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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Unwinding of Male Dominance
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...
Published on July 16 2009 by Ian Gordon Malcomson

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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 latest. And, up until the last chapter or so, she did not disappoint. I was mesmerized (I even willingly read the story-within-a-story, and I loathe science fiction tales of any type)...
Published on June 6 2002


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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 (Victoria, BC) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)    (REAL NAME)   
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. This is where the inner stories cover those parts of the younger sister's life as told by Iris through the aid of letters, diaries, and a vivid imagination. There are a number of key threads running through the book that masterfully converge near the end as a common point of resolution. They include the gradual deterioration of both the Chase and Griffen family names; Iris and Laura's evolving relationship; their separate battles to gain their freedom; and the emergence of a mythical character called the Blind Assassin whose role is to seek out and indiscriminately destroy promising females in a fictional world that mirrors the real one the sisters live in. "The Blind Assassin" offers the discerning reader everything he or she could possibly want in a novel: a well-written storyline; some creative segues into modern Canadian history; and a treatment of some controversial subject material concerning feminism.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, But Not Atwood's Best, June 6 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Blind Assassin (Paperback)
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 latest. And, up until the last chapter or so, she did not disappoint. I was mesmerized (I even willingly read the story-within-a-story, and I loathe science fiction tales of any type) Unfortunately, though, it seems as though Atwood was writing on a deadline, or perhaps had run out of ideas. Certainly, toward the end, the story became a bit muddled and, surprisingly, left many plot holes:...
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). In fact, it seemed as though the story-within-a-story was given precedence, and the rest just kind of fell in chunks around it.
Overall, I'm glad I read this book and certainly don't begrudge the bookstore its sticker price. However, when compared to such greats as "Lady Oracle", "Cat's Eye" and "The Robber Bride", this was a definite disappointment. I have come to expect a great deal from a Margaret Atwood tale, and this failed to live up to her reputation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Try 3 other novels, May 20 2002
This review is from: The Blind Assassin (Paperback)
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? _That_ novel is about an author. My, my.
The idea is hardly new, but Atwood brings it off very well.
The problem is that none of the stories going simultaneously in this lengthly novel are all that interesting. It's just a tad preachy and I find Margaret's stretching to put at least one pithy, quotable phrase on each page a bit tiresome. Though she has a humorus streak throughout this.
Half way through you know what's coming, no fault in and of itself, but getting to the end is not rewarding.
I'll wait for the film. THAT could be something!
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Blind Assassin greatly disappointed me., April 15 2002
This review is from: The Blind Assassin (Paperback)
I began The Blind Assassin with great hopes and finished it greatly disappointed. The story-within-a-story-within-a-story is awkward and, until the end of the book, lacked continuity. Even disregarding that form, I found the substance of the book lacking in meaning and depth, and devoid of issues to consider. Having finished the book, I am at a loss at to why the author wrote it. I do not know what I am supposed to take away with me. Thus, I certainly cannot explain to you why you should read it. Further, the characters were one-dimensional and I cared little for them. The narrator Iris is unbelieveable as portrayed; throughout the book she is a character who allows others to make important decisions for her. After she learns a terrible secret regarding her husband's unfaithfulness, the reader is supposed to believe that Iris has the gumption and the intelligence to respond in a way that I simply found unbelieveable. Other main characters -- her sister, her husband, and her sister-in-law, are likewise portrayed in a way I found contrary to human experience...they are like cardboard people. When I finished the book, I felt empty, I felt like I had endured a long novel with the result of having nothing to show for it. Worst, I felt alienated by the author, whom I felt had achieved a feat of writing a novel of complex form, at the expense of alienating me, the reader.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Infuriating read -- impossible to read, Jan. 30 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Blind Assassin (Paperback)
Atwood is unimpressive in this offering. She took it easy, amalgamating three mediocre sketches, binding them together, and call it a novel.
Iris's account is bland, predictable, naive, and whatever anger, cynicism, "wit" inauthentic. I don't get the point Iris Chase is trying to get across: Rich can get poor, when poor they get angry, war makes man insane, gives them emotional scar, motherless childhood is a hard life, what is new here, Margie?
The sci-fi bit is just laughable, a confused jumble, vacillation between a "darkness" that doesn't move people, and a "lyricism" that reminded me of a bloodless hemorroid.
The affair between the two young Bolsheviks is just an excuse for Atwood to show off her "talent" with words, whereas characterization gets the window.
While Booker has long ceased to mean anything, Atwood has certainly managed to dug it to new lows.
I can't finish the book. I was at page 200, thereabout. Someone please tell what I've missed. My bet is I missed being aggravated by the author even more. I'd rather hold Enron stocks to the end.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not for me, June 26 2007
By 
Toni Osborne "The Way I See It" (Montreal, Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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. I found too many layers in this book to have kept me interested, it keeps rambling on with no apparent link at times.

I really didn't like it , my mind kept on wandering I couldn't finished it fast enough.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What did I miss?, April 23 2002
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This review is from: The Blind Assassin (Paperback)
I must have missed something, because I just don't get much more disappointed in a book than I was in The Blind Assassin. I have both loved (The Haidmaid's Tale, Cat's Eye, The Robber Bride)and hated (Alias Grace) Atwood's other works. This falls into the "hate" category. It was never interesting and not particularly well written. The science fiction story was just plain painful. Was the "surprise" really much of a surprise? I'm rarely disappointed in Booker Prize winners; what happened here?
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull, tedious and disappointing, April 14 2002
By 
Mary L. McCarthy (MI United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Blind Assassin (Hardcover)
This is the first book of Atwoods I have read and may be my last. If it were not a book club choice I would have ended my chore long ago. I agree with a previous reviewer, "Laura Chase drove off the bridge out of sheer boredom." I have lost respect and faith in the Booker Prize.
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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 (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Blind Assassin (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. Of course, the characters in the story represent the woman and her lover, just as the unnamed woman and lover are revealed to be people from Iris's life. Throw in a few faux news articles offering another view on the novel's various events, and ta da! Prize-winning narrative gymnastics! Never mind that it's fractured and tedious stuff, with revelations telegraphed far in advance of Atwood's denouements...
Indeed, only Atwood's reputation, and the silent peer pressure of my book group led me to finish the book. You can certainly write a book with unlikeable characters, but to have this dislike spring from their passivity, rather than their actions (yes, yes, taking no action is, in effect, acting, I know), spells disaster for a rambling tome of 540 pages.
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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 Mansfield (Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
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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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The Blind Assassin
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
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