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The Blind Assassin
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Archives > The Blind Assassin: October 22-31: Part 10 - end

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Dianne | 193 comments We are at the end! What a crazy ride this one, with a lot of unexpected twists at the end! I pose a few questions for you all, and feel free to answer any or all or just pose your own questions or comments.

1. If you have read other Atwood novels, how did this compare? Are there others you would recommend to this group?

2. What do you think of the title of the book now that we have finished? Who was the 'blind assassin'?

3. Now that we have finished, what do you think of the layering technique and blind assassin portions?

My view was that, much like the descriptions of the fancy outfits Iris wore to various social gatherings, the newspaper articles and blind assassins portions seemed more style than substance. Would love to hear different points of view though!

4. Were you surprised by the revelations about Richard and Alex at the end? Why did the sisters keep these huge secrets from each other? Why did Iris share her own news about Alex after she heard Laura's story about him?

5. Why did Iris put pen to paper to tell the story? At the end, was Iris a likable character? How do you think her life proceeded after Laura died?

6. What did you think about Winnifred's roles in the story?

7. What is your view of how gender roles were portrayed in the novel?

8. How would you rate this book?


Book Wormy | 1989 comments Mod
1. I have read several Atwood novels and she remains one of my favourite authors would definetely recommend The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake.

2. I would class Iris as the Blind Assassin because it is through the consequences of what she does that various people die she appears to "blind" at the time to what her actions might cause.

3. I loved the layering technique Atwood is like a conjuror while you are reading the colourful narrative she craftily sneaks in hints about the real story.

The Blind Assassin portions are mirroring/foreshadowing real life various events that occur in the blind assassin also translate to events in the narrative.

4. The clues are available throughout the narrative however having things almost explicitly told does give them an extra punch. I believe Laura didn't tell Iris about Richard because she had made a pact with God and in her mind telling Iris would be breaking her pact. Iris doesn't tell Laura about Alex because she couldn't trust Laura not to give something away.

I think Iris told Laura about Alex when she realised that Laura still believed he would come back for her, she was jealous but I think more than that she needed Laura to understand that her idea of God was warped.

5. Iris published The Blind Assassin in Laura's name to get revenge on Richard to punish him for how he had treated both her and Laura. She writes the later narrative as she knows she is dying and wants to set the record straight, I think she got fed up living a lie. She wanted Sabrina to understand why she did what she did.

We know Iris really lost everything except her biting wit when Laura died.

I like Iris as a character and I think she judges her young self very harshly given the circumstances.

6. Winifred was a manipulator and a liar she knew what was happening with Laura and instead of preventing it allowed it to continue. She was a social climber.

7. Women were treated very much as inferior to men and had little rights of their own and very little say in their own affairs especially where money was concerned.

8. 5 stars and a heart from me


message 3: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue Dix | 61 comments 1. If you have read other Atwood novels, how did this compare? Are there others you would recommend to this group?
I think this one was a step above the other Atwood novels that I have read. I would recommend The Handmaid's Tale.

2. What do you think of the title of the book now that we have finished? Who was the 'blind assassin'?
I think that the title is much more ominous, as we find out that the blind assassin doesn't have anything to do with the inserted fantasy story. It is a real person and she reveals herself to us as we discover what she has done to the people in her life. Iris blindly blundered through most of her life and it is only at the end of it that she realizes that she is the blind assassin.

3. Now that we have finished, what do you think of the layering technique and blind assassin portions?
Was Alex trying through those stories to show Iris what she was? When Iris inserts her editorial views into the story, the characters become inconsistent and Alex brings the characters back to how they would probably act. Iris tries to romanticize but Alex brings her back to realism.

4. Were you surprised by the revelations about Richard and Alex at the end? Why did the sisters keep these huge secrets from each other? Why did Iris share her own news about Alex after she heard Laura's story about him?
I was not surprised. The clues and foreshadowing made it easy to figure out most of the revelations. I think that some of the sisters' secrets were kept for them. Iris never receives telegrams/letters that would have clued in her in to what was really going on with Laura. I think Iris didn't want what she had with Alex to be spoiled by what may have gone on or had not yet gone on between Alex and Laura. A great deal of what happens is because Iris thinks it easier to bury her head in the sand until it's really too late.

