21st Century Literature discussion

The Blind Assassin
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2016 Book Discussions > The Blind Assassin - General Discussion, No Spoilers (October 2016)

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Ernie (ewnichols) | 58 comments This thread is for general discussion of the novel only. Please do not post any spoilers in this section.


Ernie (ewnichols) | 58 comments I have read a few books by Margaret Atwood, and I really like her. Regardless of the story, I always love her writing. Sometimes it is the language, others time the style. It's always a great story and makes you think. Ever since I read The Handmaid's Tale, I've been looking out for new releases, but I'm behind on a lot of her older ones, including this one. So glad I am finally reading this!


Mark | 5 comments This was my first Margaret Atwood book. Always been aware of her, but just hadn't prioritized reading her. It took this group to inspire me to try her out and I'm glad for it. Blind Assassin definitely will not be my last Atwood novel.


Trudie (trudieb) Big Atwood fan here, I think I have more or less read all her novels except Hagwood and The Heart Goes Last.
There is something about the precision and inventiveness of her writing that greatly appeals to me and I have always admired her genre-crossing abilities.
Not sure if I can contribute much to this discussion as I read this book when it first came out and while the details have faded the recollection of it being one of her best remains.


message 5: by Susan (last edited Oct 02, 2016 08:53PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Susan | 11 comments Another Atwood fan! I've read 4 of her books. She is a diverse writer and I love that she continues to surprise readers with various genres. Hag-seed is one I'm planning on reading this month upon release. I must admit that "Blind Assassin" didn't grab me when I first read it in 2008. Fortunately my reading taste has evolved such that "Blind Assassin" is infinitely more appealing this round!


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Maureen | 124 comments Just located a copy - will start reading tomorrow when I pick it up. I appreciate the comments that it's a bit of a hard start - I'll have my patience in the forefront as I begin!


Michelle (topaz6) This was my second Atwood, what a wonderful book!


message 8: by Hugh (last edited Oct 03, 2016 12:47AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2716 comments Mod
Thanks for starting the discussions Ernie. This is my third Atwood, but only the second novel after The Handmaid's Tale, which for me was a bit cold, humourless and preachy and put me off reading more at the time. The other one I read (also years ago) was a short story collection Bluebeard's Egg, which I don't remember much about. So far, I am enjoying this one much more and feel I have been neglecting her unjustly.


Trudie (trudieb) For all those "His Bloody Project" admirers then I would probably recommend Atwoods "Alias Grace" but I also really liked "Cats Eye"


message 11: by Lily (last edited Oct 03, 2016 08:33AM) (new) - added it

Lily (joy1) | 2498 comments Hugh wrote: "This is my third Atwood, but only the second novel after The Handmaid's Tale, which for me was a bit cold, humourless and preachy and put me off reading more at the time...."

Very much my attitude towards Atwood, Hugh. Always have had reservations about THMT's incorporation into so many school reading lists in the U.S. But I did enjoy her The Penelopiad. This one, TBA, sits among the books picked up at sales along the way that I have never gotten to reading. Not sure I will right now, either, but I will follow this discussion.

Thanks for all the reviews, too. I'll check out some of them -- probably already have read one or two, at the time the book was released.


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Jan Notzon | 102 comments The only other Atwood I've read is The Handmaid's Tale, and based on that, I was hesitant to try this one. I'm really glad I did. I'm really loving it. Thanks to the group for suggesting it.


message 13: by Hugh (last edited Oct 05, 2016 01:39AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2716 comments Mod
I expect to finish the book tonight, and I will definitely be reading more - Alias Grace is already on my physical to-read shelf after a discussion a few months ago in another group here in which I said much the same things about The Handmaid's Tale. I am with Lily - sometimes if one book that is not representative of an author gets overhyped or overexposed through schools and universities, it can do more harm than good to the writer (another example of this is Penelope Fitzgerald - her Booker winner Offshore is nowhere near as interesting and enjoyable as some of her other books but has probably been read by far more people). I am very impressed by the way this book is constructed and the subtlety of some of the key revelations.


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Hugh (bodachliath) | 2716 comments Mod
Ernie, as a new discussion moderator, you may not be aware that when creating a discussion topic for a book, you can put a link to the book in "This topic is about", which will help to ensure that people can find the discussions by browsing the bookshelf. This can be done retrospectively using edit, but only by the topic creator (or possibly a group moderator).


Nicole | 10 comments Hugh wrote: "sometimes if one book that is not representative of an author gets overhyped or overexposed through schools and universities, it can do more harm than good to the writer"

I think this is almost certainly the case with Atwood and the Handmaid's Tale. A couple year's back I went on an Atwood binge and as a result I've now read something like 15 or 16 titles, and the more I read, the less THT seems like her best offering. (My personal choices for that are Cat's Eye and The Robber Bride or, in a different narrative mode, Oryx and Crake, but I know a great many readers love The Blind Assassin most.)


Trudie (trudieb) Hugh wrote: "I expect to finish the book tonight, and I will definitely be reading more - Alias Grace is already on my physical to-read shelf after a discussion a few months ago in another group he..."

I think Atwood's work can be fairly distinctly divided into her "speculative fiction" - The Handmaids Tale, Maad Adam Trilogy, The Heart goes Last and her more straight forward contemporary fiction The Edible Woman, Cats Eye, The Robber Bride e.t.c plus her fantastic short story collections.
Certainly, I can understand that if speculative fiction/ alternate worlds is not your thing then some of her work, particularly her most recent books may not appeal.
I think this profile from the Guardian in 2003 is quite a good background
https://www.theguardian.com/books/200...


