Alias Grace

Alias Grace

Book - 1996
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Around the true story of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the 19th century, Margaret Atwood has created an extraordinarily potent tale of sexuality, cruelty, and mystery. In 1843, Grace Marks was convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and Nancy Montgomery, 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. Was Grace a femme fatale - or a weak and unwilling victim of circumstances? Taut and compelling, penetrating and wise, Alias Grace is a beautifully crafted work of the imagination that will continue to haunt the reader long after the final page.
Publisher: Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, 1996
ISBN: 9780771008825
Branch Call Number: ATWO
Characteristics: 470 pages


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Jul 03, 2021

Thoroughly enjoyed Alias Grace and would highly recommend. Margaret Atwood is brilliant. I really enjoyed learning about life at this time across the social classes and the true story surrounding the crimes. Loved the descriptions of the journey from Toronto to Richmond Hill and what both of these settlements were like at the time.

Jun 14, 2021

There are a number of ways to present history in fiction - from the wild speculation of Tim Powers' Declare to the more likely of Mary Beth Keane's Fever. Alias Grace is the latter sort. The research Atwood has done is evident, but never feels obtrusive. Mid-nineteenth century Canada is brought to life in great detail, the particulars of life especially of the serving class.

Divided into first person sections narrated by the title character & third person following a proto-psychologist involved in her case. Tensions around class, around sex, around slavery, around immigration are all addressed creating a suffocating atmosphere where the reader hopes that characters will somehow survive and maybe prosper in spite of the systematic forces arrayed against them.

Atwood is skillful, using letters and snippets of writers of the day to both move the story forward and to provide detail, and grounding context. We never doubt that whether to go out without gloves is a matter of import for her characters and readers become enmeshed enough in the Victorian mores of the time to feel an acceptance of the astonishing limits that all but a few must live under.

I found the sections following the young doctor less impressive than Grace's first hand account notwithstanding our possible doubts about her reliability as narrator... maybe in part because of it. I find myself tempted to give 4 stars instead of 5... yet

Atwood is an author of many gifts. I recommend to any who have an interest in in the era, and to many with no particular attraction to it. Not really a mystery per se, and some looking for a more classic in that form may be put off. For the rest of us, the read will not be comforting but it will be revealing and well worth it.

Jan 19, 2021

This was an interesting read, based on historical fiction. It happened in the early 1800’s, so the language and behaviors were stiff and not as easy to understand (perhaps language barriers are more of a generational thing).
There were some loose threads and some questions as to whether Grace Marks was guilty. It seems a little dangerous to release someone for murder if there wasn’t 100% proof, but the scales seemed to tip Grace’s way.
A little on the long side, so settle in before you see a whole lot of action.

Dec 28, 2020

This is the second of Atwood's books that I've read (I'll give you exactly one guess as to what the first one is - hint: it's a book, a play, an opera, a ballet AND a Netflix series). I read the first in high school when I assumed that an unhappy ending meant the book was incomplete, so while I enjoyed reading it, I left it feeling unfulfilled.

It's been 15 years since I graduated high school and I keep hoping my tastes have matured along with the rest of my body, so to test my progress I thought I'd pick up another Atwood and give Alias Grace a try.

I really enjoyed this book. There's only a small handful of characters but Atwood did a good job making all feel real if not necessarily likable, so their actions were understandable even as the reader criticized them. This is important as the text is imbued with critical commentary on class and gender relations but never at the expense of character development (and frankly, if you don't like your prose served with a healthy dose of social commentary, maybe Margaret Atwood isn't the author for you). The writing style is engaging and the mystery of Grace Marks's innocence keeps you glued to the final page.

At the risk of spoiling the ending, I did find the resolution somewhat anticlimactic. It's possible that my tastes are still too underdeveloped for Atwood in which case, I will sadly retreat to the kiddie section and leave Atwood to the professionals (and in case it's not ABUNDANTLY clear, I take *no* pride in saying that). However, I do feel that the themes and characters were ultimately more compelling than the story itself, and that the book works better as a social commentary than a mystery.

Oct 16, 2020

Flawless writing and meticulous research in this work of historical fiction. Unravelling the mystery of Grace Marks' role in a murder that took place in 1843 in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Atwood masterfully unrolls the details from Grace's point of view and from a series of original letters and court documents from the time. Who is to be trusted?

Aug 04, 2020

This is one of my favorite books of all time. Atwood’s poetic writing is full of depth and literary complexity.
It holds history, mystery, trauma coping, beautiful writing, and a book that left an impression on me forever.

Jun 12, 2020

I read this so I could watch the Netflix series and now I have no inclination to watch the series. I love Atwood's writing style but I felt so many questions were unanswered. This suits the mystery of the enigmatic Grace Marks but if Atwood had embellished further I would have enjoyed it more. Some conversations are so intense and descriptive that made it easy for my brain to wander.

***Edited to add - I watched the series which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Apr 03, 2020

Amazing book that follows a girl with the alias grace who was put into prison for murder of her master and their mistress, she finally gets released on a conditional day release and a doctor tries to evaluate her mental state to eventual attempt to get her acquitted. Mystery, drama, and romance galore. Incredible book from an incredible author.

Jan 20, 2020

I found this to be a very engrossing read. Great book club pick. Lots to talk about.

Jun 04, 2019

After a while, I felt that the book was captured so well in the TV show that I was convinced I could have skipped the novel. However, the chapters have clips of newspaper articles about the real Grace Marks and selections from a Ms. Moody, who interviewed the real Grace and wrote a book. Then ending, too, gave a better sense of what Grace was feeling than the TV show did, and I was glad for that. It comes full circle when another man asks her to describe the abuse she’s suffered, leaning in when she gets to the pawing would-be rapists. You’re left wondering what will happen to him, if anything, and if he can be trusted.

Overall, enjoy the TV show and the book! I recommend both.

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FavouriteFiction Oct 03, 2009

A fictional account of the 1843 trial of 16-year-old Canadian housemaid Grace Marks who was found guilty of the murder of her employer and his mistress.

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