose granddaughters are Iris and Laura, growing up in the early years of the twentieth century. The story and its characters (the ones that survive) move through the first World War, the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary, the Depression, the Spanish Civil War, the second World War, and several decades further for the luckiest(?).We gradually learn more about these two girls, their parents, and the men they become involved with. But much of the information is ambiguous, equivocal, obscure – we get clues about something, think ah yes, so that’s what’s going on, then later well maybe I was wrong, then later yet no, I was right the first time. And new obscurities pop up, casting a veil over things that seemed clear earlier on.It’s a dark novel. Most of the characters are a little bit off, not really dangerous, but finely drawn to make this reader feel unsure whether he would want to know such people. The women are either mistreated quite severely, or mistreat others in that way (particularly other women).As the story progresses, both it and the narrators turn more and more inward, things becoming ever more surreal, little left of their lives but memories, anticipations, wishes, fears, pain. Much of the narrative actually occurs within dreams.Atwood’s writing is mesmerizing, and draws the reader relentlessly on as the stakes get higher. Here’s one of her sequences, from a BA chapter:Now she imagines him dreaming. She imagines him dreaming of her, as she is dreaming of him. Through a sky the color of wet slate they fly towards each other on dark invisible wings, searching, searching, doubling back, drawn by hope and longing, baffled by fear. In their dreams they touch, they intertwine, it’s more like a collision, and that is the end of the flying. They fall to earth, fouled parachutists, botched and cindery angels, love streaming out behind them like torn silk. Enemy groundfire comes up to meet them.Though I had a pretty good idea of what the Truth of Atwood’s ambiguities would be, I was completely in the dark of how Atwood the writer would bring this story to a close narrative-wise. How would she wrap this tale up? Splendidly! Not a happy ending really, but weepy fellow that I am, she never wrote anything that made me tear up until a single sentence on the final page. Then I was overcome.A great, great story.

  • Candi
    2019-05-17 04:46

    "I wonder which is preferable - to walk around all your life swollen up with your own secrets until you burst from the pressure of them, or to have them sucked out of you, every paragraph, every sentence, every word of them, so at the end you're depleted of all that was once as precious to you as hoarded gold, as close to you as your skin - everything that was of the deepest importance to you, everything that made you cringe and wish to conceal, everything that belonged to you alone - and must spend the rest of your days like an empty sack flapping in the wind, an empty sack branded with a bright fluorescent label so that everyone will know what sort of secrets used to be inside you?"There is no doubt in my mind that Margaret Atwood has a brilliant way with words. In this novel, a mystery is slowly revealed through the narration of an older, eighty-something year old Iris as she reflects on her childhood and her days of marriage to the powerful and manipulative Richard Griffen and his sister, Winifred. From the start, we know that Iris had a sister who died suddenly - "Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge." The reader is immediately left with the question as to whether this death was accidental or intentional. Using a combination of newspaper clippings and a memoir of sorts as Iris writes her life story in a diary, the reader becomes privy to these events in what feels like a very intimate setting. Iris begins her retelling of these events with little anecdotes thrown in from her present day life - usually bits of grumbling or complaints in the fashion of the bitter old lady stereotype. For the most part, these were amusing and lightened up the tone of the book from time to time. My favorite portions of this novel were those that retold the childhood of both Iris and Laura. Iris talks of her grandparents, her parents, and the family home called Avilion. I loved her description of her grandmother:"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."Iris also introduces us to a series of secondary characters, including Alex Thomas, a young man suspected of being a Communist rabble-rouser of sorts. Alex Thomas becomes acquainted with the Chase girls and their family, against the better judgment of their devoted housekeeper, Reenie. Reenie is perhaps my favorite character! Responsible for the majority of the Chase girls' upbringing, she dished out some priceless advice! "Reenie said a girl alone with a man should be able to hold a dime between her knees." Alex Thomas meets with an unnamed lover in some questionable and squalid locations as he goes into hiding. To this lover he narrates a "story within a story" titled "The Blind Assassin". I have to admit that these sections of the book were my least favorite. Alex fabricates a science fiction adventure based on the planet Zycron. Initially this was quite confusing. Once the confusion faded, I became slightly irritated, despite my curiosity as to the identity of the lover. For the most part, however, I couldn’t wait to get back to the more appealing story as told by Iris. By the end of Iris' narrative, the seemingly distinct portions of this novel become clear and an interesting twist comes to light. Overall, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to fans of Atwood or those who like a slowly paced mystery with some good historical elements. I personally would have preferred not to be subjected to the details of the pulp-fiction type sci-fi story despite the fact that I came to understand its purpose. 4 stars

  • Hugh
    2019-04-23 12:33

    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, so many thanks to the 21st Century Literature group for choosing this book for one of this month's group discussions. 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.

  • Violet wells
    2019-04-27 07:32

    First thought was, I think this might have been a really good 350 page novel. Unfortunately it’s almost twice the size and as cluttered with random detail as an attic. In this sense it’s a typical Booker Prize winner (for me the only time the Booker judges have got even close to being on the money in the past decade is Hilary Mantel).Ostensibly The Blind Assassins tells the story of two sisters and their relationships with two men at either ends of the political spectrum – Iris marries the industrialist and fascist sympathiser Richard Griffen, her sister Laura is infatuated with a communist agitator, Alex Thomas. This all takes place in the years before WW2. The two girls grow up in an idyllic house called Avilion (Avalon was the island King Arthur was taken after being wounded and Atwood presents a way of life at Avilion as something equally wounded and on the verge of expiring). The girls’ childhood was probably my favourite part of this novel which has many tiers and many stories within stories (too many). For me Atwood’s at her best when she isn’t trying to be too clever, when she drops her penchant for melodrama and rather self-defeating literary juggling acts. There’s also a novel within this novel. Alex Thomas to survive writes pulp fiction for magazines and invents Planet Zycron. For the most part Planet Zycron is pure silliness. Kind of fun as a narrative Alex makes up while in bed with his lover but wholly implausible as a novel that has received critical acclaim and is still in print fifty years later. Also, I’m afraid I’m not really a great fan of Atwood’s prose. Sometimes it reminds me of the literary equivalent of elderly people wearing teenage clothes. Like this this observation which starts off great but ends up like chewing gum. “Women have curious ways of hurting someone else. They hurt themselves instead; or else they do it so the guy doesn't even know he's been hurt until much later. Then he finds out. Then his dick falls off.” She’s also got an annoying habit of using two consecutive metaphors for the same observation. Or else using a metaphor that is so wacky that it creates more confusion than clarity - as when bread is described as ''white and soft and flavorless as an angel's buttock.” The central male character, Richard Griffin, is a feminist’s wet dream. He’s so conclusively vile that it becomes like a fancy dress costume. Impossible to take serious. Ditto, his sister Winnifred. A pair of 19th century monsters in a 20th century novel. Pantomime versions of the fabulously wicked Gilbert Osmond and Madame Merle in Portrait of a Lady. Patriarchal male bullying has been done with so much more artistry and subtlety (and plausibility) – Casaubon with Dorothea in Middlemarch for example or the King Lear father in Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres which I’m presently reading. There’s a strong element of feminist crowd pleasing in this utterly one dimensional portrait of patriarchal tyranny. Ironically it also serves to make you like Iris, his wife, less. The novel revolves on a central twist, you could almost say it’s the novel’s raison d’etre, and this is the clever and engaging part of this novel - the two sisters become the same woman with two contrasting fates: Iris conforms and survives at a ghastly price, Laura refuses to compromise and dies. The problem is all the clutter heaped around this fascinating central theme.

