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Alias Grace

by Margaret Atwood

Other authors: Inger Gjelsvik (Translator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
11,571253532 (3.94)4 / 1027
Recently added byReneeKanda, 11lh11, maxturgeon, Psmithers, Rini55, wrrcdavis, private library, MissMoretti
  1. 111
    The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber (girlunderglass)
    girlunderglass: Both books share the impressive power of beautifully and believably conveying a particular place and time - they make the reader not only understand and love the peculiarities of a particular era, but also temporarily feel part of it.
  2. 112
    Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue (ainsleytewce, BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Based on sensational true crimes of yesteryear, these character-driven historical novels focus on young women whose attempts to escape lives of poverty and abuse lead to violence. Both disturbing, suspenseful books present nuanced psychological portraits of their protagonists.… (more)
  3. 40
    Gillespie and I by Jane Harris (souloftherose)
    souloftherose: It's difficult to explain this recommendation without revealing spoilers for either novel. Both are set in the 19th century, feature strong female narrators and concern a crime - and that's all I can say!
  4. 40
    Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: The Polished Hoe portrays conditions in 20th-century Jamaica, while Burial Rites focuses on 19th-century Iceland, but these exquisitely detailed literary historical novels explore the lives of unusually intelligent women whose treatment by their masters has resulted in terrible crimes.… (more)
  5. 52
    Possession by A. S. Byatt (KayCliff)
  6. 30
    The Ballad of Frankie Silver by Sharyn McCrumb (rbtanger)
    rbtanger: Both are historicals about female murderers. And both are equally haunting and mysterious with a good pull at the beginning and a good twist to the end.
  7. 41
    Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey (wonderlake)
  8. 30
    His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae by Graeme Macrae Burnet (cbl_tn)
    cbl_tn: Both are Booker shortlisted novels that tell the story of a historical crime. Atwood's is based on a real crime.
  9. 20
    The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen (rbtanger)
    rbtanger: The Bone Garden is set a decade earlier than alias Grace, but the atmosphere and feel of the story are very similar.
  10. 31
    Affinity by Sarah Waters (starbox, souloftherose)
  11. 20
    The Unseeing by Anna Mazzola (JoEnglish)
  12. 21
    In a Dark Wood Wandering by Hella S. Haasse (AliceWonders)
  13. 11
    A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore (1Owlette)
    1Owlette: Although set at different times and in different countries, both works explore similar themes of isolation, marginalization, and the effect of social pressures upon women's mental states, in haunting, beautiful prose.
  14. 34
    The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles (Nickelini)
1990s (23)
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English (235)  French (4)  Dutch (4)  Swedish (2)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  Hungarian (1)  Finnish (1)  Catalan (1)  German (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (252)
Showing 1-5 of 235 (next | show all)
Elegantly and cleverly written. A voyage into the 19th century, vividly displaying all of it's societal maladies. ( )
  NancyBookwin | Aug 14, 2023 |
I have a memory of liking this novel, which I read some time ago. ( )
  mykl-s | Aug 12, 2023 |
“But when you go mad you don't go any other place, you stay where you are. And somebody else comes in.”

Inspired by the real story of Grace Marks, a 16-year-old Irish housemaid tried in Canada along with another servant for the murder of her employer and his mistress in 1843.

The sensationalistic trial made headlines throughout the world, and the jury delivered a guilty verdict leading to a death penalty for her conspirator and life imprisonment for Grace.

Yet opinion remained fiercely divided – was Grace a spurned woman who had taken out her rage on two innocent victims, or was she an unwilling victim herself, caught up in a crime she was too young to understand?

In a case where the facts are always in question Atwood cleverly begins this story twenty years after the crime with Grace, now positioned in a prison with a sympathetic warden and less sympathetic guards, insisting on her innocence and proclaiming missing memories from the time of the murders.

Into this secluded life arrives Dr Simon Jordan an ambitious young psychologist who wishes to interview Grace and unlock her lost memories as well as studying what might drive someone to such lengths.

Grace tells him the story her childhood in Ireland, her alcoholic father, the family’s journey to Canada including the loss of her mother onboard and the years that followed and a friendship of sorts begins.

Atwood lays out a sympathetic and realistic portrayal of the young girls life in a hard time alongside Dr Jordan’s own life and experiences interviewing Grace.

