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The Blind Assassin
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Archives > The Blind Assassin: October 1-7: Parts 1, 2, 3, & 4

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message 1: by Dianne (last edited Oct 01, 2017 04:39AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dianne | 193 comments Happy October to all of the 1001 readers and welcome to all of the Litsy participants! Jen P and I will be co-moderating this month's group read of The Blind Assassin and we have the Litsy tag names JenP and dd4250. Please follow us to track the discussion on Litsy - I'm new to Litsy myself and should be an adventure!

I have to say this book so far is NOT what I was expecting! Well, what was I expecting? With a title Blind Assassin, perhaps I was thinking this would a mystery, a murder mystery, one with an assassin - but blind? How would that even be possible? The time jumps and digressions into the 'blind assassin' narrative threw me for awhile, but happily I have adapted and am swimming along with the story having finished this week's section. If you are finding this novel challenging - don't give up! It becomes much easier to traverse as you go along.

I pose a few questions for you all, and feel free to answer any or all or pose your own!

1. What did you think of the 'layering' technique that Atwood used with respect to the unfolding of the plot in this novel?

2. What are your views of Iris and Laura and their relationship so far? Do you have any sense of why Laura is portrayed as 'fragile' or 'special'? How do you think their parents perceived each of them and the roles they were expected to play?

3. Why do you think Atwood uses different forms of writing in the novel?

4. Do you like the 'blind assassin' sections? Do you have any sense of how these might tie into the rest of the novel so far?

5. Why do you think Atwood introduces the mystery lovers and what function do you think they serve in the plot?

6. What do you think of Iris as a narrator?

7. What genre would say this book is?

8. What are your thoughts on the Chase/Griffen rivalry and how this might play out in the book? What are your thoughts about Norval Chase and Richard Griffen so far?


Gail (gailifer) | 1380 comments So far I am enjoying the layering that Atwood uses and there does appear to be a weave although I have yet to understand exactly what is being woven. The newspaper articles are an interesting element because right off the bat they appear to be reporting less than the truth rather than being a piece of data the reader can trust. I enjoy being with the older Iris with her current relationships with doughnuts and toilets and Myra but the younger Iris that she writes about (or presumably writes about) is not a very sweet child. Although she may simply be a normal child wanting love from a parent she can not have and not wanting to compete with her sister. I don't know what to make of the Blind Assassin story. It is an interesting story to be narrated as it reflects a great deal of "book learning" particularly about mythology but it also appears to be narrated by a gangster of sorts. There is a moment when Iris describes her sister as being like her father and she herself as being like her mother. She does this by explaining that her father could drive off a bridge but her mother could not. Who would think that about one's parents? It makes you begin to question what dark secret Iris has.


Scott I'm really enjoying the book so far. I'm still unsure where the Blind Assassin sections are headed, but I'm definitely intrigued. By the end of section 4 I felt comfortable enough with the switches between Iris perspective & the newspaper reports and obituaries and the Blind Assassin sections. I find the sections about Iris to be the strongest. I love her as a character & Atwood makes a lot of sly, clever commentary on gender. There's also a broad emotional range in the sections about Iris and her family. Whereas the Blind Assassin chapters feel jarring & fragmented. I do find fascinating the juxtaposition between a pulp/noir situation/dialogue with she/he & the fantasy of the story being told by him. So far Iris & Laura's childhood relationship seems normal, although there are definitely hints that something is wrong. I'm definitely intrigued by The Blind Assassin & can't wait to see where Atwood will takes it!


Kristel (kristelh) | 4107 comments Mod
I am only to the end of part III. At first it was hard to get into a comfortable pace with the book because of the switches and jumps in time and the odd sections on the mysterious lovers but it is not getting a flow.

What I like: I like stories about aging and third section has a lot of sentences that I am underlining. This is Iris and she seems so isolated.


message 5: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen | 1608 comments Mod
I finished the section and am trying hard not to read on too far (although I'm reading on a little so I can come up with prompts for next week).

I am loving it. Like Scott, I'm fining the pulp/noir sections fascinating. I also love Iris as a character and I love the passages throughout her sections. There is a lot of gender commentary woven throughout (not surprising given it's an Atwood book). I'm finding those sections really well done and subtle (unlike surfacing).

I think it's too early to have an opinion about Iris and Laura and their relationship. I think there are clear indications of Iris being the "stronger" of the two girls and I think their parents both turned to Iris to take care of Laura.

