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The Blind Assassin [Paperback]

Margaret Atwood
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
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Book Description

3 Sep 2001

Laura Chase's older sister Iris, married at eighteen to a politically prominent industrialist but now poor and eighty-two, is living in Port Ticonderoga, a town dominated by their once-prosperous family before the First War. While coping with her unreliable body, Iris reflects on her far from exemplary life, in particular the events surrounding her sister's tragic death. Chief among these was the publication of The Blind Assassin, a novel which earned the dead Laura Chase not only notoriety but also a devoted cult following.

Sexually explicit for its time, The Blind Assassin describes a risky affair in the turbulent thirties between a wealthy young woman and a man on the run. During their secret meetings in rented rooms, the lovers concoct a pulp fantasy set on Planet Zycron. As the invented story twists through love and sacrifice and betrayal, so does the real one; while events in both move closer to war and catastrophe. By turns lyrical, outrageous, formidable, compelling and funny, this is a novel filled with deep humour and dark drama.

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The Blind Assassin + Cat's Eye + Alias Grace
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Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (3 Sep 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860498809
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860498800
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 4 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 20,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Margaret Atwood is the author of more than thirty books of fiction, poetry and critical essays.

In addition to the classic The Handmaid's Tale, her novels include Cat's Eye, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy, The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize and Oryx and Crake, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Her most recent novel, The Year of the Flood, was published in 2009. She was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature in 2008.

Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto, Canada.

(Photo credit: George Whitside)

Product Description

Amazon Review

"It's loss and regret and misery and yearning that drive the story forward", writes Margaret Atwood, towards the end of her impressive and complex new novel, The Blind Assassin. It's a melancholic account of why writers write--and readers read--and one that frames the different lives told through this book. The Blind Assassin is (at least) two novels. At the end of her life, Iris Griffen takes up her pen to record the secret history of her family, the romantic melodrama of its decline and fall between the two world wars. Conjuring a world of prosperity and misery, marriage and loneliness, the central enigma of Iris's tale is the death of her sister, Laura Chase, who "drove a car off a bridge" at the end of the Second World War. Suicide or accident? The story gradually unfolds, interspersed with sketches of Iris's present-day life--confined by age and ill-health--and a second novel, The Blind Assassin by Laura Chase. Allowing a glimpse into a clandestine love affair between a privileged young woman and a radical "agitator" on the run, this version of The Blind Assassin is an overt act of seduction: the exchange of sex and story about an imaginary world of Sakiel-Norn (a play with the potential, and convention, of fantasy and sci-fi).

With the intelligence, subtlety and remarkable characterisation associated with Atwood's writing (from her first novel, The Edible Woman through to the best-selling Alias Grace), these two stories play with one another--sustaining an uncertainty about who has done what to whom and why to the very end of this compelling book. --Vicky Lebeau This review refers to the hardcover edition of this title. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Atwood has never written with more flair and versatility than in this multidimensional novel. Adding sardonic wit and characterisation that takes you into the ambivalent intricacies of a personality, this is a novel of extraordinary variety and reach. A brilliant accomplishment (Peter Kemp, SUNDAY TIMES)

The fertility of Atwood's imagination is something extraordinary...The only thing familiar about The Blind Assassin is its technical accomplishment and exhilarating emotional power. Everything else is sparkling new. This is Margaret Atwood at her remarkabl (Kathryn Hughes, SUNDAY TELEGRAPH)

Margaret Atwood is one of the most brilliant and unpredictable novelists alive. (Kate Kellaway, LITERARY REVIEW)

