In Alias Grace, the bestselling author of The Handmaid's Tale takes readers into the life of one of the most notorious women of the nineteenth century—recently adapted into a 6-part Netflix original mini-series by director Mary Harron and writer/actress Sarah Polley.
It's 1843, and Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer and his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders. An up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story while bringing her closer and closer to the day she cannot remember. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories? Captivating and disturbing, Alias Grace showcases bestselling, Booker Prize-winning author Margaret Atwood at the peak of her powers.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Thanks to a miniseries adaptation, Margaret Atwood’s 1996 stunner Alias Grace attracted a bunch of new readers. Based on the harrowing true story of Grace Marks, a household servant convicted of two grisly murders in 1843 Canada, the novel serves up a gripping portrayal of Victorian-era crime, punishment, and superstitions. It’s also (no surprise) a sly rebuke to the persistent fear of women who refuse to slide neatly into society's prescribed roles.
Intrigued by contemporary reports of a sensational murder trial in 1843 Canada, Atwood has drawn a compelling portrait of what might have been. Her protagonist, the real life Grace Marks, is an enigma. Convicted at age 16 of the murder of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his housekeeper and lover, Nancy Montgomery, Grace escaped the gallows when her sentence was commuted to life in prison, but she also spent some years in an insane asylum after an emotional breakdown. Because she gave three different accounts of the killings, and because she was accused of being the sole perpetrator by the man who was hanged for the crime, Grace's life and mind are fertile territory for Atwood. Adapting her style to the period she describes, she has written a typical Victorian novel, leisurely in exposition, copiously detailed and crowded with subtly drawn characters who speak the embroidered, pietistic language of the time. She has created a probing psychological portrait of a working-class woman victimized by society because of her poverty, and victimized again by the judicial and prison systems. The narrative gains texture and tension from the dynamic between Grace and an interlocutor, earnest young bachelor Dr. Simon Jordan, who is investigating the causes of lunacy with plans to establish his own, more enlightened institution. Jordan is hoping to awaken Grace's suppressed memories of the day of the murder, but Grace, though uneducated, is far wilier than Jordan, whom she tells only what she wishes to confess. He, on the other hand, is handicapped by his compassion, which makes him the victim of the wiles of other women, too--his passionate, desperate landlady, and the virginal but predatory daughter of the prison governor. These encounters give Atwood the chance to describe the war between the sexes with her usual wit. Although the narrative holds several big surprises, the central question--Was Grace dupe and victim or seductress and instigator of the bloody crime?--is left tantalizingly ambiguous. Major ad/promo; author tour.
This story was amazing, I could not but it down, and the series, had me hooked!!! She is my favorite author!!!!!
It was a bit all over the place and a boring read.
Atwood's Version of a Historical Crime Mystery
There are plenty of delicious details in this novel of moral ambiguities. The historical facts are accurate in the framework of the story. Canada wasn't a country at the time of the crime, just a collection of political ideas. As the story unfolds, we have a correlation of criminal and political evolution, although not always for the better. The stinger at the end is that we still don't know if Alias is guilty or innocent. If you want a clear cut ending, this isn't your book.