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review 2017-08-12 03:28
[Book Review] The Blind Assassin
The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood,Margaret Atwood

I really wanted to do some Atwood, and while much of what she writes is regular literary fiction, some of it does fit within SF/F, or general Speculative Fiction.  I made a deliberate choice not to do The Handmaid's Tale (instead choosing The Core of the Sun), and I didn't really feel like re-reading Oryx and Crake, or using the second book in the series as a book club pick.  So, I stumbled across The Blind Assassin which teased of a historical fiction with a science fiction story intertwined.  So there we go, a June read.

Yeah, I'm writing the review in August.  It took me a bit to get through this one.

I've come to discover that with most of Atwood's novels the first half tends to slog for me, then somewhere around halfway through they pick up and suddenly become significantly more interesting.  That definitely proved true here, at least for my experience.  The "science fiction story" was less than I was hoping for as well, but an interesting vehicle for part of the narrative.

The Blind Assassin starts with the account of the narrator's sister driving off a bridge, and from there wends its way through the Iris' life growing up, a young woman, and as an old woman telling her story before her days run out.  That story includes the illicit meeting of two lovers, one of whom spins fantastical tales of aliens and future civilizations.

I personally felt it was trying to hard to play to one assumption while very clearly being something else all along, and would have liked to have been a little more surprised.  I have to say, while I admire Atwood's literary skill, and am a big fan of some of her work, for the most part I find that Sheri S. Tepper better provides what I'm looking for.

Discussion Fodder:

  • What assumptions/predictions did you make as you read the story?  How did the align with the results?  
  • In what ways does the narrative, and the narrator, attempt to deceive the reader?
  • Does the science fiction story reflect on the lover's lives?  In what ways?
  • How does the story talk about the assumptions and world views we apply to others?
  • Various crimes and accusations are laid at the feet of different characters.  Which are true, how many are convenient targets?
Source: libromancersapprentice.blogspot.com/2017/08/book-review-blind-assassin.html
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text 2017-08-08 03:15
The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood,Margaret Atwood

So I feel like there's just too much of an attempt to be clever about the "big secret" of the story.  And the narration and the "ah-ha" moment at points are pretty contrary, yet many of the surprises aren't

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review 2017-08-03 16:17
The Heart Goes Last - Margaret Atwood

Got almost halfway through and quit, stopped just at chapter 7. This is my first Margaret Atwood book and I did enjoy her writing, just not the story. I grew bored and ended up skimming in the end, even when I came across Jocelyns' plan. I just didn't care. 


Admittedly, it is a bit my fault. The whole idea of Positron/Consilience and this apocalypse-esque landscape drew me in and I was just so gosh darn excited to swan dive in. So excited, in fact, that I hadn't read the summary in the book cover far enough to see that it's about infidelity. 


See, I don't particularly enjoy stories about philandering spouses all that much, even when a unnecessarily convoluted plan by a character in the novel and the novel itself hinges on it. Which I give hearty kudos to Ms. Atwood. I can and do admire that piece of artistic craft even though I did not like nor enjoy it.


I feel as though I've been ambushed. My trust fall turned into a twenty car pile up on the interstate during rush hour due to my own willful ignorance. Go me. Lesson learned: don't text and drive.


While it did affect my experience with the book to a degree, I can't say for sure whether I would've finished it even if I was wise enough to read the summary in its entirety. I was disappointed when I realized the more sci-fi elements, the elements that drew me in, we're regulated to window dressings a.k.a white noise a.k.a. stock background for a family portrait a.k.a. you get my meaning. At least to where I stopped.


It's not a terrible book. It's lovely writing. I found the world interesting and the characters had a solid level of substance and believability to them, even though I didn't care for them. Hence the three stars.


It's just not my cup of tea. But I hope others have better luck. 

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text 2017-07-31 17:16
Reading progress update: I've read 250 out of 521 pages.
The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood,Margaret Atwood

I finally came to a bit that really hooked me, been seriously plodding along with only little sparks.


As much as I love Handmaiden's Tale and her shorter works, this difficulty getting through most of Atwood's writing seems to be a pretty regular issue.  :/


For reference, I started reading this in June as a book club pick.  I have since read and reviewed the July pick without finishing this one.

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review 2017-07-25 17:30
Hag-Seed - Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold


Margaret Atwood, 2016


Felix, the eccentric Artistic Director of the Makeshiweg Festival, is getting ready to present his interpretation of Shakespeare's The Tempest, but is removed from his position thanks to the underhanded methods of his assistant, Tony. After going off the grid for a while, Felix takes a job teaching a course at Fletcher County Correctional Institute, where he teachers Shakespeare to a small group of inmates. After a few years, an opportunity presents itself for Felix to get revenge on Tony and the others who did him wrong.


This is the first of the Hogarth Shakespeare retellings that I've read so far. I decided to re-read The Tempest before starting this book, and I'm glad I did - it had been a while since I had read it, and I had forgotten a lot of the story. I don't think that it's necessary to read The Tempest before reading Hag-Seed, but it does help. [For anyone not able to read the play first, there is a summary of The Tempest at the end of the book, so I would actually recommend skipping ahead to that before starting the novel.] 


I wasn't sure at first how I was going to like this book - I thought it an odd choice having the actual play The Tempest as part of the plot in a book that's supposed to be based on the play (a little too obvious), but it really worked well. Sort of like how Hamlet uses a play within a play to act out scenes that are happening in the "real world" of the story. It also helped that Felix was more or less aware that his current situation resembled the play - if he had been oblivious to that fact, it would have just been weird. Sure there were parts that played out a little too theatrically - his revenge was way too neat and tidy - and if this had been anything other than a retelling it would have bothered me. But Shakespeare's plays had the same neat and tidy endings, so it worked.


The biggest thing that surprised me was how Atwood was able to take a play made up with mostly unlikable characters and make a compelling story out of it. The only characters I liked at all were the prisoners. The antagonists - Tony and the others - were supposed to be unlikable, but Felix wasn't really very easy to like. His delusion about Miranda made him hard to identify with, and his quest for revenge made him - at least to me - pretty unlikable. However, I think that this was sort of the point. I think that Atwood went into this book knowing that the prisoners would be the most likable and relatable characters, and this is why the book is called "Hag-Seed", as a direct reference to Caliban. I think it was an interesting choice on her part, and it was probably the best way to pull it off.


You definitely need to be able to read books centered around unlikable characters in order to enjoy this one, but otherwise I think it's a pretty interesting book and an enjoyable read, even if you're not familiar with the play.

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