I do love the blind assassin sections. They are very odd but I enjoy reading them. I'm thinking that the sections about he/she are parts of the book that Laura was writing? The notebooks that Iris found in Laura's stuff. What do others think? If so, it's pretty interesting that both Laura and Iris either wrote or are in the process of writing books.


message 6: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen | 1608 comments Mod
Gail wrote: "So far I am enjoying the layering that Atwood uses and there does appear to be a weave although I have yet to understand exactly what is being woven. The newspaper articles are an interesting eleme..."

Yes! I'm seeing the newspaper articles as tools to help me build the family tree and to start to piece together timeline. I'm sure there's also important information hidden in these sections too.


Kristel (kristelh) | 4107 comments Mod
I think it is Laura’s book too. And I think it is the Science Fiction part of the book and more will come out. The part where they (the lovers) meet under the bridge brought my thoughts to connecting the bridge Laura drove into when she crashed and burned.


message 8: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen | 1608 comments Mod
Scott wrote: There's also a broad emotional range in the sections about Iris and her family. Whereas the Blind Assassin chapters feel jarring & fragmented.

That's an interesting distinction. I was wondering if the blind assassin sections were written by Laura (the he/she sections being part of Laura's book that was so controversial). I could be completely off base here but if so, it would make the difference in styles and fragmentation even more interesting.


message 9: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen | 1608 comments Mod
Kristel wrote: "I think it is Laura’s book too. And I think it is the Science Fiction part of the book and more will come out. The part where they (the lovers) meet under the bridge brought my thoughts to connecti..."

Ooh, that’s interesting!


Sushicat | 292 comments I finished the section and so far I really like the book.

The Iris parts are easy to read and seem to be straightforward and as other said, there’s a lot of subtle comments and memorable turnings of phrase in these parts.

As for the other parts they need more attention as they mix the sci-fi parts with the clandestine meetings between lovers, further interrupted by the news articles. I was also thinking these might be Laura’s tale and eventually she would turn the tale her lover tells into her book. Really curious to see where this is headed.

I’ve been using the articles to figure out a timeline.


Lissa00 | 2 comments I just finished reading the first section. I really love the layered approach. I keep thinking the blind assassin novel will be a mirror of the Griffen/Chase saga but I don't think we are far enough in yet to tell for sure. I think the mystery lovers are meant to convey that things aren't quite what they seem in the newspaper clippings. I am still processing the information and I look forward to reading what others are thinking.


message 12: by Melissa (last edited Oct 08, 2017 11:28AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Melissa Big edit here.... definitely easier to answer these on the laptop where I can scroll back up and see the questions!

1. I've grown to like the layering technique as I finish Part 4. The first two parts made it hard to immediately connect with anyone in the story and annoyed me at first, but as I got further I enjoyed it more and the layers started to mesh together more into a whole, now that I have a bit of a handle on who's who, etc.

2.She is definitely and repeated portrayed as fragile, but most of that comes from Iris's POV sections, and so far I'm just chalking it up to she's the younger sibling. If you are the older sibling, you are often told from the time they are born to be careful of the baby, they aren't as old as you, etc. So I've been just seeing the warnings to be careful as normal, how Iris internalized them as her being permanently more frail is interesting.... because if the sy-fi sections are Laura's story and the affair is at all biographical, she doesn't seem very frail to me.

3. It's a very quick and creative way to shift from one POV to another, Laura's to Iris's. And interesting that one is writing down her story as the other's already written story is being read. It will be interesting to see how the two mesh up as we get further along.

4. I have my theories, which I've mentioned above. I'll be interested to see how that all pans out.

5. There is definitely some friction there, and I think it's Laura's story/book at this point, so I'm sure the friction between the lovers might end tragically since her life appears to have ended so,

6. I like Iris as a narrator, her sections seem to flow easier for me and I like how Atwood, through Iris's voice describes the human condition around her.

7. I'm going to go with historical fiction, as much as there are other parts woven through, it's backdrop so far has been the war and how people and society dealt with it and its fallout.

8. The rivalry is going to be very interesting, especially since from the press clippings so far the families merge at some point. My guess is consolidate the businesses during the depression that followed, which would help both families.... and most likely cause some hard feelings as well.....we'll see.


message 13: by Diane (last edited Oct 06, 2017 04:42PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Diane  | 2042 comments I am enjoying this book so far. I do like the layering technique, although it was a little confusing for me in the beginning. I enjoy the Iris parts the most. I find the relationship between the girls fascinating. I am trying to figure out what it is about Laura that is not quite right. I haven't really figured out where the Blind Assassin story is going yet.


message 14: by Book (new) - rated it 5 stars

Book Wormy | 1984 comments Mod
This is a re-read for me so I have the advantage/disadvantage of knowing where things are going and how the layers will weave together.

That said I must have read this at least 20 years ago and while I can remember the broad strokes I can't remember the fine detail of how we get there in the end.