The story of the murder and Grace’s memories are mixed with testimony given at the trial so we are never sure what is true - indeed in the authors note Atwood noted that so many conflicting stories abounded that she had to choose the most likely for the purpose of the book.

This is true crime mixed with historical fiction and social commentary on class divide at the time but also on the treatment of women.

While it didn’t rock my world it is worth a read for Atwood's easy and engaging style along with a look at how the sensationalism of high profile cases really hasn’t changed in nearly two hundred year.
  rosienotrose | Jul 11, 2023 |
Based on a true story, Alias Grace gives a fictionalised account of Grace Marks, a beautiful teenage girl who was at the very least an accomplice, if not the architect, of the murder of her employer and his housekeeper/lover along with fellow servant James McDermott.

Told through her first person account to Dr Simon Jordan we learn about her life from childhood until the day of the murders. She isn't able to tell the full truth about that day, however, because she claims she has no recollection of many events. Dr Jordan is hoping he can pull this information from her subconscious by way of psychological sessions.

We are also 'treated' to Simon's first person thoughts which are often pretentious, condescending, and turn bawdy at the drop of a hat.

There's no mistake that the book is meant to showcase how women can't win. And it does that well, there's no question. It's frustrating and infuriating to read as I'm sure was the intention.

The main problem that I had with it was that I found it booooring. And those of you who read my reviews will know that this is a thing I do not suffer well. Perhaps if I was a history buff I would have enjoyed this more. Atwood did her research which I'm sure would be interesting to someone. Just not me.

Lastly, the whole set up for the book is that we're trying to get to the bottom of whether Grace has actively participated in the crime or was herself a victim of James McDermott. Throughout the book she tells her story to Simon Jordan and we are never sure whether she actually believes what she is saying or whether she is playing him. I suppose that's the point but when we get to the end without a firm answer, it feels a little flaccid. I didn't wholly mind Atwood having left it open because that follows the true story but after the investment into a story that was kinda boring, I wanted more.

Basically this felt like a book that I would have read for high school so we could talk about ( )
  Jess.Stetson | Apr 4, 2023 |
A good read, no quotes or passages of particular note, although well written with Atwoodian atmosphere and depth of characters. Inscrutable Grace Marks is sentenced to 30 years in prison for murder / accomplice in deaths of her employer and his housekeeper/mistress in conjunction with a stablehand, who portrays her as the instigator. She is a prism through which prison reform, the feminine state, and societal mores of mid-19C Canada are viewed. Central question of whether she is a fiend or an innocent or a victim of circumstances can be answered by the acceptance that we are all victims and victors of circumstance for most part; there is no other way. Atwood’s strength is in the detail of history and surroundings, believable characters, yet this book doesn't have as much staying power as her previous novels, possibly due to historical constrictions. Another tale of a woman making the most of her situation, keeping her self while navigating circumstances out of her immediate control, yet exerting influence where she can. Atwood's male characters tend to be either fools or bores, or merely nebulous. Interesting introduction of multiple personality disorder as a criminal defense; referral to beauty as victimhood and also asset; the need for romance and titillation in people. ( )
  saschenka | Mar 12, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 235 (next | show all)
Margaret Atwood has always written her characters from the inside out. She knows them: in their hearts, their bones. For many years now she has been a stylist of sensuous power. In Alias Grace she has surpassed herself, writing with a glittering, singing intensity.
added by jburlinson | editNew York Review of Books, Hilary Mantel (pay site) (Dec 19, 1996)

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Atwood, Margaretprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gjelsvik, IngerTranslatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Drews, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gadon, SarahNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pulice, Mario J.Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walitzek, BrigitteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Whatever may have happened through these years, God knows I speak truth, saying that you lie.
—William Morris, "The Defence of Guenevere"
I have no Tribunal.
—Emily Dickinson, Letters
I cannot tell you what the light is, but I can tell you what it is not...What is the motive of the light? What is the light?
For Graeme and Jess
First words
Out of the gravel there are peonies growing.
When you are in the middle of a story it isn't a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood, like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It's only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else.
It's 1851. I'll be twenty-four years old next birthday. I've been shut up in here since the age of sixteen. I am a model prisoner, and give no trouble.
Gone mad is what they say, and sometimes Run mad, as if mad is a 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.
Help is what they offer but gratitude is what they want
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