Customer Reviews for

The Blind Assassin

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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 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 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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  • 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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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    PLEASANTLY DIFFERENT

    I didn't know what to expect when I opened the cover to this book. I became engaged immediately. This is a fascinating book that you don't want to end. It is one of my favorites.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2005

    don't jump to conclusions...

    The book appears confusing at first because it's a novel within a novel within a novel and can be hard to follow at times. I found myself having to reread it in order to understand the sequence of events. However, Margaret Atwood is a talented, poetic writer and she deserves acclaim for this book, which I believe to be her best to date. She wrote an excellent portrayal of a sister who is still mourning for what she lost so long ago and yearns to put everything right. Her prose is flowing and integrated with satire the pair of which somehow manage to portray a biting wit and humane warmth at the same time. Read it if you have a flair for mysteries.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2005

    Beauty and substance

    My wife has been reading this book, but I stole it off of the nightstand, stayed up late, and finished it before she did. Otherwise, I haven't read a novel in a year. The Blind Assassin was refreshing and rewarding. In the Blind Assassin, Atwood's prose has beauty, depth, and (there's got to be a better word) precision. I very much enjoyed Atwood's use of the pulp sci-fi stories. They were true to form, yet pointed metaphors for the other story lines. Vonnegut used this technique a great deal, in sort of a self-effacing sloppiness, but Atwood makes it art. The mysteries of the story are eventually given to the reader. All through the book I was driven by the desire to know what really took place between X and Y, Y and Z, and X and Z. The tension was savory. For most of the book, Atwood is stingy with her clues. What seems to be given away is really the beginning of another question. The book's main shortcoming is perhaps that she doesn't stay stingy, and at the end lays the story out like a patient on the table, pages after the reader has begun to figure it out. But this is perhaps done for effect, adding a blunt edge to the tradgedy. And enough other things are left unsaid to keep one thinking about the book after finishing it. This is a book that bears re-reading and has social commentary that goes well beyond the dysfunctional family saga.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2004

    Whoa!

    This book was AMAZING! Although it was difficult to get into and adapt to the style of Atwood's writing (this is the first book I have read by her), the twists at the end were thrilling. Atwood really is at the top of her craft here. My favourite parts were the writings on the bathroom stall. My favourite quote: 'There's no place like home, therefore no place = home. Home = no place : home does not exist.'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2003

    Amazing!

    I picked up this book expecting just an ok read.It sounded interesting enough.What I ended up reading was an amzing story or should I say 3 stories in one.The first story about Iris's life as an older woman,though my least favorite,was a nice way to weave the story together.The second story is a heartbreaking yet compelling history of Iris's past which is complete with tons of drama.The third story is a book(there are some secrets that come out about it)called 'The Blind Assasin'.The characters,though never named,are magical and have witty entertaining conversations.Overall,the book is great....but by the end,you will think it's amazing.One of my favorite quotes from the book: 'Before you do anything,think twice' 'Why only twice?'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2002

    I loved it

    Although a bit gritty at times and certainly not something I would recommend to my mother, I was totally entralled with Blind Assassin. I loved the layers and character development. Usually I tend to identify with the main character, but after finishing the book, I realized Iris is not someone I would like in real life. On the other hand, as a fictional character, she is great.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2001

    This WAS a page-turner for me.

    It took me a little while to get lose myself in this book. However, once hooked, I could not put it down. I read the last 400+ pages in one afternoon and wanted more when I had finished.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2001

    Almost finished...

    I'm 400 pages into it, and I agree that it is a slow mover, but I can't put it down. I'm NOT having a hard time separating the time lines and various plots, and usually that is difficult for me. I keep wanting to read more, putting it down and picking it up a few minutes later. Thoroughly enjoyable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2001

    A Hard, but Satisfying Read

    One of the true pieces of modern literature I have read in ages, this is a book that will be studied and dissected in lit classes for years to come. While sometimes difficult, it is very accessible to the average reader. Be prepared to take your time, tab some pages if needed so you can reference them later (you'll know which ones), and let the unapologetically vivid narrative of Iris Chase Griffen consume you.

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    Posted February 25, 2009

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