From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Handmaid's Tale
WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE
In The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood weaves together strands of gothic suspense, romance, and science fiction into one utterly spellbinding narrative. The novel begins with the mysterious death—a possible suicide—of a young woman named Laura Chase in 1945. Decades later, Laura’s sister Iris recounts her memories of their childhood, and of the dramatic deaths that have punctuated their wealthy, eccentric family’s history. Intertwined with Iris’s account are chapters from the scandalous novel that made Laura famous, in which two illicit lovers amuse each other by spinning a tale of a blind killer on a distant planet. These richly layered stories-within-stories gradually illuminate the secrets that have long haunted the Chase family, coming together in a brilliant and astonishing final twist.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.91(d)|
About the Author
Margaret Atwood, whose work has been published in thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, her novels include Cat’s Eye, short-listed for the 1989 Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; Oryx and Crake, short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize; The Year of the Flood; and her most recent, MaddAddam. She is the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Innovator’s Award, and lives in Toronto with the writer Graeme Gibson.
Date of Birth:November 18, 1939
Place of Birth:Ottawa, Ontario
Education:B.A., University of Toronto, 1961; M.A. Radcliffe, 1962; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1967
Read an Excerpt
The Blind Assassin: The hard-boiled egg
What will it be, then? he says. Dinner jackets and romance, or shipwrecks on a barren coast? You can have your pick: jungles, tropical islands, mountains. Or another dimension of spacethat's what I'm best at.
Another dimension of space? Oh really!
Don't scoff, it's a useful address. Anything you like can happen there. Spaceships and skin-tight uniforms, ray guns, Martians with the bodies of giant squids, that sort of thing.
You choose, she says. You're the professional. How about a desert? I've always wanted to visit one. With an oasis, of course. Some date palms might be nice. She's tearing the crust off her sandwich. She doesn't like the crusts.
Not much scope, with deserts. Not many features, unless you add some tombs. Then you could have a pack of nude women who've been dead for three thousand years, with lithe, curvaceous figures, ruby-red lips, azure hair in a foam of tumbled curls, and eyes like snake-filled pits. But I don't think I could fob those off on you. Lurid isn't your style.
You never know. I might like them.
I doubt it. They're for the huddled masses. Popular on the covers thoughthey'll writhe all over a fellow, they have to be beaten off with rifle butts.
Could I have another dimension of space, and also the tombs and the dead women, please?
That's a tall order, but I'll see what I can do. I could throw in some sacrificial virgins as well, with metal breastplates and silver ankle chains and diaphanous vestments. And a pack of ravening wolves, extra.
I can see you'll stop at nothing.
You want the dinner jackets instead? Cruise ships, white linen, wrist-kissing and hypocritical slop?
No. All right. Do what you think is best.
She shakes her head for no. He lights his own, striking the match on his thumbnail.
You'll set fire to yourself, she says.
I never have yet.
She looks at his rolled-up shirt sleeve, white or a pale blue, then his wrist, the browner skin of his hand. He throws out radiance, it must be reflected sun. Why isn't everyone staring? Still, he's too noticeable to be out hereout in the open. There are other people around, sitting on the grass or lying on it, propped on one elbowother picnickers, in their pale summer clothing. It's all very proper. Nevertheless she feels that the two of them are alone; as if the apple tree they're sitting under is not a tree but a tent; as if there's a line drawn around them with chalk. Inside this line, they're invisible.
Space it is, then, he says. With tombs and virgins and wolvesbut on the instalment plan. Agreed?
The instalment plan?
You know, like furniture.
No, I'm serious. You can't skimp, it might take days. We'll have to meet again.
She hesitates. All right, she says. If I can. If I can arrange it.
Good, he says. Now I have to think. He keeps his voice casual. Too much urgency might put her off.
On the Planet oflet's see. Not Saturn, it's too close. On the Planet Zycron, located in another dimension of space, there's a rubble-strewn plain. To the north is the ocean, which is violet in colour. To the west is a range of mountains, said to be roamed after sunset by the voracious undead female inhabitants of the crumbling tombs located there. You see, I've put the tombs in right off the bat.
