Sunday, May 22, 2011

Book Review: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood


In 1843, a 16-year-old Canadian housemaid named Grace Marks was tried for the murder of her employer and his mistress. The sensationalistic trial made headlines throughout the world, and the jury delivered a guilty verdict. Yet opinion remained fiercely divided about Marks--was she 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? Such doubts persuaded the judges to commute her sentence to life imprisonment, and Marks spent the next 30 years in an assortment of jails and asylums, where she was often exhibited as a star attraction.

In Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood reconstructs Marks's story in fictional form. Her portraits of 19th-century prison and asylum life are chilling in their detail. The author also introduces Dr. Simon Jordan, who listens to the prisoner's tale with a mixture of sympathy and disbelief. In his effort to uncover the truth, Jordan uses the tools of the then rudimentary science of psychology. But the last word belongs to the book's narrator--Grace herself

My Review:

I found this to be an interesting read. Atwood based her narration off of an actual court case. However, because Grace's case did not go to trial, there aren't many absolute facts, which leaves plenty of room for Atwood to spin her tale and create her own reasons for the crime.

One thing I liked is that the beginning to each chapter included quotes from the courst transcripts and/or newspaper articles. These tidbits flavored the story with different points of view and some gossip. I also liked Atwood's conclusion to who committed the murder and why.

However, although I liked her explanation story-wise, I must say that it is scientifically very unlikely and sometimes overplayed in the media and popular works. I won't say more though, since I don't want to give anything away, I just wanted to state my views on her story.

The way the story was told changed from chapter to chapter. Sometimes it was in epistolary form and sometimes in the third person view. It also changed viewpoints between the characters so that the reader followed different characters. At time I liked the different viewpoints but often I thought it interupted the flow of the story. Instead of  figuring out who's view we were in, I just wanted to get on with the story. But this is a minor complaint, overall the story was very good.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


  1. sounds interesting. I have never read a Margret Atwood before, maybe i'll start with this. Great blog, i'm your newest follower.

  2. I just found your blog and I love it, you have freat taste in books. I actually really enjoyed Alias Grace, but then I enjoy most books by Atwood (The Robber Bride being the main exception). I read it a long time ago, but I remember being fascinated by the way Atwood revealed what was really going on with the protagonist