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The Blind Assassin
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2016 Book Discussions > The Blind Assassin - Parts I - IV, Some Spoilers Allowed (October 2016)

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Ernie (ewnichols) | 58 comments This thread is about Parts I through IV of The Blind Assassin. Please only post comments here related to these beginning sections of the novel and please hide spoilers appropriately.

Ernie (ewnichols) | 58 comments I can say that I had a bit of a hard start on this one. The book has a unique structure, and though I think the heart of the story, or at least the part that really lets you sink in, is Part III, it is very interesting how Atwood chose to write the beginning and, in essence, structure the book. I think it immediately grabs you, but the opening felt a bit fractured to me. I partly think this may be because I needed to read a bigger chunk of it to start, but I think it was important to set the tone with the style and structure, as I see how the story has developed since the opening. I appreciate it more, but ultimately feel that I want to go back and reread the first two parts.

Did anyone else have this same feeling?

I was really able to get a big chunk of the novel in on the plane, which included Part III, and now it all seems so perfectly put together, and in a very unique and interesting way. I'm really enjoying it!

Mark | 5 comments In a word, Yes. I too had that feeling. Throughout my reading I kept flipping back to the initial chapters. Initially, I did this to keep the characters straight which was a struggle. As I progressed through the book I kept flipping back trying to "fill in some of the puzzle pieces", so to speak. This book is wonderfully crafted. The structure of the book is a bit off-putting at first (at least to me) but one begins to see the method at work as one progresses.

message 4: by Hugh (last edited Oct 03, 2016 02:21AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2590 comments Mod
Yes, I struggled a little at the start too - I didn't really feel I understood what was going on until the first longer section of Iris's reminiscences. The story within a story element reminded my of A.S. Byatt's Babel Tower, which is one of my favourite books - like Atwood, Byatt felt the need to write the story her writer was caught up in, and both involve imagined worlds that explore political and philosophical ideas. I am 200 pages in now and starting to enjoy the book a lot.

message 5: by Jan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jan Notzon | 100 comments I had exactly the same reaction. Took me about 60-70 pages to get interested. But the more I read, the more I like. I find extraordinary insights into things and phrases we take for granted, and a wonderful wry sense of humor. Rather bleak, but life can be so at times.

James | 62 comments Yes I had the same response. In fact I started the book a couple of years ago and stopped very quickly - not because I didn't like it, but because I didn't have the time to devote to a book that seemed to require much piecing together. It went on my TBR list and I'm well through it now - thoroughly enjoying it.

Evelina | AvalinahsBooks (avalinahsbooks) | 116 comments I'm at part III right now (luckily, nobody posted spoilers yet!), and I do agree that only in Part III it kind of takes off. But this is Atwood, so I expect everything will make more sense later. So far, I'm struggling a little with trying to place all the relations among the relatives, but later it will also probably make more sense.

message 8: by Jan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jan Notzon | 100 comments It will, Evelina. And it's worth the work.

message 9: by Hugh (last edited Oct 04, 2016 01:12PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2590 comments Mod
It is not a book that is easy to discuss in sections, and I am already struggling to remember what was in the first four parts, so I may wait until I have finished before saying more (and I may be able to finish the book tomorrow). For such a big book it is a surprisingly quick read.

Ernie (ewnichols) | 58 comments Yes, I have to agree with Hugh...sorry about that. I thought, due to its length, that it would be easier in sections, but I think that it is difficult. It has gone by quickly, and I am almost finished. It definitely got easier, and I do think it helps to read in big chunks instead of chapter by chapter over time.

message 11: by Hugh (new) - rated it 5 stars

Hugh (bodachliath) | 2590 comments Mod
No apology needed Ernie - there may be other readers who will contribute more to the individual sections, and I know from experience that however you choose to split a discussion, the first and last sections always generate the most comments. I'm feeling a bit sorry for Marc - nobody seems to have time for the Marias yet...

message 12: by Marc (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marc (monkeelino) | 2590 comments Mod
One can never really predict how a discussion will flow--seems like this one is going just fine. I've been enjoying it quietly (it's been so long since I read the book, I hardly remember any details). I appreciate the sympathy Hugh, but I would have read Marias anyway and now I want to read more of his works. This is my favorite of the three Atwood books I've read in the past (The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake being the other two).

