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. From the Trade Paperback edition.
Starred Review. Atwood's Booker Prize-winning novel, with its 1930s setting and stories within stories, is well suited to audio dramatization. O'Brien has simplified and streamlined the structure so that it jumps around in time less and makes clearer parallels between past, present and the whimsical internal novel. Some dialogue has been added, while many meditative and descriptive sections are absent, but the new words blend gracefully with Atwood's own, and her elegant style remains intact despite the omissions. Abundant sound effects make the production much richer than many audiobooks; it sometimes seems like a movie without the visuals, with chirping birds, clinking silverware and the murmur of crowds filling in the background. Music that alternates between a lovely, slightly melancholy theme and an ominous one, helps highlight the shifts from the protagonist Iris's personal history to her retelling of the novel. The skills of the cast almost make such extras unnecessary: the three women who play Iris at different ages capture her brilliant but frustrated spirit perfectly, while the actresses for her troubled younger sister, Laura, find just the right blend of dreaminess and defiance. Though in some respects this adaptation is less intricate than the rather complicated original, the condensation serves it well, making the story more tightly wound and intense in a way that should attract listeners who may be put off by Atwood's writing. (Sept.)
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Showing 1-2 of the 2 most recent reviews
1 . Suprisingly Addicting!
Posted December 27, 2010 by Kate , Missoula, MTI fell in love with Atwood after reading A Handmaid's Tale. But The Blind Assasin is a different read. Not as intense, but with the same (if not better) quality writing!
As soon as I got past the first 250 pgs, I couldn't put it down. But it is worth it! Everything stays in the back of your mind and she keeps you guessing.
If you have about a week of free time, it's a good vacation read!
I read it while I work out, and now that my semester is over I can't stop reading!
2 . An Enjoyable Novel by a Great Canadian Author
Posted May 13, 2009 by Yolanda , Manitoba, CanadaWhile not my very favourite Margaret Atwood novel, I did really enjoy it. You do have to pay attention, as the story continually weaves from Iris's past to the present, and to the fictional novel about the lovers and the story they are dreaming up. It all comes together to an interesting ending.
August 25, 2001
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Excerpt from The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
The Blind Assassin: The hard-boiled egg
What will it be, then? he says. Dinner jackets and romance, or shipwrecks on a barren coast? You can have your pick: jungles, tropical islands, mountains. Or another dimension of space--that's what I'm best at.
Another dimension of space? Oh really!
Don't scoff, it's a useful address. Anything you like can happen there. Spaceships and skin-tight uniforms, ray guns, Martians with the bodies of giant squids, that sort of thing.
You choose, she says. You're the professional. How about a desert? I've always wanted to visit one. With an oasis, of course. Some date palms might be nice. She's tearing the crust off her sandwich. She doesn't like the crusts.
Not much scope, with deserts. Not many features, unless you add some tombs. Then you could have a pack of nude women who've been dead for three thousand years, with lithe, curvaceous figures, ruby-red lips, azure hair in a foam of tumbled curls, and eyes like snake-filled pits. But I don't think I could fob those off on you. Lurid isn't your style.
You never know. I might like them.
I doubt it. They're for the huddled masses. Popular on the covers though--they'll writhe all over a fellow, they have to be beaten off with rifle butts.
Could I have another dimension of space, and also the tombs and the dead women, please?
That's a tall order, but I'll see what I can do. I could throw in some sacrificial virgins as well, with metal breastplates and silver ankle chains and diaphanous vestments. And a pack of ravening wolves, extra.
I can see you'll stop at nothing.
You want the dinner jackets instead? Cruise ships, white linen, wrist-kissing and hypocritical slop?
No. All right. Do what you think is best.
She shakes her head for no. He lights his own, striking the match on his thumbnail.
You'll set fire to yourself, she says.
I never have yet.
She looks at his rolled-up shirt sleeve, white or a pale blue, then his wrist, the browner skin of his hand. He throws out radiance, it must be reflected sun. Why isn't everyone staring? Still, he's too noticeable to be out here--out in the open. There are other people around, sitting on the grass or lying on it, propped on one elbow--other picnickers, in their pale summer clothing. It's all very proper. Nevertheless she feels that the two of them are alone; as if the apple tree they're sitting under is not a tree but a tent; as if there's a line drawn around them with chalk. Inside this line, they're invisible.
Space it is, then, he says. With tombs and virgins and wolves--but on the instalment plan. Agreed?
The instalment plan?
You know, like furniture.
No, I'm serious. You can't skimp, it might take days. We'll have to meet again.
She hesitates. All right, she says. If I can. If I can arrange it.
Good, he says. Now I have to think. He keeps his voice casual. Too much urgency might put her off.
On the Planet of--let's see. Not Saturn, it's too close. On the Planet Zycron, located in another dimension of space, there's a rubble-strewn plain. To the north is the ocean, which is violet in colour. To the west is a range of mountains, said to be roamed after sunset by the voracious undead female inhabitants of the crumbling tombs located there. You see, I've put the tombs in right off the bat.
That's very conscientious of you, she says.
I stick to my bargains. To the south is a burning waste of sand, and to the east are several steep valleys that might once have been rivers.
I suppose there are canals, like Mars?
Oh, canals, and all sorts of things. Abundant traces of an ancient and once highly developed civilization, though this region is now only sparsely inhabited by roaming bands of primitive nomads. In the middle of the plain is a large mound of stones. The land around is arid, with a few scrubby bushes. Not exactly a desert, but close enough. Is there a cheese sandwich left?
She rummages in the paper bag. No, she says, but there's a hard-boiled egg. She's never been this happy before. Everything is fresh again, still to be enacted.
Just what the doctor ordered, he says. A bottle of lemonade, a hard-boiled egg, and Thou. He rolls the egg between his palms, cracking the shell, then peeling it away. She watches his mouth, the jaw, the teeth.
Beside me singing in the public park, she says. Here's the salt for it.
Thanks. You remembered everything.
This arid plain isn't claimed by anyone, he continues. Or rather it's claimed by five different tribes, none strong enough to annihilate the others. All of them wander past this stone heap from time to time, herding their thulks--blue sheep-like creatures with vicious tempers--or transporting merchandise of little value on their pack animals, a sort of three-eyed camel.