Man Booker Prize, Fiction, 2000
For the past 25 years, Margaret Atwood has written works of striking originality and imagination. In The Blind Assassin, she stretches the limits of her accomplishment as never before, creating a novel that is both entertaining and profoundly serious.
The novel opens with these simple resonant words: "Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge." They are spoken by Iris, whose terse account of her sister's death in 1945 is followed by an inquest report proclaiming the death accidental. But just as you expect to settle into Laura's story, Atwood introduces a novel-within-a-novel. Entitled The Blind Assassin, it is a science fiction story told by two unnamed lovers who meet in dingy backstreet rooms. When you return to Iris, it is through a 1947 newspaper article announcing the discovery of a sailboat carrying the dead body of her husband, a distinguished industrialist.
Told in a style that magnificently captures the colloquialisms of the 1930s and 1940s, The Blind Assassin is a richly layered and uniquely rewarding experience. The novel has many threads and a series of events that follow one another at a breathtaking pace. As everything comes together, you will discover that the story Atwood is telling is not only what it seems to be - but is, in fact, much more.
Cover Photograph: Courtesy of © The Advertising Archive, London; ©2000 by O.W. Toad, Ltd.; (P)Random House, Inc. Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio Publishing, A Division of Random House, Inc.
Book Sense Book of the Year Award Finalist, Adult Fiction, 2001
"Listeners will find themselves piecing together the clues, guessing at truths, but the rewards are to be found in the layering of details and the skill of the storytelling." (AudioFile)
This is the first Margret Atwood book I have read. I'll give you the bottom line first. It was a good to great book, but it took me a while to realize it.
The book starts out in a somewhat confusing fashion, but with time, events, places, characters and sub-plots sort themselves out and I was left wondering and anticipating what is going to happen next. The reader's voice is a little off-putting at the beginning and it takes a while to get used to it. By the middle of the book her voice fits the times and the story quite well.
Although by the middle of the book it was hard to put down, I must say that within the first quarter of the book I was tempted to erase the file and admit that I had wasted my money. I am now glad that I didn't because I would have missed out on an interesting and well written story.
I am now intrigued enough to try some of Atwood's other novels.
... Because the narration was simply unbearable.
Margaret Atwood is a favorite of mine, and I think her genius is such that it would be quite difficult to eclipse or distill it by narration. Unfortunately the narrator succeeded in that, and not in a good way. In short I could not listen to this insufferable reading.
Two stars only because I cannot in good conscience give the venerable Atwood a one-star review.
I typically enjoy Atwood. However, this was too distracting. I literally had to work my way through this book. While Alias Grace started slow (Unabridged), it gained momentum and you eventually became involved. I never reached that point with this book. I do have high hopes for the new Sci Fi though.
Runs with scissors.
This was a terriffic story, within a story within a story. And the static and hiss in the background gave the narration (which was excellent) an eerie, haunting quality and created a richer setting for the mystery within. Reminisce of long ago radio drama, perfect for the reading of such a painful revelation, it created the perfect setting for the tale told by our "protagonist". Don't let the complainers scare you from this one, not as good as The Handmaid's Tale, but hey, few novels are anyway, and this one is full of amusing observational dialogue looking back on the mistakes made in an interesting life, as well as mystery and drama. Recommend!
No - audio is terrible. I've ordered the print edition from Amazon and trying to get my credit refund from Audible.
Mystery. Life. Suspense. Buildup.
Recording quality is so poor that Narrator is irrelevant.
My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.
I love this kind of book. Is there a name for this kind of genre? I don't mean the matreshka-like structure, but the idea of an old person putting the affairs of the past in order. I seem to come across more books lately that fit this pattern--from Angle of Repose to The Thirteenth Tale. But I digress. We old people do that. Some of the reviews here seem to find the pulp-fiction sections of the novel a distraction, as though Atwood was merely writing a straightup romance novel. I think that the pulp-fiction parts are the key to understanding everything about Iris. I think Atwood makes that as plain as day just from the title of the book. I think anyone who doesn't see that has really missed the whole point. I wish I could explain further but that would be giving away too much. We old people may be crotchety but we know how to keep a secret.