That's very conscientious of you, she says.
I stick to my bargains. To the south is a burning waste of sand, and to the east are several steep valleys that might once have been rivers.
I suppose there are canals, like Mars?
Oh, canals, and all sorts of things. Abundant traces of an ancient and once highly developed civilization, though this region is now only sparsely inhabited by roaming bands of primitive nomads. In the middle of the plain is a large mound of stones. The land around is arid, with a few scrubby bushes. Not exactly a desert, but close enough. Is there a cheese sandwich left?
She rummages in the paper bag. No, she says, but there's a hard-boiled egg. She's never been this happy before. Everything is fresh again, still to be enacted.
Just what the doctor ordered, he says. A bottle of lemonade, a hard-boiled egg, and Thou. He rolls the egg between his palms, cracking the shell, then peeling it away. She watches his mouth, the jaw, the teeth.
Beside me singing in the public park, she says. Here's the salt for it.
Thanks. You remembered everything.
This arid plain isn't claimed by anyone, he continues. Or rather it's claimed by five different tribes, none strong enough to annihilate the others. All of them wander past this stone heap from time to time, herding their thulksblue sheep-like creatures with vicious tempersor transporting merchandise of little value on their pack animals, a sort of three-eyed camel.
The pile of stones is called, in their various languages, The Haunt of Flying Snakes, The Heap of Rubble, The Abode of Howling Mothers, The Door of Oblivion, and The Pit of Gnawed Bones. Each tribe tells a similar story about it. Underneath the rocks, they say, a king is burieda king without a name. Not only the king, but the remains of the magnificent city this king once ruled. The city was destroyed in a battle, and the king was captured and hanged from a date palm as a sign of triumph. At moonrise he was cut down and buried, and the stones were piled up to mark the spot. As for the other inhabitants of the city, they were all killed. Butcheredmen, women, children, babies, even the animals. Put to the sword, hacked to pieces. No living thing was spared.
Stick a shovel into the ground almost anywhere and some horrible thing or other will come to light. Good for the trade, we thrive on bones; without them there'd be no stories. Any more lemonade?
No, she says. We've drunk it all up. Go on.
The real name of the city was erased from memory by the conquerors, and this is whysay the taletellersthe place is now known only by the name of its own destruction. The pile of stones thus marks both an act of deliberate remembrance, and an act of deliberate forgetting. They're fond of paradox in that region. Each of the five tribes claims to have been the victorious attacker. Each recalls the slaughter with relish. Each believes it was ordained by their own god as righteous vengeance, because of the unholy practices carried on in the city. Evil must be cleansed with blood, they say. On that day the blood ran like water, so afterwards it must have been very clean.
Every herdsman or merchant who passes adds a stone to the heap. It's an old customyou do it in remembrance of the dead, your own deadbut since no one knows who the dead under the pile of stones really were, they all leave their stones on the off chance. They'll get around it by telling you that what happened there must have been the will of their god, and thus by leaving a stone they are honouring this will.
There's also a story that claims the city wasn't really destroyed at all. Instead, through a charm known only to the King, the city and its inhabitants were whisked away and replaced by phantoms of themselves, and it was only these phantoms that were burnt and slaughtered. The real city was shrunk very small and placed in a cave beneath the great heap of stones. Everything that was once there is there still, including the palaces and the gardens filled with trees and flowers; including the people, no bigger than ants, but going about their lives as beforewearing their tiny clothes, giving their tiny banquets, telling their tiny stories, singing their tiny songs.
The King knows what's happened and it gives him nightmares, but the rest of them don't know. They don't know they've become so small. They don't know they're supposed to be dead. They don't even know they've been saved. To them the ceiling of rock looks like a sky: light comes in through a pinhole between the stones, and they think it's the sun.
The leaves of the apple tree rustle. She looks up at the sky, then at her watch. I'm cold, she says. I'm also late. Could you dispose of the evidence? She gathers eggshells, twists up wax paper.