5. Why did Iris put pen to paper to tell the story? At the end, was Iris a likable character? How do you think her life proceeded after Laura died?
I think that at the end of her life, Iris wanted to rid herself of guilt and also to give the true story of herself to Sabrina and maybe Myra. I think that Iris was ultimately more likable than Laura, because Laura could be just too enigmatic. I think Iris' life was not all that remarkable after Laura died because I don't think was all that remarkable up until the end when she decided to write everything down and examine her life.

6. What did you think about Winifred's roles in the story?
She was singularly fixated on Richard, so much so, that I kept forgetting that she was actually married. Her other fixation was the domination of Iris and Laura, but this was actually an extension of her obsession with everything Richard.

7. What is your view of how gender roles were portrayed in the novel?
I think the novel accurately portrays the gender roles of the time periods.

8. How would you rate this book?
I give it 5 stars.


message 4: by Kristel (last edited Oct 24, 2017 06:18PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kristel (kristelh) | 4108 comments Mod
1. If you have read other Atwood novels, how did this compare? Are there others you would recommend to this group?

I've read Surfacing--not my favorite
I've read The Handmaids Tale--better but I wasn't all that much into enjoying it. It was my first Atwood.
I loved Alias Grace--was my favorite, This one is right up there too.
I read Oryx and Crake which was okay but not so that I read any more in the series.

2. What do you think of the title of the book now that we have finished? Who was the 'blind assassin'?
Iris is the blind assassin and this explained it to me, "How could I have been so ignorant...So stupid, so unseeing, so given over to carelessness." "If you knew everything that was going to happen next--if you knew in advance the consequences of your actions--you'd be doomed"

3. Now that we have finished, what do you think of the layering technique and blind assassin portions? I liked the style of the book and while I was pretty sure this was how it was going to go, it was up in the air tell the last few pages. I even suspected that Richard was leaving Iris alone (remember he liked to leave bruises, etc) because he had found a newer younger version to abuse.

I thought the details on clothing did lend a sense of place and time for the context but it also created a shallowness of character in Iris.

4. Were you surprised by the revelations about Richard and Alex at the end? Why did the sisters keep these huge secrets from each other? Why did Iris share her own news about Alex after she heard Laura's story about him? For Iris, it was always about jealousy. She always thought she was taking Alex away from Laura. She really never took the time to really know her sister.

5. Why did Iris put pen to paper to tell the story? At the end, was Iris a likable character? How do you think her life proceeded after Laura died? I think it was her death bed confessional. she knew she was going to die and she needed to tell, confess even if there was no one in her life who even wanted to hear her story.

6. What did you think about Winnifred's roles in the story? It was like Winnifred and Richard were incestual. I really disliked her.

7. What is your view of how gender roles were portrayed in the novel? There was a clear division of gender roll as this book covered the years from WWI to the Post WWII years. Women were men's property and men took over their money, sent them to asylums and women had little they could do or say. There was a movement for women's rights but it was a very slow movement that took years to get to the place it did in the seventies.

8. How would you rate this book? 4.75
My rating:
Legacy 5
Plot: 5
Characterization: 4
Readability: 5
Achievement: 5
Style: 5
PC: 5
SL: 4


Melissa Book wrote: "1. I have read several Atwood novels and she remains one of my favourite authors would definetely recommend The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake.

2. I would class Iris as the Blind Assassin beca..."


I think I could just second about all of this as my answers! I agree!


message 6: by Melissa (last edited Oct 25, 2017 02:27PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Melissa 1. If you have read other Atwood novels, how did this compare? Are there others you would recommend to this group?

I’ve read The Handmaid’s Tale and HagSeed before, and I’ve had a similar experience with all of them. I felt a bit lost when I started them, had trouble getting into them, and then just loved them. She always does a good job of weaving a good story and no two are alike.

2. What do you think of the title of the book now that we have finished? Who was the 'blind assassin'?

Poor Iris, blindly doing what was expected of her by both the carpet weavers and the assassin’s guild and losing everything because of things she couldn’t see. Those crazy soul eating cannibal woman always take everyone in the end no matter how hard you try.

3. Now that we have finished, what do you think of the layering technique and blind assassin portions?

I really liked it after I got into it.

4. Were you surprised by the revelations about Richard and Alex at the end? Why did the sisters keep these huge secrets from each other? Why did Iris share her own news about Alex after she heard Laura's story about him?

