Customer Reviews for

The Blind Assassin

Average Rating 4
( 154 )
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5 Star

(81)

4 Star

(38)

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(19)

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(10)

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(6)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

Beguiling to the last sentence

This book sat on my shelf for several months before I had the courage to read Atwood's best work. Blind Assassin is for the serious or the literary reader. And, very quickly we are thrown into a novel w/in the novel. The name? Blind Assassin written by Laura chase and p...
This book sat on my shelf for several months before I had the courage to read Atwood's best work. Blind Assassin is for the serious or the literary reader. And, very quickly we are thrown into a novel w/in the novel. The name? Blind Assassin written by Laura chase and published posthumously after her death in 1945 by her sister, Iris.

Iris discovers: "Nothing is more difficult than to understand the dead, I've found; but nothing is more dangerous than to ignore them."

Did Laura purposely drive off that bridge? Do Iris' relationships to her father, much older husband, Alex, and even to Laura die in that car as well. Which sister is Laura writing about in her novel? And whom is the male lover in Blind Assassin that tells fantastical Sci Fi stories. Are they actually parables lifted from Laura and Iris' life to explain or justify each girl's choices? Or they something else, still yet defining Laura and Iris?

Atwood never yields to cynicism, or contempt for her characters. The result; a rich world of layered truths and lies of Laura and Iris. Atwood uses Iris to tell their story, define their relationships-all of them-to understand the dead and finally lay them to Rest in Peace. Thus Iris is revealed, and finally at peace with her life-warts and all, in the Autumn of her own life.
This book deserves more stars than this rating and the time it takes to read this wonderful story. I was very dissapointed that I had come to the last word. This marvelous book is a gem of an addition to my book collection and hopefully to yours.

posted by Molinarolo on April 17, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

5 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

Award-winning tedium

My colleagues in public libraries often write emphatic articles about the importance of getting the public to read Serious Modern Fiction (SMF). I envision some of them marching people to the shelves at gunpoint. Never having been a big fan of SMF, for the last few...
My colleagues in public libraries often write emphatic articles about the importance of getting the public to read Serious Modern Fiction (SMF). I envision some of them marching people to the shelves at gunpoint. Never having been a big fan of SMF, for the last few years, I have been attending library book clubs and independently pursuing a program of reading classics. Blind Assassin, the fourth and worst Margaret Atwood novel that I have read has convinced me that I have been wasting my time. From now on I¿m sticking to my usual nonfiction with a leavening of mysteries and fantasies. Genre fiction is often decried as being ¿formulaic¿. And Blind Assassin isn¿t? The little motherless mites with the faithful maid and the distant father; the doomed sibling; the nasty upper-class husband vs the lower-class lover; the hollow proprieties of an older time; the tackiness of modern life, etc. Of course, Atwood has a gimmick that apparently dazzled the critics. You¿ve heard of the story-within-a-story, and you¿ve heard of the alternating narratives ¿ well this baby has TWO stories-within-stories as alternating narratives!!! But, wait! There¿s more ¿ a third narrative consisting mostly of newspapers clippings that parallels one of the narratives!!! Wow, how could you dare to ask for an interesting plot or well-developed characters?! These kind of narrative tricks are marvelous if they create an effect that can¿t be handled in a straightforward narrative, but otherwise it¿s like the competition to write the longest sentence in English: sure it takes some cleverness to think up an additional clause that hasn¿t been used, but is the result worth reading? In my opinion, a novel is either an involving narrative that creates a world that¿s completely real as long as one is reading ¿ or the author should do nonfiction. The book could have been vastly improved by eliminating about 190 of the first 200 pages. The narrative, which is supposed to be a memoir, contains entirely too much detail; it reminds me of a total stranger latching onto someone in a public place to drone on about themselves. Worse, all the detail is lavished upon insignificant things like ambient dog feces or styrofoam cups. The engine of much of the plot is the strong feelings that Alex Thomas inspires in the Chase sisters, but he¿s a such a shadowy figure that I can¿t imagine what they see in him nor do I have any feeling for him (or any other character). We know that he was a war orphan raised by a Presbyterian minister, he¿s a leftist of some sort, he writes science-fiction short stories, he fought in the Spanish Civil War and died in World War II. What little we experience of his personality, which is recounted by a sexual partner (lover would be too euphemistic and sentimental), seems pretty abrasive and obnoxious. I can¿t imagine that Iris¿ memoir would have much effect on her long-estranged granddaughter, assuming Sabrina had the patience to plow through it: Sabrina and her mother rank well below bathroom grafitti in importance. Atwood attempts to pour on the pathos in the last couple of pages, but since Iris doesn¿t appear to have noticed her daughter between her birth and the age of eight, bathos is more like it.

posted by Anonymous on June 26, 2003

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  • Posted April 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Beguiling to the last sentence

    This book sat on my shelf for several months before I had the courage to read Atwood's best work. Blind Assassin is for the serious or the literary reader. And, very quickly we are thrown into a novel w/in the novel. The name? Blind Assassin written by Laura chase and published posthumously after her death in 1945 by her sister, Iris.