No hurry, surely? It's not cold here.
There's a breeze coming through from the water, she says. The wind must have changed. She leans forward, moving to stand up.
Don't go yet, he says, too quickly.
I have to. They'll be looking for me. If I'm overdue, they'll want to know where I've been.
She smoothes her skirt down, wraps her arms around herself, turns away, the small green apples watching her like eyes.
The Globe and Mail, June 4, 1947
GRIFFEN FOUND IN SAILBOAT
special to the globe and mail
After an unexplained absence of several days, the body of industrialist Richard E. Griffen, forty-seven, said to have been favoured for the Progressive Conservative candidacy in the Toronto riding of St. David's, was discovered near his summer residence of "Avilion" in Port Ticonderoga, where he was vacationing. Mr. Griffen was found in his sailboat, the Water Nixie, which was tied up at his private jetty on the Jogues River. He had apparently suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Police report that no foul play is suspected.
Mr. Griffen had a distinguished career as the head of a commercial empire that embraced many areas including textiles, garments and light manufacturing, and was commended for his efforts in supplying Allied troops with uniform parts and weapons components during the war. He was a frequent guest at the influential gatherings held at the Pugwash home of industrialist Cyrus Eaton and a leading figure of both the Empire Club and the Granite Club. He was a keen golfer and a well-known figure at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club. The Prime Minister, reached by telephone at his private estate of "Kingsmere," commented, "Mr. Griffen was one of this country's most able men. His loss will be deeply felt."
Mr. Griffen was the brother-in-law of the late Laura Chase, who made her posthumous debut as a novelist this spring, and is survived by his sister Mrs. Winifred (Griffen) Prior, the noted socialite, and by his wife, Mrs. Iris (Chase) Griffen, as well as by his ten-year-old daughter Aimee. The funeral will be held in Toronto at the Church of St. Simon the Apostle on Wednesday.
The Blind Assassin: The park bench
Why were there people, on Zycron? I mean human beings like us. If it's another dimension of space, shouldn't the inhabitants have been talking lizards or something?
Only in the pulps, he says. That's all made up. In reality it was like this: Earth was colonized by the Zycronites, who developed the ability to travel from one space dimension to another at a period several millennia after the epoch of which we speak. They arrived here eight thousand years ago. They brought a lot of plant seeds with them, which is why we have apples and oranges, not to mention bananasone look at a banana and you can tell it came from outer space. They also brought animalshorses and dogs and goats and so on. They were the builders of Atlantis. Then they blew themselves up through being too clever. We're descended from the stragglers.
Oh, she says. So that explains it. How very convenient for you.
It'll do in a pinch. As for the other peculiarities of Zycron, it has seven seas, five moons, and three suns, of varying strengths and colours.
What colours? Chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry?
You aren't taking me seriously.
I'm sorry. She tilts her head towards him. Now I'm listening. See?
He says: Before its destruction, the citylet's call it by its former name, Sakiel-Norn, roughly translatable as The Pearl of Destinywas said to have been the wonder of the world. Even those who claim their ancestors obliterated it take great pleasure in describing its beauty. Natural springs had been made to flow through the carved fountains in the tiled courtyards and gardens of its numerous palaces. Flowers abounded, and the air was filled with singing birds. There were lush plains nearby where herds of fat gnarr grazed, and orchards and groves and forests of tall trees that had not yet been cut down by merchants or burned by spiteful enemies. The dry ravines were rivers then; canals leading from them irrigated the fields around the city, and the soil was so rich the heads of grain were said to have measured three inches across.
The aristocrats of Sakiel-Norn were called the Snilfards. They were skilled metalworkers and inventors of ingenious mechanical devices, the secrets of which they carefully guarded. By this period they had invented the clock, the crossbow, and the hand pump, though they had not yet got so far as the internal combustion engine and still used animals for transport.