I love the layering and all the different sections. This book is so full of great quotes from the opening sentence onwards.


Jessica Hodgson | 3 comments Finished the section and no prompts on Litsy yet so posting here. Loving it so far, I had assumed the blind assassin sections were Laura's book and am also imagining the female lover as based on Laura herself. At first I even thought her lover was based on Richard but less sure of that now. The Iris sections are hilarious and so true to life about old age and I like the way the news articles punctuate the narrative and show us the numerous tragedies that have hit the family. I want to know more about Iris as a mother and wife. I get the impression Laura was thought of as a more beautiful, intelligent and fragile child and that is why the parents are so keen that Iris, the strong, stoic, sensible one, promises to look after her.


Diane Zwang | 1245 comments Mod
1. In the beginning I was quite confused by the layer technique but now that the chapters are longer I find it less confusing.
2. The chapters in the past are quite telling of the girls relationship. Also both parents seemed to expect much from Iris at a very young age and from her thoughts we see she disliked it.
3. To confuse us? I like the diversity in her writing but I haven't seen the full purpose yet. I am sure it will all come together.
4. The first time the blind assassin section showed up I was confused. When I figured out that it was a story within a story it made more sense.
5. To confuse us! No I think that when the identities of the two become known it will make sense. We speculated on this over at Listy.
6. I like the portions where Iris is narrating. So far I find her a reliable narrator.


Dianne | 193 comments Gail wrote: "So far I am enjoying the layering that Atwood uses and there does appear to be a weave although I have yet to understand exactly what is being woven. The newspaper articles are an interesting eleme..."

I felt bad for the young Iris. She really got the short end of the stick. She wasn't coddled like Laura but was expected to absorb responsibilities beyond her years or capacity, and felt obligated to do this in order to earn her father's love.


Dianne | 193 comments Scott wrote: "I'm really enjoying the book so far. I'm still unsure where the Blind Assassin sections are headed, but I'm definitely intrigued. By the end of section 4 I felt comfortable enough with the switches..."

The blind assassin portions are starting to drive me berserk. How on earth can this relate to Iris and Laura??? and their domestic life?? It is so bizarre. Seriously tempted to flip to the back ;)


Dianne | 193 comments Kristel wrote: "I am only to the end of part III. At first it was hard to get into a comfortable pace with the book because of the switches and jumps in time and the odd sections on the mysterious lovers but it is..."

the week 2 reading is MUCH smoother!


Dianne | 193 comments Diane wrote: "I am enjoying this book so far. I do like the layering technique, although it was a little confusing for me in the beginning. I enjoy the Iris parts the most. I find the relationship between the gi..."

isn't it strange that from the very beginning with Laura driving off the bridge that she is portrayed as 'not right' but we don't quite know how? It appears she drove off the bridge on purpose, so is she insane? Depressed? In some dire trouble?


Dianne | 193 comments Diane wrote: "1. In the beginning I was quite confused by the layer technique but now that the chapters are longer I find it less confusing.
2. The chapters in the past are quite telling of the girls relationshi..."


I like your responses - to confuse us! I think that may be true! Atwood had clearly spent a great deal of time planning and mapping this novel out, and how all of the different parts would interrelate, and timing with which each piece of information would be revealed. I certainly think part of the plan was to confuse us!


message 22: by Kristel (last edited Oct 09, 2017 05:57PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kristel (kristelh) | 4107 comments Mod
1. What did you think of the 'layering' technique that Atwood used with respect to the unfolding of the plot in this novel? It is clever and probably part of the reason she won the Booker. They (the Booker) seem to like creative style in their winners.

2. What are your views of Iris and Laura and their relationship so far? Do you have any sense of why Laura is portrayed as 'fragile' or 'special'? How do you think their parents perceived each of them and the roles they were expected to play? Iris is your older sibling and Laura the younger, second born. The role is always different. They are about 4 years apart, one conceived during WWI and the other after the war is over and the onset of the roaring twenties. Iris had to be tough. Laura could be fragile.

3. Why do you think Atwood uses different forms of writing in the novel? We have the story of Iris's childhood, Iris' old age and we have the novel Laura wrote about secret lovers and we have the story Iris tries to write about her life. The story Laura writes is weird, science fiction/fantasy leanings. Iris's story is a memoir. My favorite is the 80 y/o Iris.

4. Do you like the 'blind assassin' sections? Do you have any sense of how these might tie into the rest of the novel so far? They are not my favorite but I expect they are important so am trying to pay attention to them.

5. Why do you think Atwood introduces the mystery lovers and what function do you think they serve in the plot? I am not sure yet but I think it is going to have something to do with the either the story of Laura or Iris. There is some secret that we don't know yet that keeps Iris ostracized from her granddaughter.