  • Fabian
    2019-04-23 07:36

    "Thick plots are my specialty. If you want a thinner kind, look elsewhere..." [119]Indeed one delves into an Atwood with the thought "What effect is she trying to convey" always, ALWAYS at the forefront of your mind. She is a master magician, & one inevitably always needs to see the strings behind her "tricks." I must say that "The Blind Assassin" gave me the most comforting and treasured and magnificent shutting up that I could possibly deserve (essential lessons you learn all by your itty bitty self). The first 400+ pages of it, yes, I will admit, my early review would have read as such: "The interplay of attempts both conscious (the nebulousness of plot) and un- (surplus description) falls well below expectation." But I was dead wrong. You will remember--these are the musings of the main character in retrograde--she is an old woman*--her thoughts are akimbo. This book, my friends, is what that century-old "stick with it" rule applied to literature is all about. Even the writer herself knows that the anesthetic fog of it all must come to a halt--she has you exactly where she wants you--and knowing that the brave reader indeed braves on, she rewards him with the most elegant, the most perfect ending EVER! Eloquent beyond... Beyond. Why are haters haters? Because we are addicted to getting slapped in the face by genuine beauty.*SPOILER(?): this woman would totally be, in her advanced age, BFFs with "Atonement"'s Brionny Talis !!!!

  • BrokenTune
    2019-05-15 11:56

    "They ache like history: things long done with, that still reverberate as pain. When the ache is bad enough it keeps me from sleeping. Every night I yearn for sleep, I strive for it; yet it flutters on ahead of me like a sooty curtain."The Blind Assassin won the Booker Prize in 2000, but please don't hold it against the book, because, apparently, in 2000 the judges got it right.I had long been intrigued by this book because of the cover - it looks very stylish - but I had no idea what the book would be about and almost expected this would be another one of Atwood's dystopian speculative fictions.I was completely wrong. All my preconceptions were totally unwarranted. (Tho, there is a story within the story that is set on a different planet. And there is an alien. Well, in a manner of speaking.)The Blind Assassin is a family saga set in Ontario and focuses on the lives of Iris and her sister Laura, beginning with one of the most hard-hitting paragraphs I have read recently:"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."From there on we get the story of the sisters told in flashbacks through Iris' memory. However, from each memory, we also get this sense that there is much more to the story, that Iris is teasing our patience. "No: I shouldn’t have married anyone. That would have saved a lot of trouble."Surprisingly, this slow reveal never gets boring. Atwood weaves in so many layers that each part remains interesting as its own story, but the big picture is only revealed at the end.In the book, we have the story of a family dynasty, that is being threatened by new money. Then we have class struggle in the early 20th century. We have have a depiction of society and history of the 20th century. We have love. We have cruelty. We have fantasy and stark reality. We have style and ugliness, powerlessness and emancipation. We have submission and we have revenge.What we don't really have in the book is hate. Having said that, I can't remember the last time I as a reader wanted to punch a character so much as I wanted to punch one in The Blind Assassin. So, even though there is not much hate in the book, there was at least one hateful character, and even though this character's fate is somewhat ambiguous, I am satisfied with my interpretation of it.This is not the only element of mystery in this book but the one that made it hard for me to put the book down.I'm sorry it is difficult to describe the plot, and I don't want to give anything away, but it really is not that often that a book fascinates me on so many levels.And of course, there is Atwood's gorgeous writing."The school orchestra struck up with squeaks and flats, and we sang “O Canada!,” the words to which I can never remember because they keep changing them. Nowadays they do some of it in French, which once would have been unheard of. We sat down, having affirmed our collective pride in something we can’t pronounce."I loved the way Atwood made the characters come to life. Each of them had their own quirks, their own edges - even the supporting characters - which made them feel very real.On top of that, the main character, Iris, a sassy and cynical old lady, just did not put up with any nonsense. As funny as this sounds, Iris' comments also made me think about some of the issues she raises - even where she claims to dismiss them with snide remarks."I knew enough to know that the only thing expected of me was that I not disgrace myself. I could have been back again beside the podium, or at some interminable dinner, sitting next to Richard, keeping my mouth shut. If asked, which was seldom, I used to say that my hobby was gardening. A half-truth at best, though tedious enough to pass muster."As you can see from the star rating, I absolutely loved this book. In fact, I would now count it as one of my favourites. Atwood has this brilliant ability to tell a gripping story and relate hard issues without being sanctimonious or crass. The book will keep me thinking for some time to come still."Some alert functionary caught my arm and slotted me back into my chair. Back into obscurity. Back into the long shadow cast by Laura. Out of harm’s way. But the old wound has split open, the invisible blood pours forth. Soon I’ll be emptied."

  • Darwin8u
    2019-05-15 05:44

    This novel is a crazy ice meteor shot through the heart of a Virginia Woolf novel. The further you get into it, the more your fingers feel every fiber on every rough cut page. You don't just begin to smell the book; page after page, you almost begin to taste the ink. Atwood doesn't write from the head, the crotch or the gut. She soul-butts you. Her words bite and kick your trash on every level.

