The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
I'm going to try and keep my own opinions and reactions out of this as much as possible, and save those for the actual discussion. Here are a few points I thought might be places to start the discussion and I apologize if this sounds too much like really lame questions one would find at the back of a novel. Hopefully, I was able to find a balance between raising pertinent issues and giving everyone space to come to their own conclusions.
Having read this novel previously, I have to say it was somehow different than I remembered or expected. Starting with that, based on the opening of the novel, how did the novel meet or defy your expectations? Arguably, the novel has a bit of a twist ending, but Iris also states that she doesn't expect the reader to be surprised by the end. Given that, was there a specific turning point where everything came together or suspicions started becoming reality, or was it an overall gradual process? Pinky McLadybits and Sophia both made the comment that they felt driven to continue reading this novel to find out what happened, and this is definitely how I felt upon my first read through. Would other first timers agree? What about those of you rereading this? How did this second time compare to your first?
One thing I noticed reading this time around was all the hand imagery in the novel and the idea of writing. How does it play into the characters' relationships? How did you all feel about the sisters' relationship, and do you think Iris gives an accurate description or does she seem to give it more or less importance? All the reviews are linked at the bottom, but Dene had some interesting things to say about the sisters specifically in her review. I also think it might be interesting to compare the way Atwood writes women's relationships in general, in both this novel and her other novels.
As far as the initial introduction, I mentioned Atwood's feminism. Yet, could any of these characters be described as feminist? I've noticed in many of Atwood's other novels, she doesn't necessarily always have strong women characters. Rather, she uses social commentary and situations to show women's oppression. Does showing that women's lives suck necessarily translate into feminism or is there another way she could do this? To tie this into the above question, one of the complaints feminists have about Liz Lemon as a feminist character is that she has no real female friends or close relationships with women. She is always portrayed as smarter and better than all the other women, and most of her interactions are with men. Not that I'm trying to argue that young Iris is a feminist but did any of her relationships with other women seem that significant? And of those that did, were there any that were actual beneficial rather than competitive or worse? Speaking of miserableness, do you think that Atwood attempts to use Alex's story about the Peach women to justify her own story, or is it simply meant as a parallel? How do you feel about the description of this novel as gothic? While I could definitely see themes, do you believe that is a stretch?
There has already been some discussion on the Cannonball Facebook page as well regarding the meaning of the title and the story the lovers tell each other. What meaning do you think the title has beyond the obvious, if any?
All right, I hope that's enough to start without being too boring. I'm sure there are a few other topics that will come up as we get into the discussion. I remember PaddyDog said that she can never discuss this novel without getting into an argument, so please pipe up! I had a completely different experience reading it this time, and I've noticed in the reviews (all of which were incredibly well thought out and much deeper than anything I came up with) that there is already a variety of reactions to this novel, although most agree that it was well-written.
Without further ado, here are the individual reviews from the participants: