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The Blind Assassin

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  99,772 Ratings  ·  5,120 Reviews
"Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge"

More than fifty years on, Iris Chase is remembering Laura's mysterious death. And so begins an extraordinary and compelling story of two sisters and their secrets. Set against a panoramic backdrop of twentieth-century history, The Blind Assassin is an epic tale of memory, intrigue and betrayal...
Paperback, 637 pages
Published September 3rd 2001 by Virago Press Ltd (first published 2000)
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Chel I'd suggest you just let it go. I loved this book -- I read it twice and thought it was delicious all the way through. This book is not *about* the…moreI'd suggest you just let it go. I loved this book -- I read it twice and thought it was delicious all the way through. This book is not *about* the ending -- the ending just serves as a way to tie all the loose ends together. So if you aren't already loving it halfway through, it isn't your cup of tea. Life is short. Spend it with a book you like better.(less)
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Best Books of the Decade: 2000s
79th out of 5,407 books — 25,444 voters
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Booker Prize Winners
4th out of 50 books — 1,561 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Paquita Maria Sanchez
This is the first book I have dog-eared since I was a child. I generally find such behavior to be shameful in a major way, as I a) cherish the hard text of a book, and see the decline of its role as a sacred object, the slipping away of its tactile comforts of touch, of smell, of PRESENCE, and our new-found, technologically-driven disregard of its certainty and necessity in the face of the newest electronic thingamajigs and whatchamahoos as a shame and b) am cheap, and constantly rotate my books ...more
Feb 04, 2011 Tatiana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tatiana by: Megan
As seen on The Readventurer

I have to admit, I often do not get Margaret Atwood's books. But I am pretty sure I got The Blind Assassin. Otherwise how can I explain the feeling of sadness that is overwhelming me right now?

It's so hard to express what exactly this book is about - any synopsis you read doesn't do it justice and explains nothing. Mine probably will be as misleading and pointless as all others. The Blind Assassin is a puzzle of a story, with multiple tales within tales. It starts with

- So are you still trudging through the Margaret Atwood?

- George, you should stop being so dismissive! Have you ever read it?

- Well, I think I got as far as chapter three. Typical po-mo cleverness with a story inside a story inside... anyway, I decided I couldn't take any more, so I gave up.

- So do you want to know what it's about?

- You're going to tell me, aren't you?

- Only if you want me to.

- Okay, okay. I want you to. Snuggle up and tell me all about it. Satisfied?

- Mmm. Well, satisfied f
mark monday
atwood's Booker Prize-winning novel is a slow and melancholy downward movement, one in which the melancholy becomes cumulative. despite the sad and tragic tone, there are many paths to pure enjoyment present: through the precise, judgmental, drily amusing recollections of the narrator as she recounts her current life and her past life between the world wars; through the intense, intimate, yet almost metaphorical scenes of two lovers connecting, not connecting, reconnecting; through the wonderful ...more
May 26, 2013 Jenn(ifer) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jeff Tweedy
Recommended to Jenn(ifer) by: Paquita

"Let's forget about the tongue-tied lightning.Let's undress just like cross-eyed strangers.This is not a joke, so please stop smiling.What was I thinking when I said it didn't hurt?"


I need to stop reading on trains. I could feel the tears welling, the water rising, brimming, and then spilling over before anything bad even happened. But I could feel it coming. And I braced myself for the inevitable.

Heart break. Loss. Old age. Why can’t we start old and get younger?


Tennyson wrote, ‘tis be
All stories are about wolves… Anything else is sentimental drivel.”

Atwood doesn’t write sentimental drivel (and I don’t read it), and there are several wolves in this stunning book. This is my tenth Atwood, and it’s even better than any of the others I’ve enjoyed. The scope and variety of her work is impressive, but here, she accomplishes that within the covers of a single book: it should be shelved as historical fiction, memoir, espionage/thriller, and sci-fi.