  • Alice
    2019-04-28 05:46

    Having absolutely loved Atwood's "A Handmaid's Tale," I decided to try out "The Blind Assassin." Verdict? It was... okay. The writing was really great, but everything else kind of bored me -- the characters, the plot, the novel within the novel within the novel. By the time the book worked itself up to its climax, I had long since lost interest. I was just trying to plod through and finish the thing. At times, I was more eager to find out what happened to the blind assassin and the girl without a tongue in the sacrificial temple than I was to find out what was really going on between the Chase sisters. While I found Atwood's passages about old age and mortality touchingly beautiful, I also found them repetitive. Yawn. This book took me over a week to finish. That's evidence of something... I'm not giving up on Atwood, but this one was a C+, at best, just for boring me.

  • Catie
    2019-05-02 08:42

    This has brought my definition of a five star book into dramatic focus. I’ve been too free with my stars before this; that much is clear. All other books must now be compared to this one. In a few weeks I may read some other lovely book and I’ll think is this a five star book? But it probably won’t be. Not after this.This is the story of two sisters, growing up between world wars, each grasping for a life of her own in a time when women weren’t allowed to have one. It’s the story of two lovers who imagine a world far away, but can’t escape the one they live in. It’s the story of an old woman, and the accumulated guilt and regret of a lifetime. It spans the better part of a century, and one of the main characters dies on the first page. The story is woven together with what remains, as if someone had found an old steamer trunk of documents and journals in an attic, and assembled them in the most natural order.This book easily breached all my defenses to tug at my heart strings, twist my emotions, and disembowel me. All of that good stuff. But it also just blew me away with its technical brilliance. I honestly don’t know how she did it. To say that it’s a story within a story is severely understating matters. The stories breathe in and out of each other, filling in the gaps, transforming your initial impressions into something completely different. It feels fluid and even a bit surreal. There are about five different narrative strands, woven together with newspaper articles, the controversial novel of a dead girl, and the last confession of an old woman with too many secrets. The timeline shifts back and forth dramatically and the narrators aren’t exactly reliable. That may seem like an awful lot of elements to have up in the air all at once, but she never falters. The story feels completely seamless. She’s like a master performer, juggling balls, flaming torches, priceless Fabergé eggs, and how about we throw in a puppy just for fun? I read this book with a sense of complete astonishment. And, just to gush a little bit more…this is some of the most amazing, evocative, disturbingly descriptive writing I’ve ever read. She has this way of cutting things down to expose the layers of fat, the tendons, the bones. All of the things that lay beneath, that we rely on, but would rather not look at. Her words are choking and cruel and stunningly beautiful. “How could I have been so ignorant? she thinks. So stupid, so unseeing, so given over to carelessness. But without such ignorance, such carelessness, how could we live? If you knew what was going to happen, if you knew everything that was going to happen next -- if you knew in advance the consequences of your own actions -- you'd be doomed. You'd be as ruined as God. You'd be a stone. You'd never eat or drink or laugh or get out of bed in the morning. You'd never love anyone, ever again. You'd never dare to.”Perfect Musical PairingJoni Mitchell – Both Sides NowA beautifully descriptive song about memory and perspective, about childhood notions and how they fade.

  • James
    2019-04-27 11:44

    Having recently read and been suitably impressed and enthralled by Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ – I approached Atwood’s highly recommended and much lauded ‘Blind Assassin’ with a similarly high level of expectation. ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ had certainly set the bar high and I hoped that ‘Blind Assassin’ would not disappoint. ‘Blind Assassin’ is clearly a very different kind of book though and occupies an entirely different world to that of ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ and I approached it on that premise. In many ways, ‘Blind Assassin’ is ostensibly a very traditionally written story. It gives us a narrative that on the face of it does not appear very original. Indeed there are many elements to this story that we have all seen or read many times before. However, what Atwood has created here is a hugely accomplished and engaging novel of epic proportions and Dickensian scale.‘Blind Assassin’ is an intricate multi-layered, non-linear narrative combining shifting timelines and interwoven story(ies) within story(ies) – it is a story of memory and memories, of lives remembered and of lives unknown. Whilst occasionally this can be a little confusing (is this deliberate? Life and memories can be confusing? Straight edges and straight stories can become blurred over time?) Atwood however retains a focus throughout. This is a finely honed novel in spite of its length and complexity. There is no dead wood here, nothing extraneous to our needs.‘Blind Assassin’ is primarily a story of deception and betrayal as told in retrospect by Iris Chase Griffen of the lives of the two Chase sisters (Iris and Laura) and those who pass through or become part of their respective lives. Atwood recounts the stories that make up ‘Blind Assassin’ with such authenticity, such strength, such a sense of reality as well as with such style and verve. We have here a novel that is both compelling and engaging, a definite page-turner right up to the closing paragraphs.What might seem in some sense a very clear-cut and straightforward denouement and climax to the novel – there are no real surprises at this stage, but what we do have are the final and satisfying pieces of the jigsaw(s). The complexity of ‘Blind Assassin’ is worth the readers’ effort and definitely reaps worthwhile rewards. This is the kind of novel that stays with the reader long after the final page has been read. It is the kind of novel that would benefit from rereading and the deeper understanding and enjoyment that would undoubtedly come with that.This is an Atwood novel not to be missed and not to be given up on. I understand that despite winning the Man Booker Prize in 2000, ‘Blind Assassin’ was subject to very mixed reviews on publication. I suspect it is the type of novel that has grown and will continue to grow in reputation and standing with the passing of time. This is a wonderful novel in every sense and certainly on the basis of the Atwood’s that I have read thus far (Handmaid’s Tale, Blind Assassin and Hag-Seed) I will definitely be returning for more.