The male Snilfards wore masks of woven platinum, which moved as the skin of their faces moved, but which served to hide their true emotions. The women veiled their faces in a silk-like cloth made from the cocoon of the chaz moth. It was punishable by death to cover your face if you were not a Snilfard, since imperviousness and subterfuge were reserved for the nobility. The Snilfards dressed luxuriously and were connoisseurs of music, and played on various instruments to display their taste and skill. They indulged in court intrigues, held magnificent feasts, and fell elaborately in love with one another's wives. Duels were fought over these affairs, though it was more acceptable in a husband to pretend not to know.
The smallholders, serfs, and slaves were called the Ygnirods. They wore shabby grey tunics with one shoulder bare, and one breast as well for the women, who wereneedless to sayfair game for the Snilfard men. The Ygnirods were resentful of their lot in life, but concealed this with a pretense of stupidity. Once in a while they would stage a revolt, which would then be ruthlessly suppressed. The lowest among them were slaves, who could be bought and traded and also killed at will. They were prohibited by law from reading, but had secret codes that they scratched in the dirt with stones. The Snilfards harnessed them to ploughs.
If a Snilfard should become bankrupt, he might be demoted to an Ygnirod. Or he might avoid such a fate by selling his wife or children in order to redeem his debt. It was much rarer for an Ygnirod to achieve the status of Snilfard, since the way up is usually more arduous than the way down: even if he were able to amass the necessary cash and acquire a Snilfard bride for himself or his son, a certain amount of bribery was involved, and it might be some time before he was accepted by Snilfard society.
Reading Group Guide
The introduction, discussion questions, author biography, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your reading group's discussion of Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin, winner of the Booker Prize and the International Association of Crime Writers Dashiell Hammett Award.
1. Laura and Iris spend their childhood in Avilion, "a merchant's palace," and, like princesses in a fairy tale, are virtually untouched by the outside world. What other elements reinforce the fairy-tale-like quality of their lives? What role does Alex Thomas play within this context? Does Iris's depiction of her life as an old woman also draw on the conventions of fairy tales?
2. How accurate is Iris's declaration, "Long ago I made a choice between classicism and romanticism. I prefer to be upright and containedan urn in daylight" [p. 43]? How was this "choice" affected by the distinctions Iris and Laura's parents made between the two girls when they were children? What incidents show that Iris has ambiguous feelings about the roles she and Laura assume as children? What signs are there that Iris has a romantic side she keeps hidden from the adults? What cost does this exact?
3. Throughout her life, Laura is considered a special, unusual person, more sensitive than most. How does Laura exploit the impression she makes on other people? Are her motives and intentions always as innocent as people assume? Iris says, "[Laura's] cruelties were accidental by-products of whatever lofty notions may have been going through her head" [p. 301]. How does the language Iris uses shed light on the complicated emotions Laura stirs up in her?
4. Regarding her father's role in arranging her marriage, Iris writes, "He was only doing what would have been consideredwas considered, thenthe responsible thing. He was doing the best he knew how" [p. 227]. In light of Norval's character and his previous treatment of Iris, is this explanation too facile? Was he motivated by reasons Iris doesn't allow herself to acknowledge?
5. Is Iris purely a pawn in a plan conceived by the men, or does she have reasons of her own for agreeing to marry Richard? In what ways does the marriage fulfill Iris's conception of herself and her approach to life?
6. Iris comes under the influence of three very different women in the course of the novel: Reenie, Callie Fitzsimmons, and Winifred Griffen Prior. How does each of these women affect Iris's view of herselfand of womanhood in general? How do their lives and attitudes represent the social environment and class structure of the times?
7. Several childhood experiences foreshadow Laura's ultimate fate, including her plunge into the river [p. 151] and her accusation that Mr. Erskine sexually molested her [p. 165]. What do these incidents indicate about Laura's personality? To what extent is she shaped by circumstances beyond her control?
8. Is Iris responsible for Laura's death? At what points could she have changed the course of events?
9. How do the newspaper articles advance the unfolding of the plot? Do they serve as an objective record of the events in the characters' lives?
10. How does the science fiction story constructed by the unnamed lovers mirror the story of the lovers themselves and the circumstances surrounding their affair? In what ways does it parallel events in Iris's life, both as a child and as an adult?