6. What do you think of Iris as a narrator? I like Iris especially the 80 y/o Iris.

7. What genre would say this book is? mixed genre

8. What are your thoughts on the Chase/Griffen rivalry and how this might play out in the book? What are your thoughts about Norval Chase and Richard Griffen so far? I feel bad for Norval and the war but other than that, I have no respect for Norval. I don't have an opinion on Richard.


Subashini (subabat) 1. I enjoyed the layering technique. It's clever and builds narrative momentum/suspense, but not in a gimmicky way. Just in the way stories often come to us--never complete, always in fragments.

2. There is that push-and-pull that is so common to siblings, especially sisters, and especially sisters who have had to rely on each other because the adults in their life are absent or domestic staff who act as caretakers... I have some questions about Laura's "fragility". Sometimes siblings take on a role based on their character/order of birth but it's never the whole story.

3. I think maybe that's how Atwood felt it was best to tell the story; it's complex and covers so many themes, relationships, and characters.

4. I really enjoy the "blind assassin" sections! Now that I've progressed into the second week's reading I'm revising my earlier assumptions about the he/she characters and have so many questions about authorship/whose story/Laura's book.

5. It is going to play a significant part in helping us understand our relationship between the sisters, I think. And Laura's death, and why Iris is estranged from her granddaughter.

6. Love Iris. Cantankerous, curmudgeonly, and all too real.

7. Literary speculative fiction? If that's a thing :)

8. The Chase/Griffen aspects are the least interesting parts, so far, to me. But that could very well change. I'm just never interested in rich men and their ways/thoughts/actions. Lol.


message 24: by Pip (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pip | 1409 comments I love the layering technique. I apparently read this book in 2001, but I have no memories of it. Fortunately I made lots of marginal notes which are interesting to read now. We must have read it in a book club way back then. I often lament that I left off recording my reading for about 40 years! I like the Iris as a child sections best, then Iris in her old age. Who the lovers might be is intriguing and I search the newspaper articles for clues and a timeline. Predictable I am not very keen on the Blind Assassin story but it offers clues to who the storyteller and listener might be. Iris is old for her age and responsible, Laura is young for hers and blithely irresponsible. Atwood is really showing off her versatility in writing in different genres and styles in the same book.


message 25: by Paula (new) - added it

Paula S (paula_s) | 220 comments I agree with a lot of what has already been written.
I like the layering. Mixing newspaper clippings with Laura's novel and Iris' memories makes it more interesting and real. It seems like it was an interesting family dynamic, and a difficult childhood for Iris and Laura.
I'm one of those who like the 'blind assassin' segments, both the love story (I'm wondering if the woman is Laura or Iris) and the fantasy story. I love reading fantasy and science fiction so it is right up my alley.
I like Iris as a narrator. I think I identifying with her as an an older sister. I'm looking forward to continuing the story.


message 26: by Connie (last edited Oct 28, 2017 12:45PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Connie D | 91 comments I'm so glad to see these questions! I've been mucking about trying to understand and think about this book by myself.

Q 1 & 5 - I like the layering, although of course I didn't understand what was happening at this point. I have, however, had a hard time appreciating the insertions of the mystery lover, especially since it seemed to have no connection to the child narrator. I didn't realize it was the same person at first.

I'm listening to it rather than reading, which I think may be a mistake. The narrator has a very frail voice which makes the character(s?) seems less likable and less human. It's slightly mysterious, though, which is fine for the sci-fi Blind Assassin parts, though.


Connie D | 91 comments Q2 - I've enjoyed the relationship between Iris and Laura, including Iris's willingness to both protect Laura and follow Laura's whims. I honestly see them more as being in their own little world where their parents' absence (physical and psychological) has left them in a weird vacuum that they barely try to fill. They are both rather absent from the real world themselves, not just Laura. I don't see Laura as fragile so much as mentally/emotionally disconnected from most of the world. It's not really clear to me whether Laura and Iris could have been normal children if they'd gone to school and met regular children. Instead, Reenie is the only one keeping either child tethered to reality.

As to a recognition of their roles, Reenie and later the father do seem to recognize that Iris is more able to follow directions/be helpful/do the sensible thing; they give up on making Laura do anything she doesn't want to. (Iris never tries either.)


message 28: by Jen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jen | 1608 comments Mod
points tallied for prize draw


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

Jen | 1608 comments Mod
Connie wrote: "I'm so glad to see these questions! I've been mucking about trying to understand and think about this book by myself.

Q 1 & 5 - I like the layering, although of course I didn't understand what was..."



please see this thread... https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...


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