  • Susan
    2019-04-28 05:48

    Writing a novel like The Blind Assassin is so challenging that only a monumentally gifted writer like Margaret Atwood can pull it off. Structuring it like those nested Russian dolls, she tucks a science fiction/fantasy tale within a sad, mysterious love story. Both are then enveloped by a grand narrative of the lives of two sisters from a wealthy Ontario family. The Blind Assassin succeeds on all these levels: historical fiction, mystery, love story, and fantasy. The main story is told in the first person, in the voice of elder sister Iris Chase Griffen, whose memoir spans the 20th century. Iris and younger sister Laura are the daughters of a wealthy manufacturer in the small (fictional) city of Port Ticonderoga, Ontario. It’s difficult to view Iris and Laura with anything other than pity. Their father’s wealth and social standing never compensate for the repression, emotional starvation, and isolation that characterized their upbringing. Iris’s feelings toward Laura are, well, complicated. Laura is sensitive and painfully literal. Iris is irked by her offbeat spirituality and, as the reader learns on the first page, even her death provokes as much anger as grief. Iris’s recounting of the Chase family saga is periodically interrupted by the novel-within-a-novel: namely, The Blind Assassin. This is a story of an illicit romance conducted by two nameless lovers during the lean, desperate years of the Great Depression. To some 21st century sensibilities, “illicit” may seem like an outdated, judgmental word to describe an extramarital affair. But this affair was farther outside this society’s boundaries than most. It was a relationship that posed clear risks for both the man and the woman, whose identities are only gradually revealed to the reader. The Blind Assassin is imbued with even more sadness than is to be expected from a story that is told by an aged woman reminiscing about long-ago events. Even though one can understand Iris’s peculiar mix of power and powerlessness, I found it difficult to empathize with her, or to like her very much. My feelings about the two sisters changed only a little even after I learned the truth about their lives. They seemed too passive and too detached from their fates. Even Laura’s odd, obtuse rebelliousness was unsatisfying. I know that my attitude is unfair because the time and place of this novel is so far removed from the world in which I live. In the end, I was able to muster some empathy for Iris, but I couldn’t stop being irritated with Laura. And this novel’s sole hero was, in my eyes at least, so strangely faceless and soulless as to be almost a cipher.So why did I award four stars to The Blind Assassin? I cannot say that I “really liked it” but it is true that I “really admired it.” It is beautifully written, powerful, haunting—and unforgettable.

  • Jan-Maat
    2019-05-15 08:31

    Impressively hefty, but convinces me ultimately that Atwood has written much better books.An elderly woman remembers her life. The story flickers between present, past and pulp science fiction (view spoiler)[ bah! That's just everyday life, you are probably saying (hide spoiler)].She remembers: her lover, a hack writer of pulp science fiction and political radical. Her husband, an industrialist with dubious sexual tastes (view spoiler)[ ie illegal in many jurisdictions (hide spoiler)] and habits. Her sister, artistic but inarticulate. Her sister-in-law, a grand dame and prepared to defend her family reputation. Her father, WWI veteran, failed industrialist, troubled soul and suicide, his lover an artist. The mysterious book that scandalised society and has won fans to the present day that apparently her sister wrote.Their lives are intertwined. The atmosphere shifts from the free to the oppressive. The reader feels some pieces drop into place and searches for others. It is all very nicely done, one experiences unease and uncertainty, and says "a-ha" to oneself at the right moments, it has something of the feel of a fin de siecle painting to it, the symbolism at first obscure, then in a heartbeat, heavy handed and obvious. At the centre of the story I am reminded of lines from King Lear half forgotten from school: Robes and furred gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold, And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks. I feel a good degree of regret at this book, as well as a certain sympathy towards it, it works very hard, it is skilful and clever, but the more it goes on , the more it reminds me that Atwood has impressed me more elsewhere. I am haunted by the central apex of childhood bullying in Cat's eye, warmly amused by by the attempts to understand the crime in Alias Grace. This for me just wasn't visceral, perhaps it is too obvious from the structure that there will be a train crash and as one gets closer what will cause it, the extent of the fatalities and the lasting injuries of the survivors are too predictable? Of course you say, it is meant to be a tragedy.

  • Glenn Sumi
    2019-05-12 08:55

    Okay, I’m conflicted about this one.Margaret Atwood is a literary deity. I’m impressed by the ambition of this big, sprawling novel, surely her most audacious stand-alone book. I adore the vivid period detail about Toronto, where I live, and the fictional Port Ticonderoga, which feels like a composite of various Southern Ontario towns I’ve visited. I enjoy how the various elements of the book eventually come together.And yet...There’s something contrived and coldly schematic about The Blind Assassin. It feels overly conceptualized. Instead of a beating heart it's got a pacemaker. And it could have used a more ruthless editor.The complex narrative consists of several strands. The main one is narrated by Iris Chase Griffen, who grew up the daughter of a prominent Port Ticonderoga family and then, at 18, was basically pawned off by her father to become the wife of a powerful industrialist with political aspirations. Now in her early 80s, she’s poor, mostly alone (except for visits by Myra, the daughter of her family’s former housekeeper) and living in a house in her home town.Her story begins with the remarkable sentence: “Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.”Laura was driving Iris’s car, and Iris is required to identify the body. Was it suicide? Foul play? Something in between? Surely Iris knows more than she’s letting on. Over the next 520 pages, crisscrossing decades and taking many detours via automobile, train and luxury cruise ship – and even some interplanetary travel – the story arrives, haltingly, at its destination.Interspersed with Iris’s sections are clippings from newspapers and magazines to give us a more objective look at events. And then there are chapters from “The Blind Assassin,” a novel-within-a-novel about an affair between a wealthy, naive girl and a left-leaning writer of pulp sci-fi. It was published, posthumously, under the name Laura Chase in 1947, became a bestseller and made her a celebrity. Gradually the various strands of the book come together in a satisfying, if not always surprising, way.The writing is poetic yet occasionally overblown. Here’s a passage about Avilion, the mansion where Iris and Laura grew up:Avilion had once had an air of stability that amounted to intransigence – a large, dumpy boulder plunked down in the middle of the stream of time, refusing to be moved for anybody – but now it was dog-eared, apologetic, as if it were about to collapse in on itself. It no longer had the courage of its own pretensions.That’s a LOT of imagery. Boulder in stream of time? Sure. But do we also need it to be "dog-eared," "apologetic," "collapsing" and lacking in "courage"? All in one mixed metaphor paragraph?There are some big blanks in the narrative. I don’t understand why the cruel industrialist Richard Griffen wanted to marry Iris. Was it only for her connections to her family’s business? Her beauty? Surely there were other prominent families he – and his snobbish sister, Winifred, one of Atwood's wickedest villains – could attach himself to. (view spoiler)[Two other spoilery points: 1) If Richard had designs on Laura all the time, there should have been earlier clues. 2) And later on, I find it implausible that Iris could carry on her affair under the watchful eye of the two siblings. Surely they would want to ensure the Griffen heir was Richard's. (hide spoiler)]In fact, the character of Griffen is so vague Iris gives us this statement near the end:I’ve failed to convey Richard, in any rounded sense. He remains a cardboard cutout. I know that. I can’t truly describe him, I can’t get a precise focus: he’s blurred, like the face in some wet, discarded newspaper. Even at the time he appeared to me smaller than life, although larger than life as well.Hmm… Is this an old woman, Iris, explaining her ambivalent relationship to her husband? Or is it instead author Atwood realizing she’s failed to create a convincing character and forestalling any criticism?Speaking of characters, a few seem abandoned by the roadside. Bohemian sculptor Callista Fitzsimmons is a vivid presence early on in the book (she dates Iris and Laura’s widowed father), but then she’s discarded. Even Laura herself remains opaque, but perhaps that’s one of the points of the book.History buffs won’t be entirely satisfied. There are pages and pages about fashions, luxury voyages and who was dancing with whom at what party, but the entire second world war is ridiculously glossed over in a page or two near the end, as if Atwood realized she had to wrap things up quickly.And after a while, Iris’s narration begins to fall into a predictable groove. She opens chapters by describing the weather, bitching about her physical mobility or some other complaint, and then continues where she left off. But I do like that the book illustrates her finding her voice: in real life and in setting down her story. (view spoiler)[(It's cool that her lack of voice is symbolized in the "Blind Assassin" narrative by the mute sacrificial victim.) (hide spoiler)] By the end she’s a much stronger person than the meek, passive, naive teenager who married Griffen.My biggest problem with the book, however, concerns the “Blind Assassin” passages. I would have believed them more had Atwood written them in a more convincing period style. The "book" was published in 1947, and penned up to a decade before then, yet the prose feels too contemporary, its staccato rhythms too much like Atwood’s own. Surely a pastiche, between-the-wars style would have made the book more credible. I also can't believe it would have been a bestseller.So: a mixed bag. Nice period details. Ambitious scope. And in Iris, Atwood has created a delightfully crusty, entertaining and fascinatingly unreliable guide.