11. Atwood has said that the form of The Blind Assassin was influenced by early twentieth-century collages, in which newspaper excerpts were glued onto canvas and then painted around and overthus framing two ways of representing reality, each of which contradicted the other but also complemented it. How many "kinds" of writing are in The Blind Assassin, washroom graffiti included? What purpose does each form of writing serve?
12. The era of the Great Depression was also an age of extreme fashion-consciousness among the wealthy. What role do clothes play in The Blind Assassin, in both the historical and the contemporary sections of the book? What do they reveal about the characters, and what do they conceal?
13. What are the various meanings of the title The Blind Assassin? Which characters act as blind assassins by uncomprehendingly causing the demise of other characters?
14. How do the multiple levels of The Blind Assassin interact with one another? Do they unfold in concert, shedding light on one another, or is the relationship among them only apparent at the end of the book? What does the use of this narrative technique reveal about Atwood's methods of storytelling?
15. If you have read other books by Atwood (particularly The Handmaid's Tale and Cat's Eye), how does The Blind Assassin echo and extend themes she has previously explored? What new themes are developed?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I am on page 53 and I am bored to tears An old lady is just shuffling around in her bed-slippers Really disappointing so far
I know Margaret Atwood is well know, and some of her books, such as Cat’s Eye and The Handmaid’s Tale are very widely read. This is the first book that I read by her, and I wasn’t super impressed. Her writing of scenes and clothing was very well done. The imagery was wonderful, but what fell flat for me was the characters. I didn’t really connect with any of them. I guess it was a case of rich people problems. I don’t want to put in spoilers, but I will say that I knew who the mysterious lovers were, and the niece and what had happened to Laura to get her put into an institution way before the end. There was no big reveal for me. I did read it for book club and the others didn’t pick up on all the pieces, but some had picked up on more than others. And the Sci-Fiction story that was written inside the story had potential, but with no Chicago Style Editing, it felt like the author had a free pass to not really worry about proper writing. To me it was as if it was a first draft, and editing hadn’t taken place yet. Not to say it had spelling errors or timing issues, just no quotes for text, etc… I also couldn’t tell if the book inside the book was supposed to include all the interactions between the two lovers, or if we were just supposed to pick out the Sci-Fi story from it. I’m thinking it was everything, because later on this book gets published under Laura’s name, and there would need to be a lot more to make it into a complete novel. Then again sometimes novels can be short, so maybe it was just supposed to be the Sci-Fi parts. This book was over 500 pages, and I think Atwood could have chopped out at least 100 pages. It wasn’t a bad read, and now if anyone asks me if I read Margaret Atwood, I can say I have, but I would say read one of her other books instead.
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...........................................
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!
"The Blind Assassin" is a long difficult book. It is often slow and ponderous. It has no happy ending. The book details the lives of two sisters, Iris and Laura Chase. Iris is the autobiographer and is the keeper of the family secrets. Her observations about her past, her sister and the cold hard fact that life is short and she is old do not make this a book for someone who wants to laugh or someone who requires their books to end with a happy ending. It is however, filled with sometimes exquisite writing. I became aware of Atwood when I read her most famous novel "The Handmaids tale". This novel lacks the tension of that epic, but nonetheless represents a higher style of writing. It is also this novels handicap. Few people will want to read such a challenging book, but if you are one of them, I would highly recommend this novel.
It¿s my favourite Atwood- two, or even perhaps three novels in one with a consciously deceiving design complete with the usual Atwoodian insights and themes.A great plot full of secrets (like the family it describes), and twists and turns.
What a reward. This book reaffirms my love of Atwood's writing. She is brilliant. Her writing is simultaneously dense, layered, and yet so easily accessible and enjoyable. Other good books will have writing that every few pages may make me stop and savour a particular phrase or sentence. This book is a tumbling consecutive series of wonderfully styled descriptions and ideas. To write down all those that capture my delight would be to record half the 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.¿ [p95, on the return home of a soldier.]****** "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." [P 499]
This book is a towering masterpiece, for those who have the patience to watch it being built brick by brick.
