This book is not a mover and a shaker. It's a slow swell and a walk through what life looked like in the later half of the 19th century. It's also a murder mystery based on a true story which is an intriguing one. I did not hurry myself with this book as I do with many books I read, anxious to find out what happens next. I lavishly read and soaked up the day to day descriptions set forth by Grace Marks as she tells the tale of her life to a doctor who is sympathetic to her cause. Her cause being locked up for 30 years for a murder that her role in is murky at best. Margaret Atwood brings to life an interesting character from history who's life in service led to murder. It's the service and the girls' past that really interested me when reading, not so much the murder, but it's fairly juicy too. I enjoyed this book very much. If you like Jane Eyre types of books with a touch of daily life mixed with intrique, you should warm up some tea and plan to spend a few nights with Grace Marks in Alias Grace.
A haunting and beautiful novel
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 18 years ago
Alias Grace is a haunting and memorable novel. It is definately among one of the best I have ever read, and would be called my favorite if naming only one book in the whole world as such a thing were possible. This book was suprisingly unlike the best-selling novels I've been reading recently, as it was not only written to sell but to convey a message, and it possesses an integrity which is lacking in many books full of popular prose written in order to make money. I could not agree more with the blurb by Washington Post Book World which appears on the front cover of the edition I read: "Alias Grace has all the pacing of a commercial novel and all the resonance of a classic." Not only is this book meritable for its captivating and original plot, but also, more importantly, for its literary quality. The author, Margaret Atwood, has written the entire book in language ture to the time it takes place, and her skill for consistantly choosing lyrical and thought-provoking words is astounding. Alias Grace is the story of a real-life character, Grace Marks, who at age fifteen was sentenced to death for her part in the murder of her murder of the man she worked for and his mistress. Her sentence was then changed to life imprisonment after her skillful lawyer and many important citizens pleaded her case. However, many thought she should have hanged with her co-conspirator and that was as guilty as he was. Thus, Grace Marks was made a "celebrated murderess" and an infamous enigma of the nineteenth century, and her story has been brought to us with the grace-ful writing of Margaret Atwood. This novel was written so well that it had me literally laughing out loud one minute and then literally crying real tears the next. As a side comment, this novel is also important in a feminist viewpoint. I hesitate to comment on this as it may turn male readers away, and that is not my intention on mentioning it at all, for although the main character is a very young female and most events are told from her point of view, the way in which it is written makes it a capativating read for any one, regardless of age or sex. However, the harsh treatment of and opinions about women during this period in history were brought up in a way which would evoke sympathy and anger from anyone. Wide-spread opinions about the nature and duty of women are infrequently but impressionately brought up: "That woman has nerves like flint. She'd have made a good lawyer, if a man.", "Men, by nature and the decree of Providence, have a certain latitude allowed them; but fidelity to the marriage vow is surely the chief requirement in a woman", and the daily live as well as special circumstances of Grace Mark's story allow the reader to feel the injustices women suffered back then without the hope of making things better.If there is one book out of the many great ones I have read this year that I recommend the general web-surfer who has stumbled upon this book review to read, it is most emphatically
A IS FOR ATWOOD AND ALIAS GRACE
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 19 years ago
It is Canada in 1843 - Queen Victoria reigns; her insurrection prone North American colonists are diverted and then transfixed by a shocking murder trial. Against this backdrop Margaret Atwood, who gave us The Robber Bride and The Handmaid's Tale, presents her ninth novel. Atwood's virtuosity is at its peak as she traces her feminist thesis in Alias Grace, which is based on the true story of a 16-year-old servant girl accused of double murder. With few facts known, the author has drawn a haunting portrait of what might have been, a profoundly mesmerizing combination of actuality and invention. Grace Marks and her fellow worker, James McDermott, were tried and convicted for the brutal killing of their employer Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery. McDermott was hanged at the new gaol in Toronto, November 21, 1843. While Grace, due to her youth and "feminine weakness of mind," was sentenced to life in prison. She was also committed to a lunatic asylum following an emotional breakdown. Throughout both incarcerations Grace maintained that she had no memory of the murders or the victims. Referring to the scandalous trial in her afterword Atwood writes: "The details were sensational: Grace Marks was uncommonly pretty and also extremely young; Kinnear's housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery, had previously given birth to an illegitimate child and was Thomas Kinnear's mistress; at her autopsy she was found to be pregnant. Grace and her fellow-servant James McDermott had run away to the United States together and were assumed by the press to be lovers. The combination of sex, violence, and the deplorable insubordination of the lower classes was most attractive to the journalists of the day." Grace's story is revealed through letters, verse, news accounts, but primarily through her voice and that of Dr. Simon Jordan. An ambitious young doctor with an interest in the field of repressed memory, Jordan is retained by those who believe Grace innocent to help her remember. As Grace's memory is prodded, she weaves her tale. Is Jordan trying to exploit her for professional gain. Or, is it possible that she is manipulating him? Was Grace a naive pawn or a venomous Circe who bewitched then goaded McDermott into committing this appalling crime? The climax is a stunner! In the adroit hands of Margaret Atwood, shades of guilt, innocence and complicity as well as the complexities of the human mind continue to fascinate. Alias Grace, a laudatory fictionalization of actual events, is a shivery Victorian tale of obsession and murder.
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 19 years ago
This book is based on fact: a many years old unsolved murder case, yet it reads like a first-class work of fiction. The characters, to Atwood's immense credit, are supremely believable and well-motivated, the plot is clean and credible, the setting superb and the ending satisfying. That we don't know the heroine's final lot in life matters little. Atwood grabs your interest on the first page and never loses it, building suspense from one paragraph to the next. It would have easy for a lesser author to let the story get out of hand, providing us with pat endings and easy answers, something Atwood never does. Alias Grace is a masterfully-told tale...a work of art woven from precious few facts and one extremely gifted writer's well-controlled imagination.
The best STORY Atwood has written
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 20 years ago
Although I've been a fan of Margaret Atwood's for many years (as any good Canadian woman should be!), I usually enjoyed her actual writing--her poetic turn of a phrase, her quirky descriptions--more than the plots of her novels. Alias Grace shows her as a masterful storyteller. The first time I read it I could hardly put it down, so anxious was I to learn the ultimate fate of Grace Marks, but forced myself to read it more slowly to savour living in the Victorian times Atwood re-created in palpable detail. As soon as I finished, all I wanted to do was go back to the beginning and start over. For a month I resisted, and then re-read it slowly, studying her art of writing. A couple of years later now, I have re-read it for a third time, and am still in awe of the multiple layers of this story, the painstaking research into the life of Grace Marks, the simple language used by the uneducated Grace that yet reveals her very clever mind, the delightful overlay of quilting patterns, the details of domestic work in Victorian Canada, the emergent state of psychiatry, and the skillful unfolding of an unpredictable plot. The variety of forms of writing is also intriguing, the monologues of Grace and the correspondence between Dr. Jordan and his friends and family. Alias Grace is a true masterpiece, the most brilliant Canadian novel ever, I would say.
ThriftBooks sells millions of used books at the lowest everyday prices. We personally assess every book's quality and offer rare, out-of-print treasures. We deliver the joy of reading in 100% recyclable packaging with free standard shipping on US orders over $10. ThriftBooks.com. Read more. Spend less.