  • Amanda
    2019-04-21 10:33

    I have no idea what took me so long to finally read this gem. Should have done it years ago. It is absolutely brilliant. I admit I had my doubts in the first 200 pages or so. In fact it was starting to feel like a bit of slog but hold on because things quickly turn around. Clues are revealed. Events start to make sense and you begin to see Atwood's genius. This is a worthy winner of the booker prize and I'm so glad I finally read it.

  • Saleh MoonWalker
    2019-05-04 10:44

    Onvan : The Blind Assassin - Nevisande : Margaret Atwood - ISBN : 1860498809 - ISBN13 : 9781860498800 - Dar 637 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2000

  • Kelly
    2019-05-17 04:34

    I don’t trust the light in this book. I don’t trust the personnel on the switches. I think that most of them came straight from a based-on-a-book-by-Nicholas-Sparks movie set. One of the most insightful comments I ever heard about that particular saccharine mini industry was about how the majority of these movies seem to perpetually take place at “magic hour”. That is, the hazy twilight hour which is made even more hazy by classic southern settings where the heat shimmers and the light fades in between however many magnolia trees they can cram onto the set. They take the Barbara Walters special cameras with their pot of Vaseline, focus them on the Romantic powers of nature and call it God. With the help of some painfully crooned adult contemporary ballad about the power of a Good Woman’s Love, of course. I want to be clear. Based on my experience with this novel (my only Atwood read to date), I would not for a moment class Margaret Atwood with Nicholas Sparks as a writer or as an observer of humankind. Atwood’s writing has at least around 1000 times fewer moments where you expect Caruso to rise from the grave and wail over the dead body of a character’s fairy tale hopes and dreams, and not once is there a moment where Love overcomes the workings of science and biology to triumph due to the single minded devotion of a man who Just Won’t Give Up. Her writing is more delicate and she comes through with a few amazingly written observations about memory and the craft of storytelling itself. My favorite quote from the book is about this:"All stories are about wolves. All worth repeating, that is. Anything else is sentimental drivel.""All of them?""Sure, he says. Think about it. There's escaping from wolves, fighting the wolves, taming the wolves. Being thrown to the wolves or throwing others to the wolves so the wolves will eat them instead of you. Running with the wolf pack. Turning into a wolf. No other decent stories exist."She’s also not afraid to get into the down and dirty of aging and some of the little moments that make up a life as those who get older and older get poorer and more friendless with each passing day. She’s also got some good commentary about how and why the mythos that get built up around Important Authors can be completely ridiculous, and the weight that we try to make them carry. However. And this is unfortunately a big however, despite the clear intellect and purpose behind this experiment with the autobiography and journal form, this novel ultimately failed for me. To be honest I felt that the ideas ended up being rather cliché, the “twist” was easy to guess, many of the characters were vague and the majority of the book was painfully overwritten. This book needed to be either a hundred pages shorter, or two hundred pages longer. She needed to decide whether she was writing a middlebrow novel about Coming to Peace With Our Families or whether she was really going to go down the rabbit hole and really talk about how crazy it was in that period where the Old Order fell and people got vicious and confused about class, gender, domesticity and religion. Because it was fucking crazy. You can make your arguments for Napoleon, the Hundred Years’ War, WWII or even September 11 if you are so politically inclined, but the Great War is my vote for the ultimate game changer. It was All Over and Goodbye to All That, but it was said at so many different volumes and with so many different degrees of clarity and decision that it became this mess that you couldn’t disentangle and nobody could talk about because there was so much you Don’t Talk About and so much you had to anyway. It’s all in your face and people who went and those who didn’t don’t understand. It’s even more confusing when you live in the Middle of Nowhere Canada and the fighting hasn’t been anywhere close to you. What’s the big problem? Why is this war not like all those other wars that we learned about in school? So many questions and no language to ask them with or reason to know that these are the questions to ask, not really. I think that’s what this book was supposed to be about. If you look at it from a plot perspective, as a sequence of events of what happened to the two sisters who star, that’s exactly what it was about. It tracks pretty perfectly as a history of the period from my high school history tests. A family of industrialists, on the ascendant throughout the Gilded Age, risen from nothing in the New World. This same family marrying into (buying into) the Old Order and building themselves massive monuments to what they think is Taste, then raising their families to do the same but with the addition of Good Protestant Work Ethic. The effects on the next generation of huge amounts of wealth with no social nets required by the government. Intergenerational conflict and fracture. Slow decline. The next generation after that born into conflict and then a war started by two generations with something to prove. The End of It All. The rise of women, the breakdown of men, violence as a solution, hiding the rags with the sparkling ashes from trunks left over from Gilded grandpapa, bust, and the End, Redux. After which, nothing really matters except the Fall. However, whenthe fall is all there is, it matters. So this is a fifty year long reveal of how the Fall happened. And of course, the whole structure of the book itself is based around the stories that we tell ourselves about all this. The public ones (the interspersed newspaper clippings), the memories of our day to day lives we might tell a close friend or colleague (the bulk of the conventional prose), and then the stories that we tell in bed to each other that contain our most private truths that we do not tell to anyone or we tell everyone, heavily under wraps (the science fiction story segments). So the bones of this are solid. I’m there on that. But the skin surrounding it isn’t, and the parts don’t add up to a greater whole. The way that Atwood writes was really off-putting to me, and made me think that her priority was not really exploring all this great material she gave herself, but with providing a pretty, literary package for it, and offering us the Mystery of the Twilight. Someone in the comments below mentioned that Atwood was originally a poet before she moved to prose, and that makes sense to me. And however much I enjoy poetic prose, I like it when it is used to pull out nuances and make that punch to the gut really count. What I don’t like is what Atwood used it for here. Every feeling, every atmospheric description, every dress, every spoken tone must have its metaphor. Every simile you could possibly think of under the sun had its day. It was incredibly distracting. Every bad shoe was like a boat, every