    Iris discovers: "Nothing is more difficult than to understand the dead, I've found; but nothing is more dangerous than to ignore them."

    Did Laura purposely drive off that bridge? Do Iris' relationships to her father, much older husband, Alex, and even to Laura die in that car as well. Which sister is Laura writing about in her novel? And whom is the male lover in Blind Assassin that tells fantastical Sci Fi stories. Are they actually parables lifted from Laura and Iris' life to explain or justify each girl's choices? Or they something else, still yet defining Laura and Iris?

    Atwood never yields to cynicism, or contempt for her characters. The result; a rich world of layered truths and lies of Laura and Iris. Atwood uses Iris to tell their story, define their relationships-all of them-to understand the dead and finally lay them to Rest in Peace. Thus Iris is revealed, and finally at peace with her life-warts and all, in the Autumn of her own life.
    This book deserves more stars than this rating and the time it takes to read this wonderful story. I was very dissapointed that I had come to the last word. This marvelous book is a gem of an addition to my book collection and hopefully to yours.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2003

    Award-winning tedium

    My colleagues in public libraries often write emphatic articles about the importance of getting the public to read Serious Modern Fiction (SMF). I envision some of them marching people to the shelves at gunpoint. Never having been a big fan of SMF, for the last few years, I have been attending library book clubs and independently pursuing a program of reading classics. Blind Assassin, the fourth and worst Margaret Atwood novel that I have read has convinced me that I have been wasting my time. From now on I¿m sticking to my usual nonfiction with a leavening of mysteries and fantasies. Genre fiction is often decried as being ¿formulaic¿. And Blind Assassin isn¿t? The little motherless mites with the faithful maid and the distant father; the doomed sibling; the nasty upper-class husband vs the lower-class lover; the hollow proprieties of an older time; the tackiness of modern life, etc. Of course, Atwood has a gimmick that apparently dazzled the critics. You¿ve heard of the story-within-a-story, and you¿ve heard of the alternating narratives ¿ well this baby has TWO stories-within-stories as alternating narratives!!! But, wait! There¿s more ¿ a third narrative consisting mostly of newspapers clippings that parallels one of the narratives!!! Wow, how could you dare to ask for an interesting plot or well-developed characters?! These kind of narrative tricks are marvelous if they create an effect that can¿t be handled in a straightforward narrative, but otherwise it¿s like the competition to write the longest sentence in English: sure it takes some cleverness to think up an additional clause that hasn¿t been used, but is the result worth reading? In my opinion, a novel is either an involving narrative that creates a world that¿s completely real as long as one is reading ¿ or the author should do nonfiction. The book could have been vastly improved by eliminating about 190 of the first 200 pages. The narrative, which is supposed to be a memoir, contains entirely too much detail; it reminds me of a total stranger latching onto someone in a public place to drone on about themselves. Worse, all the detail is lavished upon insignificant things like ambient dog feces or styrofoam cups. The engine of much of the plot is the strong feelings that Alex Thomas inspires in the Chase sisters, but he¿s a such a shadowy figure that I can¿t imagine what they see in him nor do I have any feeling for him (or any other character). We know that he was a war orphan raised by a Presbyterian minister, he¿s a leftist of some sort, he writes science-fiction short stories, he fought in the Spanish Civil War and died in World War II. What little we experience of his personality, which is recounted by a sexual partner (lover would be too euphemistic and sentimental), seems pretty abrasive and obnoxious. I can¿t imagine that Iris¿ memoir would have much effect on her long-estranged granddaughter, assuming Sabrina had the patience to plow through it: Sabrina and her mother rank well below bathroom grafitti in importance. Atwood attempts to pour on the pathos in the last couple of pages, but since Iris doesn¿t appear to have noticed her daughter between her birth and the age of eight, bathos is more like it.

    5 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 11, 2010

    A complex masterpiece!

    I thought that challenging reading was for school... the boring stuff. But Margaret Atwood's "The Blind Assassin" was a twisted, complex novel that features a story within a story that requires your undivided attention!
    The first line of the book is "On the day after the war ended, my sister drove her car off a bridge." That caught my attention for sure! The narrator, Iris Chase Griffen, narrates the story, telling the tale of her life currently, as well as recounting her early childhood and all of its trials. That's only 2 parts of the story to follow. The 3rd part, which is perhaps the hardest to grasp, is a story that the narrator's sister, Laura Chase (the one the first sentence refers to) has supposedly written before her early death and has been published posthumously by Iris called "The Blind Assassin". The 3 stories weave together in an intricately complex, but rewarding way. Every three or four chapters, the story will switch from Iris's narrative to "The Blind Assassin." Carefully attention is needed to see how small details relate between the two settings, because therein lies the beauty and uniqueness of this work of art.
    I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a challenge and is sick of the same ol' same ol' story. But make sure you are ready to think, think, think!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2011