No, I had figured it out by the end of last week’s section by following my clues over on the Litsy prompts... so I wasn’t surprised, but still happy to see that the book at least confirmed my suspicions and didn’t just leave it up in the air.

I think the sisters were both trying to protect each other in their own way. And in the end, it all came out, because she had to let Laura know that he had passed.


5. Why did Iris put pen to paper to tell the story? At the end, was Iris a likable character? How do you think her life proceeded after Laura died?

I liked Iris's character, I found her very sympathetic. I think she wanted it all to come out just so Sabrina would feel better about her real family and not be distorted by the Griffin legacy that she had already ran away from, the same mess that really ate up and destroyed Aimee’s life. I think Iris wrote it all because she couldn’t tell Sabrina. If Sabrina had shown up, I think she would have just told her the story, the truth.

6. What did you think about Winnifred's roles in the story?
An enabler for her family rise to power and prestige, not to mention her brother’s philandering.

7. What is your view of how gender roles were portrayed in the novel?
I think they were very good and pretty historically accurate. And I liked how they showed women’s lives and how those rules detrimentally effected them.


8. How would you rate this book? 5 stars from me!


message 7: by Pip (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pip | 1409 comments 1. If you have read other Atwood novels, how did this compare? Are there others you would recommend to this group?

I hesitate to say that this is my first Atwood because I had obviously read it before and not remembered it! So maybe I have read others too. I certainly own others.

2. What do you think of the title of the book now that we have finished? Who was the 'blind assassin'?

I had not thought of Iris as the Blind Assassin. So the idea is that she killed Laura by revealing that Alex was dead, Richard, by publishing the book under Laura's name, and her daughter by pushing her down the stairs? I don't think we had enough information about Aimee's death unless I completely missed it. I expected much more information about her and Sabrina and was disappointed with the end.

3. Now that we have finished, what do you think of the layering technique and blind assassin portions?

It was intriguing, but I am confused by what the stories were supposed to symbolise.


4. Were you surprised by the revelations about Richard and Alex at the end? Why did the sisters keep these huge secrets from each other? Why did Iris share her own news about Alex after she heard Laura's story about him?

I was not surprised by the revelations because there had been plenty of hints. Laura did try to communicate with Iris but she was blind to what was happening - the blind assassin. Iris immediately regretted telling Laura that Alex was dead and that they had been lovers, but she did not foresee the dire consequences.


5. Why did Iris put pen to paper to tell the story? At the end, was Iris a likable character? How do you think her life proceeded after Laura died?

I did not suspect that Iris had written the book. Whatever clues there were I utterly missed, so that was a surprise. I still liked Iris, she was hard on herself.

6. What did you think about Winnifred's roles in the story?

Without Winifred Richard would not have become as successful as he was. She was living vicariously through him and willing to overlook his predilection for young girls.

7. What is your view of how gender roles were portrayed in the novel?

I think they were portrayed realistically. Iris' naivety was not surprising because females were 'protected' from the real world.

8. How would you rate this book?

It was a 3.5 read for me. Atwood has some wonderful turns of phrase, but it left too many unanswered questions for me to rate it higher.


message 8: by Kristel (last edited Oct 26, 2017 03:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kristel (kristelh) | 4108 comments Mod
Response to Pip’s response; I didn’t think of Iris as actually killing Laura and did not think of her pushing Aimee down the stairs? Did she? I thought she was drugged up and fell down the stairs. I thought Iris was the blind assassin because of her inability to communicate and to understand Laura.

I think a suicide really is a personal choice and no one should or can assume that blame. I think Iris may have been taking on that blame for the blunders of her youth. I think Richard was probably a suicide because he couldn’t face the shame and Aimee was an accident.

I thought the author did an excellent job with female characters but that the male characters were less developed.


Gail (gailifer) | 1386 comments There is an interesting comparison between Kristle and Melissa #4 - Were the sisters trying to protect each other or was it about jealousy and were they, or at least was Iris actively working to take Alex away from Laura. Although it looks as if Laura was attempting to protect Iris by not telling her about Richard, I think Laura was so straight on that she could not imagine that Iris didn't know. Where as Iris, could imagine many things that were not based in fact. She could imagine Laura being innocent when she wasn't particularly and she could imagine herself being without blame when really, she was to blame for at least a bit of what happened to Laura. Although Iris knew Laura loved Alex, I don't think she wanted to protect her from the fact that she was having an affair with him. Perhaps, she thought it for the best to tell Laura the truth about his passing but even then, I felt it wasn't handled with caring.


message 10: by Book (new) - rated it 5 stars

Book Wormy | 1989 comments Mod
Gail wrote: "There is an interesting comparison between Kristle and Melissa #4 - Were the sisters trying to protect each other or was it about jealousy and were they, or at least was Iris actively working to ta..."