It grabs the reader in the first
Feb 20, 2016 Ted rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ted by: Elham
4 1/2 stars

I can’t give the book 5 stars, because I know I will never read it again. The story is its own spoiler. But until it’s done, it’s a dark, almost gothic page turner.

I usually start my reviews with something about the author, but unusually for me I’ve already read three books by this author (the dystopian Maddaddam Trilogy). Can you blame me for thinking that everyone must know this author, if I’ve read four novels by her? Of course you can’t.

First off, this novel is in no way a science
Apr 17, 2008 Susan rated it really liked it
Shelves: ocanada
Writing a novel like The Blind Assassin is so challenging that only a monumentally gifted writer like Margaret Atwood can pull it off. Structuring it like those nested Russian dolls, she tucks a science fiction/fantasy tale within a sad, mysterious love story. Both are then enveloped by a grand narrative of the lives of two sisters from a wealthy Ontario family. The Blind Assassin succeeds on all these levels: historical fiction, mystery, love story, and fantasy.

The main story is told in the fi
Mar 16, 2016 BrokenTune rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, favorites
"They ache like history: things long done with, that still reverberate as pain. When the ache is bad enough it keeps me from sleeping. Every night I yearn for sleep, I strive for it; yet it flutters on ahead of me like a sooty curtain."

The Blind Assassin won the Booker Prize in 2000, but please don't hold it against the book, because, apparently, in 2000 the judges got it right.

I had long been intrigued by this book because of the cover - it looks very stylish - but I had no idea what the book w
Oct 24, 2011 Catie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This has brought my definition of a five star book into dramatic focus. I’ve been too free with my stars before this; that much is clear. All other books must now be compared to this one. In a few weeks I may read some other lovely book and I’ll think is this a five star book? But it probably won’t be. Not after this.

This is the story of two sisters, growing up between world wars, each grasping for a life of her own in a time when women weren’t allowed to have one. It’s the story of two lovers w
Violet wells
First thought was, I think this might have been a really good 350 page novel. Unfortunately it’s almost twice the size and as cluttered with random detail as an attic. In this sense it’s a typical Booker Prize winner (for me the only time the Booker judges have got even close to being on the money in the past decade is Hilary Mantel).

Ostensibly The Blind Assassins tells the story of two sisters and their relationships with two men at either ends of the political spectrum – Iris marries the indus
I don’t trust the light in this book. I don’t trust the personnel on the switches. I think that most of them came straight from a based-on-a-book-by-Nicholas-Sparks movie set. One of the most insightful comments I ever heard about that particular saccharine mini industry was about how the majority of these movies seem to perpetually take place at “magic hour”. That is, the hazy twilight hour which is made even more hazy by classic southern settings where the heat shimmers and the light fades in ...more
Feb 24, 2008 Alice rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2008
Having absolutely loved Atwood's "A Handmaid's Tale," I decided to try out "The Blind Assassin."

Verdict? It was... okay. The writing was really great, but everything else kind of bored me -- the characters, the plot, the novel within the novel within the novel. By the time the book worked itself up to its climax, I had long since lost interest. I was just trying to plod through and finish the thing.

At times, I was more eager to find out what happened to the blind assassin and the girl without
Aug 10, 2007 Alison rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: alltime100novel
I certainly didn't intend to spend the larger part of my summer getting through The Blind Assassin. I can't really put my finger on why this didn't engage me. The writing was interesting and brilliant, but the story itself just didn't propel me.

There is the story of two sisters growing up in the 1900's in Toronto. Their mother dies at a young age and the tale is of their father trying to raise them with their wise housekeeper's help, his business failings, the World Wars, and the elder sister's
"I wonder which is preferable - to walk around all your life swollen up with your own secrets until you burst from the pressure of them, or to have them sucked out of you, every paragraph, every sentence, every word of them, so at the end you're depleted of all that was once as precious to you as hoarded gold, as close to you as your skin - everything that was of the deepest importance to you, everything that made you cringe and wish to conceal, everything that belonged to you alone - and must s ...more
Sep 21, 2015 Apatt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't read a lot of lit fic, I'm just not wired for it I suppose. Margaret Atwood is a rare exception though, because she often wanders into my sci-fi neighborhood and generally does a splendid job of it so I wanted to check out her lit fic which I imagine is like a day job for her. I chose The Blind Assassin because it won the prestigious Man Booker Prize (Man! Booker Prize!) for the year 2000 so I thought I’d go for that (not that I have ever read any of the past winners).

