Alison's Reviews > The Blind Assassin

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
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Jun 17, 2007

did not like it
bookshelves: alltime100novel
Read in July, 2007

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 arranged marriage; as well as a series of events leading up to the younger sister's suicide at the age of 25.

Then there's the story within the story...of two lovers meeting secretly. He spins for her science fiction stories...one of which is entitled The Blind Assassin. Not until the end do we find out the true identities of the lovers, the writers of the story, and all sorts of paternity issues and family secrets.

The epic nature of the book is ambitious, and the writer sees it through. No stone is unturned as the plot revelations come to fruition. What's unusual about the main character, the elder sister, Iris, is her lack of emotion about the tragic elements of the story. It's like she's not even remorseful that she turned the blind eye to her sister's sufferings, as if she herself were the victim.

I wish I had picked another Margaret Atwood book to begin with. I think I would have liked another better. I'm glad I got through this. I enjoyed some of the philosphical quips and the flat tone of the book, but I feel like I have already forgotten the story. Maybe I'm just missing something, because it's evidently a modern classic.
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Comments (showing 1-13 of 13) (13 new)

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message 1: by Beth (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new) - added it

Beth I have had this book on my shelf forever, but I haven't read it. I would recommend "The Handmaid's Tale" for sure, if you haven't read it. It is an all-time classic. I liked "Oryx and Crake", also. Those are my favorites of Atwood's. The others of hers I've read don't really stand out. People I trust say "Alias, Grace" is great, but I haven't read it.


message 2: by Beth (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new) - added it

Beth So, do you read one book at a time, or do you read multiple books at the same time? It seems to me that you have more than one going at a time. I don't often do that, but sometimes if I get bogged down in something lengthy, I'll take a break and read something shorter and lighter.


message 3: by Alison (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:56AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Alison I wish I had read The Handmaid's Tale first. I see alot of interesting comments about it. I think I picked this b/c it was on Time magazine's list...100 greatest novels of the last century. It's pretty good...just requires some time.

No, I usually read just one at a time. I shop for books alot, at used book stores or off e-bay, amazon (used)...and then I'll get a few stored up and take some time reading them. I have at least 2 now to read, after the one I'm working on. I know people that can keep more than one going at a time, but I can't.


Alison Has it been two years since these comments???

You were right--The Handmaid's Tale was much better. :)


Laura I feel the same way, I usually knock off about a novel a week, but this one took me about 2 months to finish because I just couldn't get into it. I was really looking forward to it too.


Alison And so many people love this one! It was so slow for me.


Patrick I agree this book was initially a slow read, but you do have to admit it picks up toward the end especially the last 100 pages.

As for Iris' character, I think she writes in a detach sort of voice because she is an old woman writing a flashback of her life. As they say, time does wonders to emotion's of the past especially ones that happened 50 years ago. Also, I think her detachment is in character with her pragmatic realistic personality that she seems to have all through out the book except the blind assassin portions of course.


Kate Agreed on all comments above. I really wanted to love it, but it just wasn't my favourite book. I think I would have put it down if I'd realised how long it was, but kindle's have a way of hiding the thickness of book.


Alison Good point!


Rebecca **spoiler alert**
I don't think it is true at all that Iris isn't remorseful. Look how old she is when she died. She was still very young when all this ended. I didn't do the math, she couldn't have been more than 25. And yet we are led to believe she did nothing with her life after this.
She published a book that she knew would have a good chance of destroying her own comfortable life "in the country" out of a sense of loyalty to Laura and rage at Richard for what he'd done to her.
She dwelled on it. She fought hard to get her daughter back. Stalked her own grandchild.

You can't think because someone doesn't break into overblown hysterics and feel the need to tell everyone how bad she feels (as if that would solve anything?) that she isn't eaten up inside.

She was taught to be strong from a young age. She was also taught to be seen and not heard. She had no agency in any of what happened. She was the same as the tongueless girl. Would you also say that the mute girl was emotionless? When Iris loses what she loves most in the world and finally manages to take a stand she loses what little is left her, her daughter. She was willing to take that risk for "justice", which she was still young enough to believe in


Rachel Harshitha guys! I'm currently on page 88. How many more pages should I read for me to get into the story?
Fact 1: I loved Alias grace.Took about 150 pages and when she started telling her story I coudn't keep it down.
Fact 2: Coudn't finish Thef year of the flood. Love the writing but the story line itself was not interesting for me to finish it.


Michelle I'm around page 150 of this painful book. I have no idea why it's a modern classic at this point--let alone an international bestseller and award recipient. I have to force myself to read it, because I've already walked away from it twice. This book is worse than assigned reading--I find it tragically boring and I can't understand why the reader should suffer through 400 pages of sleep-inducing boredom to reach the part where it picks up. (As other readers have said it picks up in the last 100 pages.) I've read The Handmaid's Tale (my favorite book ever) and The Heart Goes Last (great book that unfortunately falls apart like a poorly written cheap paperback in the last third). I can't wait to bury this book and move on to Oryx & Crake--I book I've *heard* people praise, not just read its praises from the cover like BA.
I'm very happy (and relieved) to not be alone in my opinion of how forgettable and dull this book is.


Shana Thankfully I found others who didn't get this book! I tried so hard - had to give up eventually - at least got to page 450


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