I never thought of Iris as trying to take Alex away from Laura because Alex was never interested in Laura.

Gail I like your idea that Laura didn't tell Iris about Richard because she couldn't imagine Iris not already knowing, although that must have changed with the pregnancy and institutionalisation as we know she tried to send letters. My assumption was Laura never told Iris about Richard because of her pact with God if she suffered Richard he would protect Alex.


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

Book Wormy | 1989 comments Mod
Kristel wrote: "Response to Pip’s response; I didn’t think of Iris as actually killing Laura and did not think of her pushing Aimee down the stairs? Did she? I thought she was drugged up and fell down the stairs. ..."

My response to Pip: I considered Iris as the Blind Assassin because 1) Her revelation of Alex's death and her affair with him drove Laura to realise her pact with God had been in vain which lead to her suicide. 2) Sending the book to Richard caused him to commit suicide because it implied that Laura was Alex's lover and that she loved Alex not Richard. 3) Aimee turned to drugs which lead to her death because of the family problems the death of her father and her aunt and her subsequent "kidnapping" by Winnifred.


message 12: by Pip (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pip | 1409 comments That makes the motivations much clearer. Thanks


message 13: by Kristel (last edited Oct 27, 2017 05:50PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kristel (kristelh) | 4108 comments Mod
I felt that Iris did not need to take Alex away from Laura as he wasn’t attracted to Laura. He said as much to Iris. I also think that Iris was the caretaker for Laura (her mother left her that charge, her father gave her that charge and Reenie also emphasized that. I also feel that it most cases of child abuse, the caretaker (in this case Iris) know some where deep down. She knew that Richard had quit seeking her out when Laura came to stay with them. She knew he liked young women. I think Iris had some culpability in the abuse even if it was on a subconsscious level. The abused generally never tell, are threatened that such and such will happen if they tell and maybe Laura thought she was helping her sister out so she didn’t say anything.


Diane Zwang | 1246 comments Mod
1. This is my 3rd Atwood novel and by far my favorite. I have read Surfacing and The Handmaid's Tale. I look forward to reading more of her books.

2. The title of the book makes sense and Iris was the Blind Assassin.

3. I liked the layering technique and blind assassin portions. This book worked really well for a group read and weekly discussions.

4. I did not see Richard's involvement with Laura coming and did not think the baby was his. That was a surprise to me. I did guess about Alex and Iris. I think the sisters had very limited communication after the marriage due to Winifred and Richard.

5. I thought Iris was always a likable character. My heart ached for both the girls. I think Iris put pen to paper to tell the story to finally set the record straight. How do you think her life proceeded after Laura died? Iris finally got the gumption to leave Richard but she was never the same.

6. No one liked Winifred.

7. Like others said, appropriate for the time period.

8. 5 stars and a favorite. I was sad to see it end. Thanks for hosting this discussion this month. Such a great experience.


message 15: by Paula (new) - added it

Paula S (paula_s) | 220 comments 1. If you have read other Atwood novels, how did this compare? Are there others you would recommend to this group?
- I've read The handmaid's tale, The penelopiad, Surfacing, and (I think) Alias Grace. I liked this one (The blind assassin) best. I find that I mix up Atwood and Munro, maybe because they are both Canadian and women. There voices blend a bit in my head.

2. What do you think of the title of the book now that we have finished? Who was the 'blind assassin'?
- Literally The Blind Assassin was the book Iris wrote based on her own love story with Alex Thomas and had published in Laura's name. What killed Laura, Richard, Norval was having the things that meant anything taken away.
I agree with the others that Iris in a sense was the blind assassin. I had expected a more abstract concept as the answer though, like depression, or miscommunication.

3. Now that we have finished, what do you think of the layering technique and blind assassin portions?
- I think that there were clues to the story hidden in the layering, things that Iris wouldn't include in her memoir but the reader still needs to get the whole story. I liked the layering and the variation in voice.

