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1 Beaverton Literature- A to Z

The Blind Assassin


The Blind Assassin Cover

ISBN13: 9780385475723
ISBN10: 0385475721
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. Discuss the intricate structure of this novel and the methods Atwood used to construct it.

2. Atwood writes in three different forms in The Blind Assassin: memoir (Iris's telling of her story), fiction (Laura's novel), and science fiction (the story within that novel). Comment on the similarities and differences of these forms as shown in this novel.

3. In the science fiction story, we're told that it is a saying among the child slave carpet weavers that "only the blind are free" (p. 22). Discuss this and its significance to the title of the novel.

4. Iris notes, "Some people can't tell where it hurts. They can't calm down. They can't ever stop howling" (p. 2). Who howls loudest and longest in this novel and why?

5. Water, rivers, ice, rock gardens, rain, snow, trees--the natural world plays an important role in this novel. Talk about these images and their meanings.

6. Discuss the significance of keys, locks, and doors in the different parts of the novel.

7. Discuss those moments where the story flashes forward with information that you don't realize will be key until later. How does this heighten the suspense? Discuss other moments of discovery, of epiphany. Are they the same for all readers?

8. Talk about the theme of betrayal and guilt in this novel. Has everybody in this novel betrayed somebody?

9. The story of the Depression, the Red scare, and the upsurge of union activity in Canada are all key parts of this novel. Discuss the merging of the personal and the political in the Chase family and in the novel by Laura Chase.

10. About the readers of Laura's novel, Iris says: "They wanted to finger the real people in it...They wanted real bodies, to fit onto the bodies conjured up for them by words" (p. 40). Are readers inclined to try to match a work of fiction with an author's life? Discuss the danger in doing so, as evidenced in this novel.

11. In this book, the role of mothering often falls on women who are not, technically, mothers. Discuss the different ways that Reenie and Winifred fill that role. Discuss missing mothers as a theme in the novel.

12. We see Iris in this novel as a young girl, a young woman, an old woman. Talk about the different ways you feel toward her at different points in her life.

13. Laura paints Iris's face blue in a photograph because, she says, Iris is "asleep" (p. 195). Do you agree? Does Iris wake up? How?

14. Of their father, Laura tells Iris, "He didn't try hard enough--Don't you remember what he used to say? That we'd been left on his hands, as if we were some kind of a smear" (p. 383). Discuss Norval Chase's role in the book--his relationship with his brothers, his wife, his daughters, his button-factory workers.

15. Is there anything redeeming about Richard? Who fared worst at his hand?

16. Iris says that "The living bird is not its labeled bones" (p. 395). Talk about the writer's challenge to deliver truth. Does the truth reside in what's left out?

17. Discuss the significance of color, or the absence of it, in the novel.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 5 comments:

Dorian, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by Dorian)
This book has an interesting and unique plot line. It offers otherworldly excitement and imagination combined with a thought provoking look at family and aging.
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Michelle St. James, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by Michelle St. James)
One of the most engrossing books I have ever read. Also one of the most complicated, with its story within a story within a story, I loved every moment of reading this marvelous book. No one paints word pictures like Atwood and few tackle head-on the subjects she does with such passion and grace.
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Kathryn Lopresti, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by Kathryn Lopresti)
An older woman recounts the life and times of her once prosperous family while she explains the story behind her sister's death. Atwood's story has everything: bits of sci-fi, mystery, history, love story. While the narrator tells her story, she lists her regrets, but the story is ultimately hopeful and beautifully told.
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Product Details

Atwood, Margaret Eleanor
Nan A. Talese
Atwood, Margaret
New York :
Psychological fiction
Domestic fiction
General Fiction
Edition Description:
1st ed. in the U.S.A.
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9.56x6.68x1.63 in. 1.98 lbs.

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The Blind Assassin Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$10.50 In Stock
Product details 544 pages Nan A. Talese - English 9780385475723 Reviews:
"Review" by , “Margaret Atwood is one of the greatest writers alive.…A novel of luminous prose, scalpel-precise insights and fierce characters.…[The Blind Assassin] is so assured, so elegant and so incandescently intelligent, she casts her contemporaries in the shade.”
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