Master your Minecraft
 
 

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to PowellsBooks.news
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Tour our stores


    Recently Viewed clear list


    Contributors | November 26, 2014

    Chris Faatz: IMG The Collected Poems of James Laughlin



    Fall has brought us a true gift in the publication of the massive The Collected Poems of James Laughlin, published by New Directions in an... Continue »

    spacer
Qualifying orders ship free.
$9.95
List price: $16.00
Used Trade Paper
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
Qty Store Section
5 Burnside AWARD- MAN BOOKER
5 Hawthorne Literature- A to Z
9 Local Warehouse Literature- A to Z

The Blind Assassin

by

The Blind Assassin Cover

ISBN13: 9780385720953
ISBN10: 0385720955
Condition: Standard
All Product Details

 

 

Reading Group Guide

1. Laura and Iris spend their childhood in Avilion, "a merchant's palace," and, like princesses in a fairy tale, are virtually untouched by the outside world. What other elements reinforce the fairy-tale-like quality of their lives? What role does Alex Thomas play within this context? Does Iris's depiction of her life as an old woman also draw on the conventions of fairy tales?

2. How accurate is Iris's declaration, "Long ago I made a choice between classicism and romanticism. I prefer to be upright and contained--an urn in daylight" [p. 43]? How was this "choice" affected by the distinctions Iris and Laura's parents made between the two girls when they were children? What incidents show that Iris has ambiguous feelings about the roles she and Laura assume as children? What signs are there that Iris has a romantic side she keeps hidden from the adults? What cost does this exact?

3. Throughout her life, Laura is considered a special, unusual person, more sensitive than most. How does Laura exploit the impression she makes on other people? Are her motives and intentions always as innocent as people assume? Iris says, "[Laura's] cruelties were accidental-- by-products of whatever lofty notions may have been going through her head" [p. 301]. How does the language Iris uses shed light on the complicated emotions Laura stirs up in her?

4. Regarding her father's role in arranging her marriage, Iris writes, "He was only doing what would have been considered--was considered, then--the responsible thing. He was doing the best he knew how" [p. 227]. In light of Norval's character and his previous treatment of Iris, is this explanation too facile? Was he motivated by reasons Iris doesn't allow herself to acknowledge?

5. Is Iris purely a pawn in a plan conceived by the men, or does she have reasons of her own for agreeing to marry Richard? In what ways does the marriage fulfill Iris's conception of herself and her approach to life?

6. Iris comes under the influence of three very different women in the course of the novel: Reenie, Callie Fitzsimmons, and Winifred Griffen Prior. How does each of these women affect Iris's view of herself--and of womanhood in general? How do their lives and attitudes represent the social environment and class structure of the times?

7. Several childhood experiences foreshadow Laura's ultimate fate, including her plunge into the river [p. 151] and her accusation that Mr. Erskine sexually molested her [p. 165]. What do these incidents indicate about Laura's personality? To what extent is she shaped by circumstances beyond her control?

8. Is Iris responsible for Laura's death? At what points could she have changed the course of events?

9. How do the newspaper articles advance the unfolding of the plot? Do they serve as an objective record of the events in the characters' lives?

10. How does the science fiction story constructed by the unnamed lovers mirror the story of the lovers themselves and the circumstances surrounding their affair? In what ways does it parallel events in Iris's life, both as a child and as an adult?

11. Atwood has said that the form of The Blind Assassin was influenced by early twentieth-century collages, in which newspaper excerpts were glued onto canvas and then painted around and over--thus framing two ways of representing reality, each of which contradicted the other but also complemented it. How many "kinds" of writing are in The Blind Assassin, washroom graffiti included? What purpose does each form of writing serve?

12. The era of the Great Depression was also an age of extreme fashion-consciousness among the wealthy. What role do clothes play in The Blind Assassin, in both the historical and the contemporary sections of the book? What do they reveal about the characters, and what do they conceal?

13. What are the various meanings of the title The Blind Assassin? Which characters act as blind assassins by uncomprehendingly causing the demise of other characters?

14. How do the multiple levels of The Blind Assassin interact with one another? Do they unfold in concert, shedding light on one another, or is the relationship among them only apparent at the end of the book? What does the use of this narrative technique reveal about Atwood's methods of storytelling?

15. If you have read other books by Atwood (particularly The Handmaid's Tale and Cat's Eye), how does The Blind Assassin echo and extend themes she has previously explored? What new themes are developed?