I know this is one of Canada's literary masterpieces, and a Booker Prize winning novel by Atwood, but I must confess that this book took me almost 2/3 of the way through to get into. I suspect it was the interweaving of the reminiscence told by the narrator, the book written by her sister, and the story-within-a-story in the book. Once I had some uninterrupted time to plow through the book, though, it captured my interest, and I found that some of the twists and turns I did not anticipate - or not entirely. If you can deal with the non-linear narrative, and enjoy Canadian fiction, I recommend this book.
A simply brilliant novel, one of Atwood's best, and certainly deserving of the Booker.Comfortable with her skill as a writer, Atwood deftly alternates between sections written from different viewpoints and tenses, creating at first what seem to be disparate stories but which, of course, come together in a tense, sometimes humorous, often oppressive, and always insightful tale of relationships, love, betrayal and atonement.Certainly The Blind Assassin should be required reading for any adult.
I¿ve enjoyed the two previous Margaret Atwood books (The Hand Maid¿s Tale and Oryx and Crake) I¿ve read, and while unique, they were joined by a dystopian theme. In The Blind Assassin, Atwood branches into a different direction, not exactly trading dystopia for dysfunction, but something very close. There are at least three story lines woven together in this tale, all woven very tightly.The overlying story is one of a prosperous Canadian industrialist¿s family that falls on hard times during the depression era. This story is told from the perspective of a memoir of the last survivor of that family. Another story is a work of pulp fiction as told by the author of this story, themselves a work of fiction created by Atwood herself. The third aspect is the story of the decadence of the rich, the power hungry, those that believe themselves above all other codes of behavior.In the hands of someone less adept than Margaret Atwood, this would remain a disjointed effort at best. Under the author¿s hands, or rather pen, everything blends together into a seamless story of familial deception in the name of political power. In addition to the vivid characterizations, Atwood adds the flavor of slang and colloquialisms from the time periods she portrays. This adds a note of reality to the entire story I found most enjoyable.I don¿t want to reveal any of the plot, as there are lots of twists. If you study the characters as you get into the story, not all of the twists will be totally unexpected, yet they are not openly telegraphed as all too many authors do these days. You have to work at it to get ahead of the plot line.If the book has any faults, I did find it overly long in some parts. These occurred when Ms Atwood was mirroring the style of authors from previous generations. Perhaps there is a reason these styles are now out of favor. While there is ample material for a book club discussion, I did not find this as gripping as The Hand Maid¿s Tale or as thought provoking as Oryx and Crake. All the same, it is a more than a four star book, but maybe four and quarter stars would be a more accurate rating for this one.
I've tried to read this one more than once but I've finally managed it. It was very good - I was more than 2/3rd through before I guessed the story twist. "Nicely hidden and well revealed" describes this book very well.
Beautiful. Three stories - present day, childhood in the '30s, and the novel-within-the-novel The Blind Assassin - piece together the lives of Iris Chase and her sister Laura, the daughters of a successful businessman in Ontario, whose lives were shaped by the Great War, the Depression, and the rumblings of communist and fascist discontent.
Too good for words. See for yourself.
The book that converted me to Atwood.
tour de force from a favorite author
This book took a long time to get into, and while the premise was interesting, it felt like the whole time I was waiting for something more to happen. Margaret Atwood is a great author, but I preferred The Handmaid's Tale.
It's not enough for a writer to have a good perception of reality. A writer needs to translate the nuances of life and people inhabiting it into a language that will amaze and captivate us. Margaret Atwood is just such a writer. This is a stunning book, confounding in its very concept. A heart rending, bordering on harrowing story, but as sad as it was, I didn't want it to end - such is the power of a truly great writer. The personal drama scans almost a century, but most prominent are the 1930-40 and the modern day (or about 1990s) with a final surprise at the end. Even the episodes of fantasy/science fiction of this book-within-a-book didn't turn me away (though usually I am not a huge fan of this genre). They were put there for a reason.