morning bathed in butter, or you know, whatever better metaphors Atwood came up with. It was very rare to find her characters experiencing something as itself, or being in the moment and stating, “I saw a car. The car was red. It turned left.” Oh no. You can bet it’ll be something like, “I turned my eyes upwards to see a moving object rolling down the street like inevitable fate. It’s color was like the capes of the toreadors trying to enrage a bull, and it moved inexorably toward me until suddenly, like an unexpected rough breeze, its motion turned sharply away.” While I appreciate the effort… y’all know what I’m saying. I just pictured Atwood running around town doing her errands with some napkins or a little notebook, writing down metaphors as they occurred to her about how green looks at precisely this moment of the morning. And then moving on to the next sentence and cycle, rinse, repeat. While I appreciate her powers of observation (even if I think some of her metaphors were rather tortured), it really distracted me from the point of the book. It turned it into a Nicholas Sparks novel for me. Because all this dwelling on metaphor and similie, especially in the section about the author’s childhood, made it seem like Atwood was creating this big bed of comfortably romantic words for us to lay down on, words which could really make you avoid what was going on here. She did the same thing when she started to describe certain painful scenes in the narrator’s life. She picked out these big moments in a woman’s life, and you could tell that she had a preconceived metaphor about the way these things happen to women (getting married=sacrificial lamb, ‘becoming a proper woman’= being trussed up like a goose), and she carried it through doggedly. I wish that I hadn’t guessed how the narrator was going to react in each scene. It was one long, earnest song of It’s Hard Out There For a Lady. Waaaay too earnest. It’s also pretty funny out there for a lady. It’s also kind of boring, kind of rewarding, it’s also fascinating and distracting and a million other things. Nobody can be a martyr for that long, that consistently. I think this is why my favorite parts all came in the down-to-earth old lady sections where she talked about tripping over steps and her bowel movements. Yes, thank you! More about how its Rough Out There To Be A Person In General, please! The metaphors took over the novel to the extent that I think they did a pretty big disservice to the characters. The mysterious sister of the narrator, the (view spoiler)[supposed (hide spoiler)] author of the novel that is scattered throughout the book, ends up being particularly vague. She’s a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, with some religion tossed on top. She’s that slightly touched in the head Wise Child that we’re all found of. Luna Lovegood in early twentieth century garb, uttering annoying Truths to Ponder out of nowhere. There are isolated moments where Atwood starts to explore what her deal might have been, some gesture towards autism and severe OCD. But it gets quickly elided in favor of Magic and Otherness. While some amount of that is believable from our unreliable narrator, I don’t believe that someone who writes a novel obsessed with this person would not be more concerned with telling us more about her. At the very least, providing us with a pile of excuses for why the ultimate reveal is the way it is. We get a precious one or two in childhood, and that’s it. Laura quickly becomes a tired cliché, an unexplored lost opportunity, and a convenient narrator device for being audience proxy at different times. I just did not believe that this would be the extent of Iris’s conclusions about her. Also, her ultimate fate really bothered me. (view spoiler)[ Just from a gender issues perspective, I mean. Why do we have to perpetuate this Manic Pixie stereotype where everything is Dramatic and Absolute? Why does everybody have to be Juliet or somehow unworthy of worship? If she’s really got mental issues, I appreciate that. Atwood seems to imply that she does, as I mentioned. But then she makes it about the fact that the husband apparently abused her and then called her crazy for saying so. So she is the way she is because of the Oppressive Male? I don’t like that, because if that’s the case then you’re perpetuating the women are martyrs, saints, angels, whatever thing. Otherwise, please respect what’s going on with her. Is she a symbol or is she a person with a medical issue? Make a diagnosis and stick with it. However, I think its more interesting if her diagnosis isn’t just a case of Rochester’s Attic Wife-Lite. (hide spoiler)] Ivy herself is also undersketched in a bothersome way. Ivy doesn’t seem to have thought very much about why she did what she did. She let a lot of things simply happen to her, and seemed to have very little personality about it. We get a little bit of her in the (view spoiler)[ science fiction sections, as she speaks to her lover in bed. But I still don’t get why that guy. Because he’s the only guy she and her sister ever met who would constitute a rebellion? Lame. Oversimplified. She had a lot more years under her belt. What was she doing, hiding in her attic? I don’t like novels that don’t believably depict the passage of time and how that changes people and their feelings towards others. (hide spoiler)] Other characters get similarly short shrift. The girls’ mother is a straight symbol, Iris’s husband couldn’t possibly matter less or be more of a cardboard metaphor. Even (view spoiler)[ the lover. We get class rage. We get his somewhat bitter love for his upper class girlfriend. We get that he’s educated and very Gaius Baltar in his resentments of his birth and situation. But that’s all we know about him. He’s a straight class metaphor. While I accept that the people that we love are all reflections of ourselves to a certain degree, I do not accept that this is all that there was to this person. I struggle with him because yes, over time, perhaps you would have written him this way, but it’s just such a simplified commentary. Those science fiction sections got really painful after awhile. (hide spoiler)] Moreover, since the “twist” is pretty easy to guess early on in the novel, the gradual reveal of it towards the end packed absolutely no emotional punch. I don’t think it would have anyway, though, because quite frankly it was all so vague I didn’t have much to grab onto to mourn. I didn’t feel like the various sections connected to each other at all, across time or across storytelling method. There were too many different purposes, too many words, too many detours. I found myself holding nothing very much by the end. Only some sparkling dust passing through the air at magic hour. Sorry for the ramble. Maybe this is all personal preference, and maybe, like I mentioned elsewhere, I’m not willing to give Atwood’s format and ideas the props that they deserve because I don’t like the wrapping they came in. Maybe I see this book as a missed opportunity because my chords weren’t strummed by her word choice enough times, or maybe I’m not giving her enough credit for it was supposed to be that way for a reason. I wanted to like this much better than I did. Someone please argue with me and tell me what I missed. I think I need it with this one, if you’ve got any ideas. Is there another Atwood you'd recommend to correct my impressions of her writing? Help me out, you guys!