    A True Literarily Marvel

    The Blind Assasin was a unique experience of alternating atmospheres, impeccible detail, and insightful perspective from the accounts of the main character, Iris, and her take on everyone, and everything, around her.
    From the blend of cynisism to the intermixed events of a capricic life, Iris' memoirs, which compose the story, are a force to be reckoned with. Her story is most notable in that it is definitely one with regret and revenge, and an undeniable thirst for change. Meanwhile, the task of unconvering the identity behind the mysterious man and woman in "The Blind Assasin" chapters leaves you speculating til the very end.
    I honestly can say I've never read anything like this before. Atwood's style and composition is anomalous, and utterly unmatchable. She brings a new flavor to the realms of the literary world, and has done justice in her experimentation with the conventional novel.
    Moreso than her style, the turn of events in Iris' story are most surprising; two suicides, marriage into a twisted family and the loss of one's true identity make this a heartfelt read. I was transplanted into the setting of each memory as it was being written down by Iris, and felt and saw every blinding detail, the prescence the type of man Richard was, and how supressed Iris felt; eye awakening to say the least.
    When she recounts her sister Laura, a whole other level of complexity and understanding is added to the novel--bringing her full, enigmatic, unconventional personality and its influence--to the story. Yet overall, the best part was not unconvering the mysterious identities and coming to the definitely unexpected conclustion so much as it was growing and empathyzing with each of the characters along the way. It unreal how many questions one's memories can evoke in a person, causing them to question their society and everyone around them.
    I would most definitely reccomend this book for anyone up for a twisted, enconventional journey of living vicariously through someone else, and anyone looking to be humored by the highly descriptive, sometimes nonsensical, abstract details and opinions of the Author via the main character of the book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2011

    I've never read anything like this.

    This book is so very different. It's got 3 stories going on all at once. It kept me wanting to find out what happens next. My first read by Margaret Atwood. This was excellent, I'll have to check out her other books.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Unique and Gripping Story, Never Finished a Book Faster

    One of my favorite books of all time. The mystery of the plot is revealed in the unraveling of the past as the main character transforms from a young girl floating through life to a strong woman in firm possession of her identity. This novel is about the heartache and culpability of our inaction when the things we are not strong enough to see or realize are suddenly as stark as the death of a loved one. The heroine is anything but perfect. She makes mistakes that ultimately lead to unhappiness but in owning up to them and fighting, the reader both forgives and admires her. This story is unique, fast paced and well-written. Even if the plot doesn't strike you as something you would be interested in, I recommend it for sheer literary value.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2013

    the book by margaret atwood is a splendid creation of fiction an

    the book by margaret atwood is a splendid creation of fiction and the imagination that people can conjure up in their minds.........the book is relly an interesting book and teaches us alot of messages and advices that we can learn from...........................................

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2012

    Beautiful

    Not having read one of Margaret Atwood's books before, I was not sure what to expect. What a rich and textured story awaited me. A novel within a novel within a mystery within a love story. Once I got the rhythm of the story, I was hooked.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommend

    What a wonderful surprise this book was to me. It was quite a feat by the author to weave so many types of writing into one novel. Historical fiction, prose, poetry and science fiction. Sometimes, I found it challenging to realize whose story was being told. This book had so many fascinating layers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2000

    Big time disappointed

    After reading Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' which I thought was a masterpiece, I was really looking forward to this one. I was greatly disappointed. I found the' novel within a novel' to be really just a gimic and unnecessary to move the story along. The 'mystery' wasn't much of one at all ( I figured it out early on in the book ). Atwood is still a great writer and I hope she rebounds from this effort. If you haven't read 'The Handmaid's Tale' do yourself a favor and read it. Now that was a great book!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2014

    Loved it!!

    Such a great book!!! So raw and beautifully written. An attention grabber and instant modern classic.

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  • Posted January 22, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Enjoyable

    I enjoyed this story. Never read a Margaret Atwood book and this was a good place to start.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2013

    My all-time favorite

    Genius.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2013

    Love Margaret Atwood.

    Love Margaret Atwood.

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  • Posted March 8, 2013

    A favorite

    This is one of my favorite books of all time. Reality and sci fi both in one book, and full of great characters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2013

    Beautiful

    My favorite Atwood novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2012

    This is an engrossing read...

    Margaret Atwood composes a skillfully layered narrative that leaps back and forth through time. The protagonist gradually and poignantly reveals herself as she reconstructs her family and personal history through flashback. The larger narrative employs several consistent and entertaining devices to help the protagonist along, and by the end you feel as though you've glimpsed an entire life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2012

    Amazing

    Beautiful, brilliant writing. Storytelling at its most magical.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2012

    Best of Atwood...

    Engaging read...loved it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2012

    My absolute favorite book.

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