With every year and every novel, Atwood's subjects get bigger...her new novel is so rich thematically and so convincing psychologically... THE BLIND ASSASSIN may indeed prove to be that most elusive of literary unicorns: the woman's novel. (Elaine Showalter, NEW STATESMAN)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius 28 July 2001
By A Customer
I always felt that Margaret Atwood would never be able to beat 'Alias Grace' for sheer brilliance and inventiveness but that is exactly what she has done with this novel. 'The Blind Assassin' is a difficult book to read in the early stages but nevertheless compelling. We are thrown between past and present as carelessly as the protagonist, and fluctuate between feelings of sympathy and irritation throughout. I mentioned to a friend whilst I was a good way into the novel that it was great but not as good as 'Alias Grace' and that was how I felt until the last 50 pages - in those pages I witnessed the greatest ending in a book ever and one that had me weeping. Not only did the end of the book move me but I was also upset that I could not continue to read it. They say that the sign of a good book is that you don't want it to end and for possibly only the third time in my life I could so empathise with that cliche. This book has to be read of that there is no doubt!
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Margaret Atwood at her best 4 Dec 2001
By R. Simpson VINE VOICE
It's a relief to find the Booker Award is not just some kind of retrospective justice for the failure to reward The Handmaid's Tale - and an even greater relief to find that the multiple narrative format of the novel is neither confusing (after the first dozen pages) nor pretentious. The extracts from newspapers and magazines which chart the public life of the Chases and Griffens provide a grounding in fact as well as a wickedly amusing satire on snobbery and provincialism. 'The Blind Assassin' itself, the novel that created Laura Chase's posthumous reputation, operates on twin levels of realism and fantasy and equally the main narrative in the person of her sister Iris unites past and present (1999). Atwood manages throughout to maintain a subtle and convincing mix of sympathy for, and detachment from, her characters, allowing irony to flourish alongside involvement. The reader is even flattered by the creation of mysteries which he/she is lured into solving before they are officially unveiled: 'But you must have known that for some time', Atwood writes disarmingly after uncovering the central deception. Of course we did: aren't we clever? Not quite as clever as Ms Atwood, though.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
The Blind Assassin is a book that is definitely worth persevering with although it might be a disappointment to Margaret Atwood fans who are expecting another Robber Bride or Cat's Eye. Unlike these two books, it can't exactly be described as "page turner". The pace in the beginning is slow and the main characters come across as cold and are quite difficult to relate to. The more you read however, the more compelling the characters and plot become and the ending will really keep you guessing. I wanted to give up on this book after a few pages but was glad I persevered to the end.
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood is a difficult book to catergorize. It works on a dizzying number of levels: A historical novel, depicting an industrial and social milieu in early twentieth century Canada; a complex and shadowy love story; as a study of the symbolism of science fiction, or as a story of women and men and the secrets that bind them. It is the story of two sisters, Iris and Laura, who grow up in provincial Canada, daughters of a wealthy man who runs a button-making factory. The novel opens with a description of Laura's apparent suicide after the Second World War, and then Iris takes over as narrator, trying to understand and unravel the threads of Laura's life and her own. The Blind Assassin is the name of the novel that Laura leaves behind. Published posthumously, it becomes a controversial cult classic in the manner of Plath's writings, lauded as a proto-feminist classic. Iris is the reluctant keeper of her sister's troublesome flame. Woven around this intriguing structure is a dazzling array of characters: anarchists, bitter society women, strikers, husbands, housekeepers and lovers.
Atwood has always had an erudite, sexy and witty way with language and this new novel is no exception. The Blind Assassin, the novel within the novel, consists of an un-named man relating weird and distrurbing science fiction to an equally anonymous upper class woman. Atwood lets rip with her rich and persuasive use of language, conjuring up cities of strange creatures, sacrifical virgins, blind assassins, women who roam the mountains, devouring men, mythologies and exotic religions. The erotic relationship between the two nameless protaganists is consumated in a series of seedy hotel and rooms, furtive and forbidden. Paranoia and fear of discovery follow them everywhere.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite simply moving 4 Sep 2001
This was my first Atwood book, I am glad to say that I was not disappointed. This was writing at its best. The reader is drawn ever so subtley into feeling for the characters (Iris and Laura) and wanting to discover their respective fates, and why their paths unfolded so...
A book I did not want to end. I believe that Alias Grace is even better, difficult to believe though....wonderful.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading - highly recommended 8 Aug 2004
The plot is quite straightforward : an old and dying Iris Chase is remembering her life and especially the life of her sister who committed suicide at the age of 25. However the story is more complicated than that as in fact there are several stories wound into one and of course there are secrets and lies surrounding the lives of the two sisters. It is a complex, brilliantly written book, a little hard to get into perhaps but don't give up, you could find it hard going at first but it's worth it! A really gripping read. Atwood fans won't be disappointed and if you are new to Atwood, don't worry you will get into the story and it's normal to re-read certain pages, she's so amazingly complex (in a good way) that you have to concentrate to make sure you don't miss anything crucial! Once you've read her, you'll be hooked. I also recommend Alias Grace, which is brilliant too! It also took a while to get into, as Atwood sets the scene with painstaking detail, but it's worth it and had me thinking about the main character long after I'd finished the book ...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars It didn't slay me...
Three stars feels harsh for a book that was wonderfully and creatively written. I liked the narrative style and the interweaving of the sci-fi tales and newspaper clippings. Read more
Published 13 days ago by John Goddard
5.0 out of 5 stars slow start, tragic and brilliant story i the end
I read some of the other reviews and I must agree with a lot of them, it's a slow start and not easy to get into. Read more
Published 13 days ago by laros76
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
This took me a little while to get into. At first, the narrator Iris’s unemotional account of both her old age and her childhood kept me at a distance, and I began to wonder if the... Read more
Published 21 days ago by Kazzy
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic that didin't dissapoint
Jolly good read - first book purchased on my new kindle. Story line original. Liked the style of the writing. Easy to see why it is a classic.
Published 1 month ago by Wendy Edwards
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing.
Twisted story. Finished it three days ago and can't bring myself to start another book since then - still living in this one.
Published 1 month ago by Natalia
5.0 out of 5 stars book
I was pleased with all aspects of this purchase: the product arrived promptly and was in excellent condition and met my expectations.
Published 2 months ago by Ms. S. J. Rolph
4.0 out of 5 stars The Blind Assassin holds ones interest.
Margaret Atwood's books are always intriguing, and this is as intriguing as any!The story develops in a way that held my interest, and the characters developed as one got to know... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Margaret Sparshott
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating novel
I was not too excited about it at first and it took me a while to get into it, but after 50 or so pages I was hooked and I found it incredibly hard to put the book down. Read more
Published 4 months ago by LadyMonet
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow to start, worth persisting.
Atwood, has a way of writing characters, that make them feel so real, that as a reader I was compelled to keep going, this is an unusual book, but worth persisting.
Published 5 months ago by Ellie Coakley
1.0 out of 5 stars The Blind Assassin
Just about the most boring book I have every bought. I deleted this book as I could not finish it.
Published 5 months ago by Mrs Jeanette H Young
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