Alias Grace

Monday, August 26, 2013



Alias Grace
by Margaret Atwood
★★★★

One of the things I admire about Atwood’s work is her willingness to try new genres and styles. She writes dystopian novels, mysteries, character studies, etc. They’re never formulaic and this one is just as unique as her others. She’s not an author that writes the same book over and over again and so you never know what you’ll get, but you know it will be captivating.

Grace Marks was a real Canadian prisoner convicted of murder in 1843. Her story has inspired rumors and novels over the past 150 years and Atwood is the latest in a long line of Canadians to become fascinated by the murderess. The question of her guilt or innocence has been a matter of debate and in this novel Atwood tells the story from two rotating points-of-view: Marks herself and her fictional doctor Simon.  

It was a slow start for me. I found Grace’s story enthralling, but got lost in the minutia of Simon’s life. Once we got to Grace’s horrific journey from Ireland to Canada I was hooked. The story continued to lag for me whenever we switched to Simon’s POV, but it kept a steady pace.

I loved the way Atwood incorporated real excerpts from newspaper and the trial into the beginning of each chapter. When it comes to historical fiction I love to learn something while being told an interesting story. Atwood manages to do both while at the same time maintaining an air of ambiguity in the story. She leaves some questions unanswered, which works well. As Grace’s history unfolds we learn that she has been through multiple traumatic experiences in her short life. The author deftly builds a case both for and against Grace’s possible guilt, dipping into the territory of psychological study.

BOTTOM LINE: An interesting historical fiction novel about a murder I’d never heard of before. It's a bit slow in parts, but overall a good read that delves past the known facts into the question of true guilt. Another fantastic example of Atwood’s versatility as a writer!

Thanks to Care for convincing me to impulse read this one!

Image from here

11 comments:

Heather said...

This is the next book on my Read All Of Atwood project (though it is a reread for me). I remember really loving this one (well, I love them all, really). I'm glad you did, too!

Karen said...

Loved this book when I read it but it's so long ago that I can't rmember much about it. So thanks for the reminder

JoAnn said...

I loved this, too! Atwood is an amazingly versatile author.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I love authors who surprise you with each publication. I wonder how much of this story is based on fact and how much is a product of Atwood's imagination?

Ana @ things mean a lot said...

This is my favourite Atwood to date. So amazing.

bkclubcare said...

I am so glad you liked it! Not that I didn't think you wouldn't because, doh - it's Atwood.

Do you think Grace was innocent?

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Heather - I hope to read all of Atwood one day. This was my 6th of her books.

Karen - It's a good one!

JoAnn - I think she's one of the most talented authors writing today.

Sandy - All of the factual information is based on research she did. The character of Simon the doctor and the ending is complete fiction. All of Grace's thoughts are fiction as well. It was really well researched.

Ana - The Handmaid's Tale is still my favorite, but this is definitely in second place.

bkclubcare - SPOILER I don't think she was innocent. I think she had a split personality. I think the trauma of both her mother and her friend's death caused something in her psyche to snap. Her friend was much stronger than she was and I think she took on that personality to deal with things that were took tough for her and that personality was guilty of the crimes.

I really like the ambiguity of the book. You can guess at the true guilt or innocence, but you don't know for sure.

Bybee said...

I'm in an Atwood mood...just checked out The Handmaid's Tale from the library.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Bybee - Oh yay! My favorite.

Trish said...

I also love that Atwood always seems to be doing something different--though I also appreciate that she often tackles many of the same themes through different lenses and angles. I've had this one on my shelf for YEARS--need to finally get to it!! Glad to see that this one is a close second favorite!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Trish - That's a geat way to phrase it. She can look at an issue like women's rights through such unique lenses it makes the issue seem so fresh and new each time.