Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

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Grace Marks has been 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. Dr. Simon Jordan, 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.

Review

Alias Grace is a work of fiction based on a historical event. Grace Marks was a notorious figure in the 1800’s who was sent to prison for twenty-eight years for the murder of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his mistress Nancy Montgomery. Atwood recreates Grace’s years of incarceration. The story is told in first -person, with Grace narrating her thoughts as well as the story she tells Dr. Simon Jordan, her psychologist in prison.

Grace is really the powerhouse in this story. Her telling of the events is what makes her human, sympathetic and believable. She is not really a warm and fuzzy character. She is very complex and unpredictable. This novel touches on many important themes. Atwood told this story from the point of view of a woman in the twenty-first century. Many of the themes explored in this novel are familiar to Atwood’s fans because the author has explored these themes in other novels. Feminism, abandonment, abortion, child abuse,  mental health, human worth, suffering, trauma, and sexuality.

“If we were all on trial for our thoughts, we would all be hanged.”

The important point about this novel is that Atwood is not so interested in figuring out this mystery as she is in just telling the story and what it meant to be a woman in the mid-nineteenth century.

I’m yet to read a Margaret Atwood’s book that I don’t like. Alias Grace is a masterpiece and a must on any bookshelf.

“Gone mad is what they say, and sometimes Run mad, as if mad is a different direction, like west; as if mad is a different house you could step into, or a separate country entirely. But when you go mad you don’t go any other place, you stay where you are. And somebody else comes in.”

This novel is part of my list of books in The Classics Club Challenge


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