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Alias Grace: A Novel by Margaret Atwood
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Alias Grace: A Novel (edition 1997)

by Margaret Atwood (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
11,941260542 (3.94)4 / 1048
It is 1843, and 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. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories? Is Grace a female fiend? A bloodthirsty femme fatale? Or is she the victim of circumstances?… (more)
Member:phoenixcomet
Title:Alias Grace: A Novel
Authors:Margaret Atwood (Author)
Info:Vintage (1997), Edition: Reprint, 468 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:History, 19th century

Work Information

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

  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
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  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
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  11. 20
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  12. 21
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  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
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Showing 1-5 of 240 (next | show all)
Alias Grace is based on the real story of Grace Marks who was convicted of murdering two people in 1843 - her employer, Thomas Kinnear and the woman she worked for, Nancy Montgomery. But did Grace really commit the crime? Margaret Atwood fictionalizes the crime, making for a compelling novel. ( )
  phoenixcomet | Jun 11, 2024 |
Eindringlich erzählt Margaret Atwood die Geschichte von Grace Marks, die um 1840 wegen zweifachen Mordes verurteilt wurde und 30 Jahre im Gefängnis verbrachte. Sie lässt Grace selbst ihre Geschichte erzählen, sowie verschiedene Menschen aus ihrer Umgebung im Form von Zeugenaussagen zu Wort kommen. Außerdem begleiten wir einen jungen Arzt während der Zeit, in der er Grace "untersucht" und mit ihr spricht.
Mir hat das Buch sehr gut gefallen und ich fand es in sich rund. Dass man Ende nicht sicher weiß, ob sie schuldig war oder nicht, hat mich gar nicht gestört.
Sehr gut gefällt mir auch die Hörbuch-Version, die von verschiedenen Stimmen vorgelesen wird! ( )
  Katzenkindliest | Apr 23, 2024 |
This novel is a fictionalized biography of a real murderess/accused murderess in Canada who spent years in prison for a pair of murders she may have been an accomplice for. Grace was just 16 years old when she was arrested along with an older man who was thought to have been her lover and partner in crime, but there were reasons to doubt whether she was in fact a murderer, or perhaps a victim. Atwood's story explores these possibilities, and suggests a less common psychological explanation that straddles several of the more popular theories about what really happened. As historical fiction this is an excellent book, regardless of how convincing the conclusion is. ( )
  JBarringer | Dec 15, 2023 |
I enjoyed. Did Grace do it? Did it matter? ( )
  SteveMcI | Dec 1, 2023 |
A fascinating historical novel, this is a fictionalised account of the historical double murder of two people and its aftermath in 1843 in Canada. Part of the story is told from the first person view of Grace Marks, convicted but with her sentence commuted to life imprisonment (James McDermott, her supposed accomplice, was hanged). The other main thread follows a fictional character, Dr Simon Jordan, in close first person viewpoint. Jordan is an early medical practitioner in the field of psychiatry - or rather, is embarking on a study of Grace with a view to making a name for himself and thereby opening a clinic for the insane. He doesn't actually have any patients and in a way is as much of a 'chancer' as Grace may be herself. For it is unclear just how much of Grace's story is reliable. She is known to be an hysteric at times, and a sleepwalker so her claim to have had two periods of blackout during the murders, when other people thought she was co-operating with James McDermott, could be true.

Jordan is meant to establish Grace's innocence or guilt for a committee of local worthies, led by a clergyman, who wish to submit another petition for her release in view of her long period in custody (the book takes up the story in 1859). During a series of interviews, he finds himself increasingly drawn to her, and this perversely leads him into a relationship with his landlady which, to modern sensibilities, is abusive. Towards the end, he contemplates hitting the woman who he 'knows' will love it, although external events prevent things from sinking that low. Ironically, he is angered by other men who he views as being of low character and having disgusting views about women, without seeing that he himself is an oppressor of lower class women and takes advantage of more genteel ones also, such as his landlady.

The double narrative is framed by sections which are titled and illustrated with quilt patterns, the theme of quilt making, especially for the marital home, being a theme throughout the story. Similarly, the story of Grace is pieced together from various elements including extracts from accounts of the murder or about Grace, poems, and letters from various people both real and fictional.

Grace's narrative includes beautiful descriptive passages and some pithy darkly humorous banter, for example, she describes a bustle as “it was like having another bum tied on top of your real one and the two of them following you around like a tin bucket tied to a pig.” She ascribes such drolleries to her deceased friend, Mary, which becomes very interesting in the light of a development fairly late in the story.

A major theme is the subjugation of women, but also the demonisation of those accused of violent crime. Also the extreme contrast between the well-off and those who are powerless and in extreme poverty. The story is a superb evocation of the hardships of a working class woman forced to earn her living as a servant and the skills which such women developed and which were not only taken for granted - at one point the daughter of the prison governor voices the hope that Grace is never pardoned because she is so good at dressmaking (being an excellent seamstress she is employed to make clothing for the governor's family) - but not even comprehended. Dr Jordan asks her at one point what her duties were:

He is not making a joke. He really does not know. Men such as him do not have to clean up the messes they make, but we have to clean up our own messes, and theirs into the bargain. In that way they are like children, they do not have to think ahead, or worry about the consequences of what they do. But it is not their fault, it is only how they are brought up.

There are no overt conclusions as to Grace's culpability, but at one point an old friend of hers who inveigles his way into the confidence of the committee who have engaged Jordan, has an opportunity before entering the room with her to brief her on how to act: given the previous background and skills of this character, it is possible that what then occurs is precisely orchestrated to convince the clergyman and other parties of her innocence, and I did veer towards that explanation rather than a paranormal one.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed the book and am rating it a full five stars. ( )
  kitsune_reader | Nov 23, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 240 (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 (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Atwood, Margaretprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Drews, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gadon, SarahNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gjelsvik, IngerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pulice, Mario J.Cover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Walitzek, BrigitteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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?
-Eugene Marais
The Soul of the White Ant.
Dedication
For Graeme and Jess
First words
Out of the gravel there are peonies growing.
Alias Grace is a work of fiction, although it is based on reality. (Author's Afterword)
Quotations
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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

It is 1843, and 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. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories? Is Grace a female fiend? A bloodthirsty femme fatale? Or is she the victim of circumstances?

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