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.