The Blind Assassin
Jul 15, 2007 LeAnn rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: literary fiction readers
Blind Assassin started out fairly slowly for me. I'd picked it up at the same time as Time Traveler's Wife and TTW won out for which book hooked me faster. Part of the slowness is due to the narrative devices used to tell the story. Some of the story is told from a first-person viewpoint with the narrator talking about her present situation and slipping back into the past. Some pieces of "fact" are told through newspaper clippings and some of the story is excerpted from a "published" novel by th ...more
Keith Mukai
May 08, 2008 Keith Mukai rated it it was amazing
My favorite novel from my Prizewinning Lit class.

Atwood can be criticized as being somewhat cold and distant in her narrative style. That's certainly valid and definitely turns off some people.

But for my money The Blind Assassin is one of the most perfect novels I've ever read. Atwood's tone fits the character perfectly; the distance and coldness come from weariness and deep, deep pain that is tempered by a degree of the indifference that comes from old age.

The novel is intricate, ambitious, and
Dave Russell
Aug 23, 2009 Dave Russell rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dave by: Amanda
Shelves: novels
Apparently with no surprise
To any happy Flower
The Frost beheads it at its play --
In accidental power --
The blonde Assassin passes on --
The Sun proceeds unmoved
To measure off another Day
For an Approving God.
-Emily Dickinson

In the novel-within-the-novel-within-the-novel--also called The Blind Assassin--the title character is a young blind boy on the planet Zycron sent to assassinate a girl whose tongue has been removed. He falls in love with her instead. He can't see and she can't speak. That, it
Glenn Sumi
Okay, I’m conflicted about this one.

Margaret Atwood is a literary deity. I’m impressed by the ambition of this big, sprawling novel, surely her most audacious stand-alone book. I adore the vivid period detail about Toronto, where I live, and the fictional Port Ticonderoga, which feels like a composite of various Southern Ontario towns I’ve visited. I enjoy how the various elements of the book eventually come together.

And yet...

There’s something contrived and coldly schematic about The Blind Assa
Aug 20, 2008 Philip rated it it was amazing
Sometimes, when reading a big book, one gets the feeling that the author set out to achieve size, as if that in itself might suggest certain adjectives from a reader or reviewer – weighty, significant, deep, serious, complex, extensive, perhaps. Sometimes – rarely, in fact – one reads a big book and becomes lost in its size, lost in the sense that one ceases to notice the hundreds passing by, as the work creates its own time, defines its own experience, shares its own world. Even then, reaching ...more
Jul 09, 2009 J rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I’ve spent the last few days listening to opera. Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas – LOUD. Well, not just listening. I sing. My children beg for someone to make it stop, but Margaret Atwood’s to blame.

When I am laid, am layyy-ed in earth… Remember meee. Reeemember meeee. But, ahhh-ahh-ah, forget my fate… Remember me. But, ah, forget my fate.

It started like this:

This is the life story of Iris Chase Griffen as she would tell it to her estranged granddaughter, conversational but in letter form. (Because
Aug 01, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: summer-of-women
4.5 stars
The words Booker Prize winner don’t always fill me with confidence and I haven’t read any Attwood for some years; but I thought it was about time I tried. This one is quite hefty at over 600 pages. The narrative is complex and has a number of strands; a bit like those wooden dolls from Russia that fit inside one another. I disagree with the reviews that say it is badly written and too long. It reads very easily and keeps the attention and I’m always a sucker for good historical novels.
First of all, I totally agree with all who adore Atwood's words. How do you describe them, so those who have not yet read a book by Atwood will properly understand? You read one of Atwood's sentences and the words mean more than what is said. Each sentence has several meanings; it us up the reader to interpret them.