4. Were you surprised by the revelations about Richard and Alex at the end? Why did the sisters keep these huge secrets from each other? Why did Iris share her own news about Alex after she heard Laura's story about him?
- I was upset by Laura's story and how she sacrificed herself, but I wasn't surprised that she didn't tell Iris. By then the sisters had stopped talking about important things.
Iris told Laura about Alex death and her own affair to hurt Laura, because she thought Laura had had an affair with Alex and hated her for that. She had no way of knowing how wrong she was or that Laura would kill herself.
I don't think Iris suspected Richard was abusing Laura. Winnifred knew but Iris was oblivious. I don't think the thought entered her mind that her husband might be sexually interested in her sister, a child.

5. Why did Iris put pen to paper to tell the story? At the end, was Iris a likable character? How do you think her life proceeded after Laura died?
- Iris wants to tell her story and set the records straight. At primary audience is her granddaughter was estranged from her partly because she didn't know the whole story. Iris was likable to me, but mostly she felt real and that means that she made mistakes and messed up and wasn't always likeable to those around her.

6. What did you think about Winnifred's roles in the story?
- Winnifred was the evil witch. She helped trap Iris in a loveless marriage, stole Iris's child and grandchild, and destroyed her reputation after Richard's death. She cared more about surface than about people.

7. What is your view of how gender roles were portrayed in the novel?
- The novel takes place at a time when gender roles were very fix, and that was presented in a realistic way.

8. How would you rate this book?
4 stars. I enjoyed reading it and discussing it.


Sushicat | 292 comments 1 > I've only read The Handmaid's Tale liked them both equally.

2 > I think there's a bit of the blind assassin in all of us, if we consider the unintended consequences of out actions. Most dire in the book for sure is Iris, whose revelations triggered two suicides.

3 > I liked those portions as their dime novel absurdness served to highlight the absurdity of some ideas we hold dear. Like the peach women paradise used to highlight that pure happiness is not sustainable in the long term.

4 > I somehow had not seen that coming. Though in hindsight I should have. The fact that Iris and Alex were the lovers became clear about midway through the book, which led to the conclusion that Iris was really the author of the book. When Laura told her about her own pregnancy, she saw the foundation of her love affair with Alex shaken by the belief that he had an affair with Laura as well. There had always been a brittleness to the relationship between Iris and Alex, due to the fact that their circumstances did not allow them to commit openly. She felt the need to reaffirm to herself that she had been important to him, as it was her that had been named next of kin.

5 > I think Iris had a need to set the record straight and maybe reclaim the esteem of Sabrina.
Iris was definitely the most likable character - but then she was also the one we got to know most intimately. Once you understand what makes a person act as she does, it becomes much more difficult to dislike her.
Laura's death and the revelations that went with it led to a great loss on the one hand, but it also liberated her from an untenable position and forced her to reinvent her life. Though it came at great cost, ultimately it made for a better life for her.

6 > Much as we get to like Iris through insight into her motivations, we only see the hard shell of Winifred. That leaves us free to heartily dislike her as a person focused exclusively on her status, much of which is derived from her brother's standing. Plus she was very vindictive.

7 > I think each woman in the tale shows a realistic way in which the accepted gender roles of the time could be lived.

8 > I'll give it 4.4 stars


message 17: by Connie (last edited Nov 03, 2017 07:27PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Connie D | 91 comments Thank you all for such thoughtful comments and thank you so much, Dianne and Jen, for the thought-provoking questions!

I don't have a lot to add at this point, but may after I've mulled it all over for a while. I wish I'd read rather than listened to it...I didn't enjoy it as much as the rest of you, even though I found it a fascinating, intelligent work.


Kristel (kristelh) | 4108 comments Mod
Connie, how was the audible. Were the voices good? I was it a bore?


message 19: by Connie (last edited Nov 03, 2017 07:39PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Connie D | 91 comments Kristel wrote: "Connie, how was the audible. Were the voices good? I was it a bore?"

I very much wish I had read it instead. There are points that I would have liked to reread the great lines and review confusing parts, but I wasn't able to backtrack at all. However, I can imagine that it would be fun to listen to it after reading it in print.

The narrator had a good emotive voice, but her voice was a frail whisper most of the time, the voice of an ailing old woman. I found it a little drony at times. I can't remember if the articles were read in a different tone; none of the rest was. It seemed clear that old Iris was the narrator throughout. It would have been a relief to have a younger-sounding voice when she was younger.


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