  • Bill Khaemba
    2019-05-03 11:42

    “The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise, you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.” As Promised A full review Exhilarating poignant read, Atwood showcases exuberance and confidence throughout 600 pages and my jaw was always left ajar. The rich texture of the plot & writing paired well with the complexities of the characters and it is no surprise that she snubbed the 2000 Man Booker with grace. I am afraid that this will be another gushing review and I can't wait to dive in and pour out my love for this book.“Farewells can be shattering, but returns are surely worse. Solid flesh can never live up to the bright shadow cast by its absence. Time and distance blur the edges; then suddenly the beloved has arrived, and it's noon with its merciless light, and every spot and pore and wrinkle and bristle stands clear.” It is one thick plot that spans over generation told from 3 perspectives and I ate it all up. Having read Atwood's The Handmaids Tale (Review Here) Last year I was blown away by her commanding writing, her confidence and feminist undertone even though I didn't connect with the book, it still haunts me... So picking up this one I was 100% sure I would adore the writing and boy was I right. This was beautiful, striking, epic that I can't fathom my love for it. Books like these are the reasons I dare not to tackle writing because she freaking owns it. The themes were ever so present and relevant plus the 50year old POV narrator was so strong that I can still hear her voice weeks after finishing the book.“When you're young, you think everything you do is disposable. You move from now to now, crumpling time up in your hands, tossing it away. You're your own speeding car. You think you can get rid of things, and people too—leave them behind. You don't yet know about the habit they have, of coming back.Time in dreams is frozen. You can never get away from where you've been.” The generational saga was scrutinized to such details that the reader feels like they have been traveling throughout history, the way the story is structured gives such a fresh perspective on the genre and the relationships between the characters was odd in a good way, it felt very authentic as they come to terms with war, death, the great depression and so much. This will definitely be those books that I will always go back to, Atwood's writing will forever haunt me and I am definitely planning to tackle some if not all of her books. I highly recommend you pick up one of her books she is quickly becoming a favorite :)What do other Atwood books you recommend?

  • Alison
    2019-05-14 12:40

    I certainly didn't intend to spend the larger part of my summer getting through The Blind Assassin. I can't really put my finger on why this didn't engage me. The writing was interesting and brilliant, but the story itself just didn't propel me.There is the story of two sisters growing up in the 1900's in Toronto. Their mother dies at a young age and the tale is of their father trying to raise them with their wise housekeeper's help, his business failings, the World Wars, and the elder sister's arranged marriage; as well as a series of events leading up to the younger sister's suicide at the age of 25.Then there's the story within the story...of two lovers meeting secretly. He spins for her science fiction of which is entitled The Blind Assassin. Not until the end do we find out the true identities of the lovers, the writers of the story, and all sorts of paternity issues and family secrets.The epic nature of the book is ambitious, and the writer sees it through. No stone is unturned as the plot revelations come to fruition. What's unusual about the main character, the elder sister, Iris, is her lack of emotion about the tragic elements of the story. It's like she's not even remorseful that she turned the blind eye to her sister's sufferings, as if she herself were the victim.I wish I had picked another Margaret Atwood book to begin with. I think I would have liked another better. I'm glad I got through this. I enjoyed some of the philosphical quips and the flat tone of the book, but I feel like I have already forgotten the story. Maybe I'm just missing something, because it's evidently a modern classic.

  • Ahmad Sharabiani
    2019-04-21 08:48

    63. The Blind Assassin, Margaret AtwoodThe Blind Assassin is a novel by the Canadian writer Margaret Atwood. It was first published by McClelland and Stewart in 2000. Set in Canada, it is narrated from the present day, referring to previous events that span the twentieth century.آدمکش کور - مارگارت آتوود (ققنوس) ادبیات؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه نوامبر سال 2007 میلادیعنوان: آدمکش کور؛ نویسنده: مارگارت آتوود؛ مترجم: شهین آسایش؛تهران، ققنوس؛ 1382؛ در 665 ص؛ فروست: ادبیات جهان 47؛ رمان 41؛ شابک: ایکس - 964311385؛ چاپ دوم 1383؛ چاپ سوم 1385؛ چاپ پنجم 1388؛ شابک: 9789643113858؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان امریکایی - قرن 20 مآدمکش کور، داستانی «سوررئالیستی» است و برنده­ ی جایزه­ ی «بوکر» در سال دوهزار، دو بازگویی جدا از هم است. یکی عشق دختر و پسری ست که پسر در قرارهای عاشقانه، برای دختر داستانی تخیلی می­گوید. در داستان دیگر، پیرزنی به نام «ایریس» شرح زندگی خود و خواهرش «لورا» را می­نویسد. دو داستان در پایان به هم می­پیوندند. «لورا» خواهر کوچکتر دختری عجیب و حساس، و «ایریس» مسئولیت پذیر است. او برای نجات خانواده فداکاری کرده و همسر مردی ثروتمند و هوس­بازی می­شود. در پایان داستان درمی­یابد باج اصلی چه بوده و چگونه پرداخته شده است. بچه­ ها فکر می­کنند هر رخداد بدی که رخ مینماید تقصیر آنهاست. ا. شربیانی