Many lines send your head into a twirl. How do people interact? What do you see if you observe carefully? Atwood says, "As for the dance, it was more like a battle than a dance." If
Oct 05, 2007 bonnie rated it it was ok
I liked Cat's Eye, and expected to like this book as well - but I didn't. This book has been more or less the bane of my existence since I picked it up one ill-fated traveling weekend. Sure, it's innovative in form, but I don't think there's much substance beneath it.

I was bored by all four layers of this book, which are interspersed with each other in a pattern I couldn't quite crack: 1) the present narrative, as told by an elderly woman who has lost various family members to tragedies over th
Oct 13, 2015 Ahmed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
رواية حائزة على بوكر عام 2000 لكاتبة كندية مبهرة , ولابد لنا أن نثني
على إبداع القلم الأنثوى الكندي فائق الجودة .

وكعادة روايات البوكر , فهي رواية مرهقة للغاية , تحتاج من القارئ تركيز شديد لكي لا تفلت منه خيوط السرد الممتعة .
ليس ذلك فقط , بل لابد من المرء التركيز بشدة للفصل بين أزمان الرواية المختلفة , والتي تشابكت مع بعضها بصورة من الظرف بمكان .

كنت أرغب في كتابة سطور قليلة سهلة القراءة عن هذا العمل , ولكنه من الأعمال المعجزة التي تقيد يديك فتجبرك على أن تفيها حقها , حتى ولو كان إيفاء ذلك لحق في
"Stick a shovel into the ground almsot 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."

I was on page 608 exactly when I realised that everything that I had gathered and concluded about this book was completely wrong.
All my conclusions had been based on one assumption and I had merrily skipped through this story thinking with smugness that I knew what the twist was going to be and how it was going to end.
Feb 01, 2015 Fahad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
القاتل الأعمى

حصلت رواية الكندية مارجريت أتوود على بوكر العام 2000 م، رواية عملاقة تقع في 645 صفحة من القطع الكبير، ترويها لنا ايريس تشايس، عجوز كندية تسترجع ذكريات طفولتها، وأختها لورا تشايس والتي ماتت منتحرة، تتخلل السرد، مقتطفات من أخبار الصحف، ومقاطع من رواية (القاتل الأعمى) والتي كتبتها لورا ونشرت بعد وفاتها.

أحببت أسلوب مارجريت، كل هذا الخليط المبهر، من الماضي والحاضر، الخيال والخيال العلمي، القصة داخل القصة، وكل المفاجئات التي تتكشف في النهاية – رغم أنها لم تكن مفاجئة كاملة بالنسبة لي فقد
Gloria Mundi
Have you ever done one of those big 5000+ piece jigsaw puzzles, ones that can take weeks to complete? When we were younger, my sister used to love them and I inevitably got suckered into helping her, on occasion. It was engrossing but not straight away. It was a bit frustrating and tedious to begin with, and then all of a sudden you'd find that several hours have passed and you've forgotten to eat but you can't stop, you just need to find that one next piece. This is what the experience of readi ...more
Lisa Vegan
I finished 2 books in one day, VERY different types of books. This one first.

I read this as a buddy read with my GR friend Laura K. and we managed to stay very much in sync and I enjoyed reading it together.

I think this is a great book, with all questions finally answered, some not until toward the end for me, some earlier, all of them with hints along the way.

I’m giving it 4 vs. 5 stars because the story within the story within the story and even the story within the story could have been limit
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Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College.

Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, childr
More about Margaret Atwood...

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“If you knew what was going to happen, if you knew everything that was going to happen next—if you knew in advance the consequences of your own actions—you'd be doomed. You'd be ruined as God. You'd be a stone. You'd never eat or drink or laugh or get out of bed in the morning. You'd never love anyone, ever again. You'd never dare to.” 1135 likes
“The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it.” 765 likes
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