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The Blind Assassin [Hardcover]

Margaret Atwood
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (220 customer reviews)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Unwinding of Male Dominance July 16 2009
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Having stuck it out through thick and thin with this sometimes complex and twisty novel, I can now truly say the experiene was rewarding. Margaret Atwood once again lives up to her reputation as one of Canada's finest fictional writers. This novel is one of those rare works that effectively blends form and content to provide an entertaining and instructive story about life in high society in southern Ontario during the 20th century. The structure - the multiple-layering of stories - takes a little sorting out, but when the big picture finally emerges halfway through the book, the reader will be rewarded with a very clear understanding of Atwood's working philosophy. The plot is mainly about the two Chase sisters growing up together in the town of Port Ticonderoga during the 1920s. They are members of a wealthy family who during the Great Depression fall on hard times and virtually lose everthing. The moments together during the good and bad times are told much later as the older sibling, Iris, reflects on the life they once lived together and how it eventually fell apart because of circumstances beyond their control. Her reflective account grapples with why she and Laura, once so inseparable, eventually drifted apart and went their own separate tragic ways. Included in this tale are moments of intrigue, love, fantasy, injustice and tragedy, all cleverly woven together around a theme that is found in many of Atwood's writings: the incredible dominating power of the male sex drive to limit and control women. These two women unfortunately fall into the clutches of Richard Griffen, an up-and-coming political star, who marries the older one to enhance his public image while sexually exploiting the younger one. Read more ›
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Totally Overrated and Tediously Gimmicky Dec 18 2001
By A. Ross
Format:Paperback
Here is yet another overrated award-wining book from yet another big name in modern literature that utterly failed to entertain, enlighten, or at least provoke me. Not having read any Atwood before, one might think her Booker Prize winner might be a good place to start, right? Well, only if you enjoy a very good writer engaging in an unnecessarily complicated exercise in layered storytelling-minus any compelling story or interesting characters. The book is narrated by Iris Chase, an elderly Canadian who recounts her wealthy upbringing, familial decline in the Great Depression, arranged marriage to a wealthy industrialist, and sisterhood to a younger, dreamy sister who commits suicide. This sweeping, sprawling story covers plenty of topics that might have made it interesting, such as class issues, socialism, the impact of two World Wars on a small town, sisterhood, and more. However, none of these is explored in any new or insightful way, and not a single character is engaging or sympathetic. Iris, especially, is a protagonist of singular inaction and passivity, rendering her enormously frustrating.
But lest one think this is a simple narrative, wherein Iris switches between flashbacks and her present old age, we are also given the story of an unnamed woman and her penniless lover. Their identities are supposed to be unknown and tantalizing until the end, but it's awfully obvious early on who they are, which rather ruins the overall effect. And within this story, the lover periodically tells the woman a pulpy science fiction story about young maidens destined to be sacrificed as virgins, and a blind male assassin who rescues one. Regrettably, this science fiction story is the most vivid and intriguing part of the whole book, and is only presented in small, incomplete chunks.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Plot Unfolds Layer by Layer Oct. 17 2007
By Nicola Manning-Mansfield HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Highly recommend! This has moved to the top of my list as best book read this year. Wonderful story. At first it seemed simple and I thought it was good but why did it win an award, I wasn't sure it really deserved it but by about page 250 I realized just how much depth this book had.

This is a book within a book within a book within a book and the plot unfolds layer by layer. At first the story appears to be the memoirs of an elderly woman who is nearing the end of her life. The memoir is two-fold recalling events of the past within her daily life of the present. But woven between the pages of this memoir is the text of the book "The Blind Assassin" written by her sister in the early 1940's. "The Blind Assassin" itself is a book within a book which switches between a clandestine love affair and a science fiction novella. All four stories gradually merge together and the ending is fabulous. I really enjoyed this book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars complex sci-fi and historical novel June 24 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is a complex work of fiction composed of 3 sections woven together like the parts of an Oriental rug: 1)The first, and the main, section is a historic reminiscence narrated by Iris Chase Griffen, daughter of a Canadin button manufacturer.
Her upbringing in Port Ticonderoga, Ontario at the Avilion estate is portrayed in rich detail in a series of flashbacks, including her relationship with all members of her family and in particular, with her younger sister Laura. We are given a great deal of historic detail about this period, particularly about World War I and attempts at unionization of the button factory, and we are given details about several generations of Iris's family; in addition, both Iris and Laura's personalities are described in some detail and there are significant differences between them. 2)The second section is an elaborately detailed science fiction story which is woven between the chapters of the main narrative and is narrated by an unknown author to his unknown lover in a series of seedy apartment buildings, contrasting sharply with the opulence of Avilion. We do not understand the connection until the end. The science fiction story itself also contrasts for the most part significantly with the somewhat halcyon life at Avilion, since it includes a great deal of gratuitous violence and appears to be about some sci-fi tribe out of the Dark Ages. 3) The third section is a series of "newspaper articles" of familial or newsworthy interest which are interwoven between the other two stories. Through them, we learn more about World War I, about attempts at unionization of the button factory, about deaths in the family, and about social events significant to the family.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Few hundred pages for a century in Canada!
This was my first book of Atwood and it certainly encourages me to read more of her. I am fan of thick books with a historical context. Read more
Published on Sept. 29 2010 by Littérature sans frontières
5.0 out of 5 stars love Margaret Atwood!
It's like reading three books in one, the way it is written. Again, Atwood is still the best..
Published on May 6 2010 by lafleurpetite
1.0 out of 5 stars Not for me
This novel is hard to follow, just as you settle into the story the author introduces a novel within the novel, plus a science fiction story and newspaper articles. Read more
Published on June 26 2007 by Toni Osborne
5.0 out of 5 stars complex masterpiece
No book was ever more deserving of the Booker Prize, but one must be willing to put up with the unfolding of the plot which is something of a Chinese puzzle box. Read more
Published on June 24 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars social history of the early 20th Century
"The Blind Assassin" is a social history of the early 20th Century from the viewpoint of Iris Chase, the daughter of a prominent Canadian industrialist. Read more
Published on June 19 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars social history
Unlike her newer "Oryx and Crake" a pure science fiction satire on modern Corporate America, "The Blind Assassin" is largely social history of a Canadian industrialist's family in... Read more
Published on June 15 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful
I picked up this book because of it's title. "The Blind Assassin" has a romantic ring to it. When I finished the book, I was only 14 and yet I could relate to everything Iris had... Read more
Published on June 8 2002 by Ms. Sixty
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, But Not Atwood's Best
I love Margaret Atwood (except for the occasional clunker she's come out with - a/k/a "Life Before Man", "Surfacing" and "Bodily Harm") and was very much looking forward to her... Read more
Published on June 6 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars I am new at this
Hearing books is new to me. This is my second experience and I find this rendering very good. The book itself is worh a read, but the narrator seems to make it a lot more fun.
Published on May 28 2002 by Luis GARCIA LAURENT
3.0 out of 5 stars Try 3 other novels
A story within a story within a story. The novelist writting about a woman writting about a novelist (her sister) and we get the sister's novel to boot and guess what? Read more
Published on May 20 2002 by THX1138b
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