This is a lovely pulp-style sci-fi story within a historical narrative within a memoir. I was impressed by how fully fleshed out Atwood's characters were, and the story layering was very complex. The prose is so beautiful that I found myself stopping my multitasking to just soak in the language. I was particularly moved by her descriptions of the challenges, fears and comedies that come with age. Atwood also succeeds at fleshing out her character's surroundings as they move through a rapidly changing Canadian society.
On an unfortunate note, I really had to push through the poor production quality of the audio. It nearly caused me to give up on listening, and just find the book at the library to finish. I don't want this comment to reflect badly on the narrator, because her voice was fine and expressive. But there were times when the editing seemed choppy, and I was wondering if parts were cut out at the end of chapters, because the next chapter would start a nanosecond after the previous. There were also maddening clicks and hisses that peppered the recording during the first half of the listen. Despite knowing this from other's reviews, I decided to tough it out, because I was so blanketed with fascination by Atwood's narrative. I really hope Audible does a re-record of this story...it really deserves it.
The quality of Margaret Atwood's writing and the sound of Margot Dionne's voice made the Blind Assassin an intense, compelling experience. My curiosity was piqued by hearing what the 1929 Depression and years leading up to it must have been like around Toronto, Canada. I also enjoyed learning what life was like in a multigenerational family that was wealthy enough to travel to Europe on a ship. The only other books I have read about that part of the country were the Deptford trilogy by Robertson Davies. The Blind Assassinbook, has the same dark, secretive, you-can't-believe-this-story-is-happening quality as Davies' The Fifth Business. Afterwards I wondered how these authors do it. It must be that they get you to suspend your disbelief at the beginning, and, once you do, you're in another world that you really don't understand. You don't know what's going to happen next. You're fearful, but curious, wanting all the pieces to fit together and reveal the mystery. It's not exactly what you would call "pleasurable", but you can't stop reading.
The main character, Iris, told the story of her life in a way that sounded like a confession that kept getting to, but never reaching, the main point. You keep wondering what the "lesson" of it all is. Basically, at about age 19 Iris married a man she did not love in order to save her sister and herself from abject poverty and because her father arranged it and asked her to. The whole story and all the unhappiness that she and her sister and many others suffered stems from that decision. You could blame it on some other, "evil" people, but that doesn't really hold water. The story makes one wonder how many others went through similar things during the Depression and if others are going through it now, here and around the world. What's the relative importance of money and love?
Unfortunately there were not enough breaks in the Audible.com version for me. If I lost my place or missed an important detail in the story and needed to revisit part that I had already read, the only choices were to go back a half an hour or to go back 30 seconds. I couldn't scan for a word, like you can in the printed Kindle version. I would prefer to have the ability to go back by 5 minute intervals. I had to borrow a hard copy of the book from a friend to find out what I missed. Another Audible.com novel I am reading now has the same problem.
Gorgeous, captivating writing and an evocative troubling story. Not a love story but a woman's story. The protagonist is unsympathetic but each character is beautifully draw in depth. At times you will feel trapped at a bake sale with the most negative woman you've ever met; but at other times a few words, a sentence or a short paragraph will absolutely astonish you.
This book was STUNNING!! I loved the writing, the fascinating story line, the narration, and the beautiful ending!! I cannot fault this audible book in any way! Margaret Atwood, has a wonderful way of weaving thoughts, events - both historic and present day ones into a kaleidoscope of the human condition.I loved it utterly and cannot wait for her next one and hope that Margot Dionne teams up with it as well.
"Interesting Novel - very bad audio quality"
I really liked this book so I'm sorry to write this relatively bad review but the audio quality was so poor! The narrator is very good but the background sound is terribly loud. I really advise reading the book but, unless audible change the recording, I would definitely not recommend buying it.
"Good listen probably"
I was fascinated to pick up this book based on author's fame and other readers' reviews in general. The plot is very complex and I find it very difficult to follow by listening. I wish I bought the paper book and read it, so that I could go back and make sure I got it all. Anyways, it requires great deal of attention to follow. But the story is very good and captivating. Also, I must say the reader of the audio has done a good job.
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