Last year I read the Handmaid’s Tale, another one of Atwood’s masterpiece and it ended up being one of the best books I have ever read. So when I saw that Netflix is adapting another of her tales, I promised myself that I will read the book before I watch it, as any sensible bookworm would do.
Unfortunately it took me a while to get to it because let us face it, Atwood’s aren’t the easiest read, especially considering that these are and I had easier books to read. So finally when I actually got to read it, was it worth it all? Read on!
Book Name: Alias Grace
Author: Margaret Atwood
Genre: Fiction – Thriller, Literary, True Crime
Characters: Grace Marks, Dr Simon Jordon, James McDermott, Mary Whitney
Setting: Ontario, Canada, Ireland, the UK
Grace Marks has been imprisoned since she was 16 years old for the murders of Mr Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery along with the fellow servant James McDermott, who was hanged. A select group of gentlemen and ladies who are convinced that Grace is innocent try to acquit even after an almost a decade has passed since her imprisonment.
They request Dr Simon Jordon, a doctor of the mind, to interview her and build up a report to support their cause. Dr Jordon is fascinated by Grace and is more interested in understanding the levels of her sanity than worry if she is guilty. Thus Grace starts recounting her tale from her impoverished childhood in the Northern Ireland to her incarceration.
Born in a family that had too many mouths to feed, Grace had been the one to look after her surviving siblings. They sail to Canada when their father becomes a person of suspicion in a local arson and a related murder. Her mother passes away during the journey and their father’s ways soon make her the working member of the family.
Grace joins Mrs Parkinson’s household as a help where she meets Mary Whitney, who becomes her trusted friend. Mary’s death in ‘abrupt circumstances’ causes Grace to search work in other places and finally she ends up at the Richmond Hall. Within a few weeks her life is turned upside down and she is sent to the asylum and then the penitentiary after being convicted for the murders.
Dr Jordon is baffled without being able to tell whether Grace is as innocent as she tells him or is he being played. He also struggles through his own battles trying to ward off his desire for his landlady and his mother’s pressure to settle down soon.
How far will he go to find the truth, especially when the truth is too close to home and he is facing the same dilemma himself? How does his scientific mind fare against her faith laden beliefs? Is he a worthy opponent for Grace at all? You will have to read Alias Grace yourself.
Atwood’s writing is as expected hard to get into but once you do that, time will fly while you read through those 450+ pages. Similar to the Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace speaks much about gender and class discrimination. I was hooked to reading about symbolism on the quilt pattern that I had to Google more on them,
I loved the story of Dr Jordon interwove with that of Grace’s personal story without pacing it down. His relationship with the landlady, how he succumbed to it after much resistance and then his dreams about him murdering the estranged landlord showed how much common he had with Grace than he realized.
Alias Grace is dark and melancholic and yet Atwood’s fictionalized version remained true to the facts, as per her afterword where she discusses the known facts of the case. Every time a new part of the puzzle was revealed my stance on whether Grace was guilty or not changed. Only a seasoned writer can have that ability to make the reader do that even when they know how it was gonna end (thanks to the reviews I had read earlier).
I can’t now wait to see the Netflix adaptation of the Alias Grace and hopefully I will feel as great as I do after reading the book. If you like true fiction and/or the Handmaid’s Tale you need to read this without fail. I loved it.
Have you read any of Atwood’s books? Do you like the book to TV/movie adaptations and have any of them lived upto the book? Let us chat.