  • Apatt
    2019-05-06 07:56

    I don't read a lot of lit fic, I'm just not wired for it I suppose. Margaret Atwood is a rare exception though, because she often wanders into my sci-fi neighborhood and generally does a splendid job of it so I wanted to check out her lit fic which I imagine is like a day job for her. I chose The Blind Assassin because it won the prestigious Man Booker Prize (Man! Booker Prize!) for the year 2000 so I thought I’d go for that (not that I have ever read any of the past winners).The Blind Assassin basically concerns Iris Chase and her sister Laura. Their mother died when they were still kids, they are mainly taken care of by their maid/nanny Reenie, their industrialist father being quite useless in the paternal department. After WWII, the father’s business fails and Iris is coerced into marrying a thoroughly unpleasant and untrustworthy but rich businessman named Richard Griffen. Things go from bad to completely pear-shaped for poor Iris and her sis.My apologies to Ms. Atwood (and Cecily) if the above brief synopsis makes the book sounds like a load of crap. It is hard to synopsize because it is so densely plotted and once you are familiar with the characters everything they do is of some interest, even the most mundane activities like going to the doughnut shop or the toilet. Having said that, none of the characters is particularly likeable. It is a cliché in GR book reviews for the reviewer to complain that none of the characters are likeable, but, in this case, I am not complaining, they don’t need to be likeable if they are interesting. All the characters are vividly drawn, some are even grotesque, and it is fascinating to see what they get up to.I haven’t even mentioned “the sci-fi bits” yet. They are parts of an improvised and orally narrated story made up “on demand” by an unnamed clandestine lover who is himself a fictional character within the “reality” of the novel. I love sci-fi, but I have to admit the sci-fi bits (they are not even whole chapters) in this book don’t do anything for me,Oryx and Crake they ain’t, and they seem to dissipate toward the end of the book. The sci-fi is not front and centre in the book, in a multivitamin like Centrum it would be vitamin E or something. Still, if you read them as allegories for aspects of Iris and Laura’s lives they are quite worthwhile.The structure of The Blind Assassin is quite complex (without actually being confusing) in that the book jumps around several plotlines in a nonlinear manner:- Iris Chase’s modern day narrative.- Iris Chase’s flashback/historical narrative- A fictional novel within the novel (that makes it doubly fictional) about a couple of unnamed clandestine lovers, written by Laura Chase.- A science fictional story within the above-mentioned story (I’d call it triple fictional), written or narrated orally by the clandestine lover.- Newspaper articles, to give more detached and macro views of certain events in the book I think.Normally I have very little patience for the literary device of dialogues without quotation marks, I get so annoyed I want to pencil them all in. However, Ms. Atwood somehow makes it work. To be clear, the invisible quotation marks only occur in the “novel within novel” chapters, presumably to render them less real than the rest of the book. The book would be quite depressing if not for Iris’ acerbic prose and super snarky remarks. Things like these eventually endeared her to me:“The French are connoisseurs of sadness, they know all the kinds. This is why they have bidets.”“I need hardly remind you that I am her legal guardian.”“If you need hardly remind me, then why are you reminding me?”At the risk of contradicting myself by the end of the book I did become quite fond of the old biddy lady.OK, I am going to wrap up this incoherent review now. If you want to read an intelligent and insightful review of his book check out Cecily’s.TL;DR: Yeah, it’s really good. Read it! I’m off to read something incredibly lowbrow.___________________________NotesMy thanks to Grandma Lee for correcting my grammar, mainly by scattering commas all over the place!That Atwood’s prose is a thing of beauty should not come as a surprise to anyone who have read her before. The Blind Assassin, like all her books, is eminently quotable, but looking at GR’s quotes page for this book they are all lyrical and flowery ones. As further proof of my lack of sophistication I prefer the funny acerbic ones like these:“My head felt like a sack of pulp. Still in my nightgown, damp from some fright I’d pushed aside like foliage, I pulled myself up and out of my tangled bed, then forced myself through the usual dawn rituals - the ceremonies we perform to make ourselves look sane and acceptable to other people.”“Getting my clothes on helped. I am not at my best without scaffolding.”“The war is still raging. Raging is what they used to say, for wars; still do, for all I know. But on this page, a fresh, clean page, I will cause the war to end - I alone, with a stroke of my black plastic pen.”Metal Corner:InThe Handmaid’s Tale Atwood gave a shoutout to Twisted Sister, in The Blind Assassin she mentions Judas Priest a couple of times. This leads me to the conclusion that Margaret Atwood is a headbanger. Awesome!

  • Thodoris Fotoglou
    2019-05-04 10:29

    4+Στις πρώτες σελίδες αναρωτιόμουν για ποιο λόγο εμπλέξα με ένα Δυστοπικό μυθιστόρημα μιας άλλης εποχής.Ομως σύντομα η Ατγουντ μας προετοιμάζει για κάτι πιο δυνατό.Η Αιρις ηλικιωμένη πια στα 82 της αφηγείται ξεκινώντας απο τη γέννηση της στα 1916 οικογενειακές αναμνήσεις αλλα κυρίως το λόγο που οδήγησε στην αυτοκτονία την αδερφή της Λόρα το 1945, η οποία εγινε γνωστή με ένα και μοναδικό μυθιστορημα της τον " τυφλό δολοφόνο"μετα το θάνατο της. Όσο προχωράει η πλοκή οι μακρόσυρτες αφηγήσεις δίνουν θέση σε καταιγαιστικές εξελίξεις και ο αναγνώστης ανταμείβεται ανάλογα.Μοναδικό αρνητικό που βρήκα στο βιβλίο είναι ο εγκιβωτισμός του μυθιστορήματος της Λόρα που διακόπτει την εξαιρετική αφήγηση.Πρόκειται για ενα σκοτεινό βιβλιο με γοητευτικότατη γραφή γύρω απο τη γυναικεία καταπίεση.Βραβείο μπουκερ 2000 για την Άτγουντ.