The Blind Assassin
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The Blind Assassin

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  81,797 ratings  ·  4,178 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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Nenya I'd recommend to skip the middle and read from part thirteen 'Gloves' all the way to the end. Then you can go back and read the rest, if you feel like…moreI'd recommend to skip the middle and read from part thirteen 'Gloves' all the way to the end. Then you can go back and read the rest, if you feel like it. I typically prefer to know what's coming, and know all the spoilers beforehand so I don't get upset when the book turns out worse than how I feel it should :).

The ending is quite good. But I don't think it made up for the rest of it. (less)
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80th out of 4,878 books — 23,392 voters
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4th out of 48 books — 1,311 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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
May 26, 2013 Jenn(ifer) rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
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

- 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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
Jul 15, 2007 LeAnn rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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...more
Dave Russell
Aug 23, 2009 Dave Russell rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
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
Keith Mukai
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...more
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 5 of 5 stars
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...more
"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.
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...more
Sep 26, 2008 Felicity rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Writers, readers, anyone who loves a good long read and a well-turned paragraph.
Recommended to Felicity by: Jeannine Hall
I've already been an Atwood admirer for a few years, but The Blind Assassin is too gorgeous to merely admire. I love it. Where it isn't exquisite, it's precise. It moves expertly between the dry, the brutally truthful, and the passionate, and brings the keenness of the author's eye to them all. Atwood describes both the elusive and the everyday with a transforming grace.

All that is merely on the level of prose, of paragraph. Her narrator is human, complex, and honest. The other characters are i...more
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
Jul 27, 2014 Chloe rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Chloe by: 1001 Book List
One of the most painful books that I have ever forced myself to read. I was a bit trepidatious before picking it up owing to the poor experience I had with Handmaid's Tale, but figured that Atwood deserved another chance. No longer. I will not force myself to read something that leaves me cold and unmoved.

The saving grace, if there is one, is the story-within-a-story of The Blind Assassin. Unfortunately these interludes are few and far between. The majority of the story is about a woman looking...more
I made my way to this book for two reasons: 1) the title caught my eye. It is a very good title, after all; and 2) about four years before I picked this up, I met Margaret Atwood.

The latter event I owe to the good fortune of being in the right place at exactly the right time. Even more fortunate was the fact that I met Atwood at a bookstore in Prague, where I was one of only a few English speakers, thus placing me in an excellent position to chat with her for a few moments. We talked about the t...more
Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker  Queen of the Undead
I read this big book in one day..less than 24 hours. If that doesn't tell you what I thought about it, nothing will. I'm now off to eat, sleep, and say hi to the family (not in that order).

Oh more thing... I'm not recommending this book to anyone... Atwood's style of writing is unique... but I love it. Or maybe it isn't unique, I've just not come across many like her. Anyways, the beginning of the book was confusing, but I got through it. I feel drained and it's not from lack of sleep...more
The blind Assassin. Who is the blind assassin? Let me write a few words about the title itself. A blind person who kills somebody? A killer who kills people blindly? A mercenary??! Or maybe someone who prepares the death of her/his beloveds by her/his neglection?

Neglection can kill like a knife in your soul…

You have to make yourself ready for a novel which is not going to reveal itself until the last chapters. You're going to be confused a little and make assumptions and conclusions. A dream ins...more
"Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove her car off a bridge. The bridge was being repaired: she went right through the Danger sign. The car fell a hundred feet into the ravine, smashing through the treetops feathery with new leaves, then burst into flames and rolled down into the shallow creek at the bottom. Chunks of the bridge fell on top of it. Nothing much was left of her but charred smithereens."

You have to admit, that's one hell of a way to start a novel. The Blind Assassin i...more
Arun Divakar
The story of every ocean is woven from the strands of a river. Carrying thousands of memories, hopes and dreams with them they flow sometimes wantonly and sometimes sluggishly to their inevitable fate.There is a loss of identity which marks a rivers union with the ocean. A way in which an individual is pushed into the collective and is never heard of again. Margaret Atwood told me a story that in my mind was very similar to the relation between the river and the ocean. The sea was named Iris Cha...more
Jul 09, 2013 Ginny_1807 rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ginny_1807 by: Stela
Shelves: romanzi, canada
Racconto di memorie che è insieme tributo, confessione, atto di accusa e desiderio di riscatto.
Incentrato sull'intenso legame affettivo tra la protagonista narrante, Iris Chase, e la sorella Laura, prematuramente scomparsa in circostanze tragiche, è anche una ambigua, complicata storia d'amore e il progressivo disvelamento di una verità insospettabile, torbida e segreta. Una sorta di riesumazione, finalmente, di un passato greve, fatto di soprusi e imperdonabili silenzi; di inetta accondiscende...more
Jan 04, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: 1001 book list readers
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: a canadian
I've read a few Atwood books now and after reading have always been a bit sceptical about much of the literary foaming at the mouth which seems to occur when her name is mentioned.
"You've read Atwood of course?" well yeah some.
"But she is a genius and all her stuff is amazing - and she's Canadian. How can you not love all her stuff?"
..Does hailing from Canada automatically preclude the anticipation of literary greatness in people? I am confused and er well, I don't know but i've only read a...more
Mrs. Miska
Jun 19, 2008 Mrs. Miska rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Atwood fans, those wanting a bit of a mystery to solve
Reading The Blind Assassin, it's obvious that Atwood had fun crafting the complicated storyline, which is just as enjoyable for the reader as it must have been for the writer. The interplay of past, present, and fiction-within-fiction all merge in the end to provide a complete picture of the life of the Chase/Griffen family, particularly of the narrator Iris Chase Griffen, and the events that bring about the demise of nearly her whole family (her father, sister Laura, husband Richard, daughter A...more
Ben Babcock
Much like Cat’s Eye , I’m finding The Blind Assassin difficult to review. It won the Booker Prize, one of only three Canadian books to do so. And this Margaret Atwood person, she’s no slouch either. Apparently she’s some bigshot Canadian author with plenty of novels and short stories out there, somewhere, just winning awards and acclaim left and right. But even if one stripped away all such accolades and attempted to deal with the text itself, The Blind Assassin would still be an imposing story,...more
If a book’s quality can be judged by my desire to write an alternative ending for it, then The Blind Assassin is a book of sterling quality. Because I want to write pages and pages where certain things that happen in this book simply don’t happen. I want so badly for it to end differently, yet I love it so much because of how it does end.

In The Blind Assassin Margaret Atwood is exploring an epic subject that’s also a little bit dangerous: sisterhood. Is there a darker, more confounding type of...more
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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
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.” 891 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.” 625 likes
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