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 6 comments:

gentanishku, January 30, 2013 (view all comments by gentanishku)
Love this book!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Nikki Dodd, January 4, 2010 (view all comments by Nikki Dodd)
I not only had one of those rare 'I don't want this to end' kind of experiences when reading this book, but it also introduced and caused me to fall in love with Margaret Atwood. She is one of those authors that are important to actually understanding what literature really is. The Blind Assassin is my favorite, but I have never read a book by Atwood that I didn't actually love.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(3 of 6 readers found this comment helpful)
cariola119, November 29, 2009 (view all comments by cariola119)
I could have done without the sci fi story embedded in the novel (yes, I know it relates to the main story, but I just found it really annoying). Nevertheless, I did enjoy reading about the troubled, intertwined lives of sisters Laura and Iris. Atwood did a fine job of recreating the world of a small Canadian town in the Depression and World War II eras, especially that of the narrator, Iris Chase Griffin, who marries a wealthy older man in order to provide for her sister and finds herself controlled by her ambitious, high society husband and his snooty sister. Secrets and lies--family dysfunction at its finest!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(3 of 6 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 6 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780385720953
Author:
Atwood, Margaret
Publisher:
Anchor Books
Author:
Atwood, Margaret
Location:
New York
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Death
Subject:
Sisters
Subject:
Widows
Subject:
Domestic fiction
Subject:
Psychological fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st. pbk. ed.
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
135
Publication Date:
August 2001
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
544
Dimensions:
8.00x5.28x.90 in. .85 lbs.

Other books you might like

  1. Howards End Used Mass Market $2.95
  2. Handmaid's Tale Used Mass Market $4.50
  3. Amsterdam
    Used Trade Paper $6.50
  4. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier...
    Used Trade Paper $7.50
  5. The Poisonwood Bible
    Used Trade Paper $0.95
  6. Missing Mom
    Used Book Club Paperback $0.75

Related Subjects

Featured Titles » Award Winners
Featured Titles » General
Featured Titles » Literature
Featured Titles » Man Booker Prize Winners
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Featured Titles

The Blind Assassin Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$9.95 In Stock
Product details 544 pages Anchor Books/Doubleday - English 9780385720953 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "As she adroitly juggles three plot lines, Atwood's inventiveness achieves a tensile energy. The alternating stories never slacken the pace; on the contrary, one reads each section breathlessly, eager to get back to the other. In sheer storytelling bravado, Atwood here surpasses even The Handmaid's Tale and Alias Grace." Publishers Weekly
"Review" by , "The Blind Assassin has enough mysteries to keep even a casual reader engaged, and with respect to solutions, it is less scrupulously committed to ambiguity than Ms. Atwood's 1997 novel, Alias Grace. As with all of Ms. Atwood's recent fiction, The Blind Assassin, despite what sounds like a romantic plot, has been scoured free of any trace of sentimentality. There is a steely quality to Ms. Atwood's writing that's a bit scary but also exhilarating; no one gets away with anything, especially not her female narrators — and they know better than to try."
"Review" by , “An example of a writer at the very peak of her performance.…As it delves into the kinds of relationships that can exist between men and women and the rich and poor, it becomes a compassionate and utterly honest book. It is profound and touching. It is to be treasured.”
"Review" by , “Atwood is a dazzling storyteller with a distinctive voice and an ear attuned to irony.”
"Review" by , "Atwood does not mess around in her riveting new tale: by the end of the first sentence, we know that the narrator's sister is dead, and after just 18 pages we learn that the narrator's husband died on a boat, that her daughter died in a fall, and that her dead husband's sister raised her granddaughter....Atwood brilliantly overlays a second story, an sf novel-within-a-novel, credited to Laura Chasen, that features nameless lovers trysting in squalor. Some readers may figure out Atwood's wrap-up before book's end. Worry not — nothing will dampen the pleasure of getting there. Highly recommended."
"Review" by , "Margaret Atwood is one of the greatest writers alive...Her new work is so assured, so elegant and so incandescently intelligent, she casts her contemporaries in the shade."
"Review" by , The Blind Assassin is the kind of story so full of intrigue and desperation that you take it to bed with you simply because you can’t bear to put it down.…It’s one thing to write an accomplished novel; it’s another entirely to spin a tale so brilliantly that the reader internalizes it.”
"Review" by , "The first great novel of the new millennium."
"Review" by , "Absorbing...expertly rendered...Virtuosic storytelling [is] on display."
"Review" by , "Brilliant...Opulent...Atwood is a poet....as well as a contriver of fiction, and scarcely a sentence of her quick, dry yet avid prose fails to do useful work, adding to a picture that becomes enormous."
"Review" by , "Chilling...Lyrical...[Atwood's] most ambitious work to date."
"Review" by , "Grand storytelling on a grand scale...Sheerly enjoyable."
"Review" by , "Bewitching...A killer novel....Atwood's crisp wit and steely realism are reminiscent of Edith Wharton...A wonderfully complex narrative. "
"Review" by , "A tour de force."
"Synopsis" by , The Blind Assassin 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 the reader expects 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 we 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. Brilliantly weaving together such seemingly disparate elements, Atwood creates a world of astonishing vision and unforgettable impact.
spacer
spacer
  • back to top

FOLLOW US ON...

     
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.