Title: Alias Grace
Author: Margaret Atwood
Publisher: Anchor Books
Date: October 13, 1997
Genre: Historical Fiction / Literary Fiction
My Rating: 3 / 3.5 Stars
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In Alias Grace, bestselling author Margaret Atwood has written her most captivating, disturbing, and ultimately satisfying work since The Handmaid’s Tale. She takes us back in time and into the life of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the nineteenth century.
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?
I’m not so sure I agree with the Goodreads description of Alias Grace as Atwood’s “most captivating, disturbing, and ultimately satisfying work.” I was not entirely captivated or satisfied with this book, although I did find much of it to be disturbing. Now, don’t get me wrong – I liked this book just fine. Atwood is a fantastic writer; she’s able conjure complicated images in the mind of the reader while using seemingly simple sentences. Also, Grace’s story was fascinating. Whether she was innocent or guilty, I can’t deny that the girl lived an interesting (and also pitiful) life. So in these respects, I really enjoyed this reading experience.
Now on to what I didn’t like: Dr. Simon Jordan. The side story featuring his messed up sexual fantasies and commitment issues really didn’t add to the story for me at all. His purpose in the book was to draw Grace’s life story out through a series of interviews (with the intention of learning the truth about the murders), which he did – although almost all of his success in this matter came from Grace herself and had nothing to do with him at all. If that had been the extent of his presence in the book that would have been fine with me; but no, instead we were offered a view into his perverted mind that really bothered me and ultimately led nowhere. Atwood is a master storyteller so I kept expecting Simon’s story to merge more into Grace’s narrative, but it never did. So in the end, Simon’s storyline fell flat.
It’s possible that the hype surrounding this book caused me to expect too much from it. It’s been recommended to me by a ton of people and it’s been adapted by Netflix, so all that paired with the amazingness that is Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale I think I went into Alias Grace with much too high expectations.
You might like this book if you enjoy historical fiction, feminist fiction, or historical crime. This book focused quite a bit on historical psychological topics and included some graphic descriptions that may be upsetting to some readers.
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