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Hugh (bodachliath) | 2716 comments Mod
Thanks Nicole and Trudie. You are helping to ensure that keeping the to-read list under control is a Sisyphean task, but that is so much better than being short of ideas for what to read.


Ernie (ewnichols) | 58 comments I have loved everything I have read by Atwood except for Stone Mattress: Nine Tales, which I liked but didn't love. However, I have so much more to read. Glad to hear all of these other mentions - helps pinpoint the next few Atwood books. Alias Grace is also already on my list, so I think that will be my next Atwood. So many!

Thanks for the note, Hugh. I will try to go back and edit that now.


Evelina | AvalinahsBooks (avalinahsbooks) | 116 comments I'm surprised a lot of you didn't like The Handmaid's Tale. It was my first and only Atwood so far, and I was mesmerized.


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Hugh (bodachliath) | 2716 comments Mod
Evelina | avalinah wrote: "I'm surprised a lot of you didn't like The Handmaid's Tale. It was my first and only Atwood so far, and I was mesmerized."
I think it was partly a question of expectations - I was very young and probably a lot more intolerant when I read it, but having discussed this in another group a few months ago I know that I am not the only one who failed to warm to it. I'm sure the fault is mine, not Margaret Atwood's...


Evelina | AvalinahsBooks (avalinahsbooks) | 116 comments Handmaid is hard to read, in a sense - it's a very painful book. I'm glad I read it when I was 27, had I been younger, I would have been shocked, probably. But it was just such a living story for me, and it was really well written too. So colourful.


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Lily (joy1) | 2498 comments Evelina | avalinah wrote: "...But it was just such a living story for me..."

Fascinating. For me, I recall it as so artificial, so strident.


LindaJ^ (lindajs) | 2354 comments I read The Blind Assassin some years ago and fully intended to reread for this discussion but I got sidetracked by the National Book Award Fiction longlist and now the book and I are in different states. I will follow the discussion, though, and perhaps will be able to contribute something!


Ernie (ewnichols) | 58 comments I absolutely loved Handmaid's Tale, and it remains one of my favorites. I recommend it to everyone. I have never heard of it being part of a school reading list, and I barely know anyone who has read it. I feel like most people I know were all reading the same books in school, like 1984, Night, The Scarlet Letter, Lord of the Flies, and The Awakening, among others. Not sure what I would have thought of Atwood at that time in my life.


Trudie (trudieb) Like Ernie I also never encountered The Handmaids Tale on school reading lists. However my English teacher did assign her short stories and that really ignited my love for her writing.
I still think Atwood writes some of the best dystopias because she has a good grasp on how to write intelligently about sciences - genetic engineering and climate change were handled so well in the Maad Adam books and at the time of my reading The Handmaids Tale I thought it was the best kind of melding of a dystopian vision and of the plight of women. I devoured it.
Naturally, the genre of dystopia/ speculative fiction is not for all readers but it is part of the makeup of Atwood as a writer.


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Julie (readerjules) | 197 comments Ok, I need advice from anyone who has finished the book. Some of you said you thought the book was hard to get into at first but once you got to Part III, it got better. Well, I am near the beginning of Part V (27% done with the book) and I still think it is too slow moving and I am rather bored with it. I have to force myself to pick it up. Does it get better soon, or if I am still bored now, does that mean I should just give up? I don't want to waste my time reading something when another book might be more enjoyable to me.


message 27: by Hugh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2716 comments Mod
Julie, I can't make any promises that would reassure you - it does not change dramatically, but there is a gradual accumulation of information that gives the whole thing shape. I think Iris's memoir is deliberately dull in places...


message 28: by Adria (last edited Oct 17, 2016 03:26PM) (new)

Adria Atwood is one of my favorite authors, and for me, The Blind Assassin is one of her best. My least favorite is The Handmaid's Tale. But I read that 20 years ago, so maybe I should give it another shot. I found her MaddAddam Trilogy to be the most engrossing.

The Blind Assassin takes some work, but I think it's worth it.


message 29: by Hugh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2716 comments Mod
Adria wrote: "The Blind Assassin takes some work, but I think it's worth it."
I agree - and I was already finding plenty to enjoy in the first quarter.


Ernie (ewnichols) | 58 comments So, I thought I'd check in as it has been quite for a while (me included). Did anyone else make it through?


Ernie (ewnichols) | 58 comments For those that are interested...

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood is a Goodreads deal today. For those in the US and who buy ebooks (not sure if this is also a deal in the UK or elsewhere), it is $2.99.


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Lily (joy1) | 2498 comments Ernie wrote: "For those that are interested...

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood is a Goodreads deal today. For those in the US and who buy ebooks (not sure if this is also a dea..."


Thanks, Ernie. Given my (lack of) love for that text, I'll pass, but I appreciate it when fellow readers call this kind of quality book to our attention when a special is available. (Audible has No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy today.)


James | 69 comments Ernie wrote: "So, I thought I'd check in as it has been quite for a while (me included). Did anyone else make it through?"

Yes Ernie! I made it through and thoroughly enjoyed it all. Some reviewers found it pretty slow going but I found I was happy to take my time and savour all the different strands. The sections at the start of chapters where the old Iris told the story of what was happening ‘in real time’, which didn’t always advance the story were my favourite parts because of the character (and humour) that came through.

I found it hard to provide any new comment at the end (or maybe it was just exhaustion) but everything had been tied together quite brilliantly. Perhaps only the fantasy story may have raised some outstanding questions, but I didn’t feel like going back into it.


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