Evelina | AvalinahsBooks (avalinahsbooks) | 116 comments It's good in terms of sections for the people who are currently reading (like me). Cause I really want to discuss with you guys, but I'm afraid to peek too much because of spoilers!

So this is great. And the people who have finished or read more should just discuss in the last section :)

Evelina | AvalinahsBooks (avalinahsbooks) | 116 comments So let's try and facilitate discussion.

What did you guys think about a story embedded in another story? I'm enjoying the otherworldly story so far. Although I haven't even been able to piece together who is the girl listening to the story (the old woman or her sister, I wonder? Could be both. Those who know please don't tell me :D)

Also, do you think the death of the sister was suicide or not? Do you think it could have been the sister who is still alive? Again, those who know, please don't respond.

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Hugh (bodachliath) | 2590 comments Mod
Evelina, I can't say much without spoiling with hindsight, but it becomes clear fairly early that Iris is not saying everything she knows, and that the truth is complicated. I found it a little difficult to relate to the fantasy part of the story, but rather like the duller parts of Iris's account, it is all part of establishing a firm foundation for the overall structure. I never doubted the suicide, but maybe I should have...

Evelina | AvalinahsBooks (avalinahsbooks) | 116 comments Yeah, Iris also seems like that to me. I believe it will probably get clearer in the middle or end.

Ernie (ewnichols) | 58 comments I definitely found the fantasy part of the story a bit off-putting, and it really took many of those chapters before I can say that I was beginning to make sense of them. I agree with Hugh, that Iris' chapters were much more the driving force for me. I'll leave it at that since I am also finding it hard to comment without giving something away.

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Julie (readerjules) | 196 comments I just finished parts 1 & 2. I can understand how some of you are saying you went back to read things. If I need to remember anything about this strange story the guy is telling the woman, I will be doing the same.
But so far, I am more interesting in what is going on with all Iris's relatives dropping dead!

message 19: by Jan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jan Notzon | 100 comments I echo Ernie's remark. Can't really say much without spoiling.

Evelina | AvalinahsBooks (avalinahsbooks) | 116 comments I think the reason I'm fine with the otherwordly story is because I actually do read quite a bit of sci-fi.

message 21: by Maureen (new)

Maureen | 124 comments Evelina | avalinah wrote: "I think the reason I'm fine with the otherwordly story is because I actually do read quite a bit of sci-fi."

Evelina, Do you have advice on how to read sci-fi vs. more realistic fiction for someone like me who has read very little sci-fi?

Evelina | AvalinahsBooks (avalinahsbooks) | 116 comments Hm, well - I believe, an open mind helps a lot :) think of your childhood and fairytales - back then normal reality turning into a wild fantasy was probably fully acceptable to you. As long as you accept that this is a story (or even a story inside a story, like in this book), you should accept that the story has its own universe and it might be very different from our own. And that's fine - because it's a story :) let your mind wander - our rules don't apply in the story world! Having experienced this freedom once, you won't want to go back from it - I'm sure.

message 23: by Maureen (new)

Maureen | 124 comments Evelina | avalinah wrote: "Hm, well - I believe, an open mind helps a lot :) think of your childhood and fairytales - back then normal reality turning into a wild fantasy was probably fully acceptable to you. As long as you ..."

Thank you! As a long time reader and teacher of literature, I think your advice is spot on because I know that my students who loved sci-fi approached it that way. I appreciate the common sense advice you have shared.

Happy reading!

message 24: by Mark (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mark | 5 comments I didn't mind the sci-fi story. I grew up reading Edgar Rice Burroughs, so alien cities and assassins are pretty familiar ground. That said, Burroughs Idealistic Barsoom never approached the tragedy of Atwood's Zycron with it's enslaved child labor, prostitution, ect...) The "world-building" that takes place in the beginning of Blind Assassin is a bit slow, but once we get to the culture that produces the tapestries I was intrigued. I did read these parts wondering what, if any parallels might exist between the sci-fi story and the "real" world of Laura and Iris. Can't say more without getting into spoiler territory but looking forward to addressing the subject in later post.

Amanda (tnbooklover) | 0 comments It's taken me ages to get going on this book but now I'm really into it. I had to start it over because I got so confused as to who was who. I started over and made a chart. That helped a lot. I'm still not sure exactly how the fantasy part fits in with the main story but I'm just going with it at this point :-)

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