The Blind Assassin Paperback – Feb 25 2003
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The Blind Assassin is a tale of two sisters, one of whom dies under ambiguous circumstances in the opening pages. The survivor, Iris Chase Griffen, initially seems a little cold-blooded about this death in the family. But as Margaret Atwood's most ambitious work unfolds--a tricky process, in fact, with several nested narratives and even an entire novel-within-a-novel--we're reminded of just how complicated the familial game of hide-and-seek can be:
What had she been thinking of as the car sailed off the bridge, then hung suspended in the afternoon sunlight, glinting like a dragonfly, for that one instant of held breath before the plummet? Of Alex, of Richard, of bad faith, of our father and his wreckage; of God, perhaps, and her fatal, triangular bargain.Meanwhile, Atwood immediately launches into an excerpt from Laura Chase's novel, The Blind Assassin, posthumously published in 1947. In this double-decker concoction, a wealthy woman dabbles in blue-collar passion, even as her lover regales her with a series of science-fictional parables. Complicated? You bet. But the author puts all this variegation to good use, taking expert measure of our capacity for self-delusion and complicity, not to mention desolation. Almost everybody in her sprawling narrative manages to--or prefers to--overlook what's in plain sight. And memory isn't much of a salve either, as Iris points out: "Nothing is more difficult than to understand the dead, I've found; but nothing is more dangerous than to ignore them." Yet Atwood never succumbs to postmodern cynicism, or modish contempt for her characters. On the contrary, she's capable of great tenderness, and as we immerse ourselves in Iris's spliced-in memoir, it's clear that this buttoned-up socialite has been anything but blind to the chaos surrounding her. --Darya Silver --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Atwood's Booker Prize–winning novel, with its 1930s setting and stories within stories, is well suited to audio dramatization. O'Brien has simplified and streamlined the structure so that it jumps around in time less and makes clearer parallels between past, present and the whimsical internal novel. Some dialogue has been added, while many meditative and descriptive sections are absent, but the new words blend gracefully with Atwood's own, and her elegant style remains intact despite the omissions. Abundant sound effects make the production much richer than many audiobooks; it sometimes seems like a movie without the visuals, with chirping birds, clinking silverware and the murmur of crowds filling in the background. Music that alternates between a lovely, slightly melancholy theme and an ominous one, helps highlight the shifts from the protagonist Iris's personal history to her retelling of the novel. The skills of the cast almost make such extras unnecessary: the three women who play Iris at different ages capture her brilliant but frustrated spirit perfectly, while the actresses for her troubled younger sister, Laura, find just the right blend of dreaminess and defiance. Though in some respects this adaptation is less intricate than the rather complicated original, the condensation serves it well, making the story more tightly wound and intense in a way that should attract listeners who may be put off by Atwood's writing. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Additionally, the language, which up to the book's climax, had been of sterling Atwood quality ("... can never stop howling") somehow becomes short and stilted. "We were lovers, you see, in secret..." When I got to that line, I had a very difficult time equating it with any other dialogue in the book. It was too blunt, too sharp and failed to blend well with the rest of the writing (I thought of several other ways in which the author could have played that scene... definitely in a much gentler manner more in keeping with her prose)
And finally, the narrator's obsession with death and "being a skull", etc. was just a bit too much after a while. Yes, we know she has health problems, we know she's elderly... but does the reader have to be beaten over the head with such blatant morbidity?
All in all, I felt a great deal of what was otherwise a wonderful story fell through the cracks and that much space was wasted on Alex's sci-fi tale (yes, I saw the correlations between the characters and the story; however, I felt that the Xenon story could easily have been cut by two-thirds and still have made a point).Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I loved this book. Margaret Atwood is a brilliant writer and this book keeps the reader wanting more.Published 10 months ago by Andrea
Brilliant and funny too. Who knew Margaret had such a sense of humour.Published 11 months ago by Daniel Thorpe
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 morePublished on Sept. 29 2010 by Littérature sans frontières
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
Highly recommend! This has moved to the top of my list as best book read this year. Wonderful story. Read morePublished on Oct. 17 2007 by Nicola Mansfield
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 morePublished on June 26 2007 by Toni Osborne
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 morePublished on June 24 2003