Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood: A Book Review

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood: A Book Review

Last year I read the Handmaid’s Tale, another one of Atwood’s masterpieces 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, Atwoods 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 by Book review of Alias Grace!

About Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

alias grace

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

Plot Summary of Alias Grace

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 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 was 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 only 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 later the penitentiary on being convicted for the murders.

Dr Jordon is baffled without being able to tell whether Grace is as innocent as she tells him or he is 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 by Margaret Atwood yourself.

Book review of Alias Grace

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. Much like the Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace speaks much about the gender and the class discrimination. I was hooked to reading about symbolism on the quilt pattern that I had to Google more about 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. My stance on whether Grace was guilty, or not, changed every time a new part of the puzzle was revealed

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).

Bottom – line

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.

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Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood: A Book Review

The handmaid’s tale by Margaret Atwood: A Book Review

Dystopia has never been my preferred genre, thanks to the very many badly written YA literature strewn around the world that befalls into the said genre. Yet there were several times while I read the book The Handmaid’s Tale that I had to recheck the publishing date.

About The handmaid’s tale

Handmaid's tale

Book Name: The Handmaid’s Tale 

Author: Margaret Atwood

Genre: Fiction – Literary Dystopia

Characters: Offred, The Commander, Serena Joy, Nick, Moira

Plot Summary of The handmaid’s tale

Set in not so distant dystopian future, women have lost all that they won in the recent past, at least partially – the ability to chose what they wore, what they did for life or even handle money. They are forbidden from reading, writing and even speaking freely.

Their existence is based on their functionality – the wives (in charge of the household), the helps (Marthas), the teachers (Aunts), the wombs (Handmaids), the sexual toys ( Jezebels) and the outcasts (Unwoman) are sent to Colonies where they are left to harvest cotton or clean up the radioactive waste.

Offred, our narrator, a handmaid belongs to Fred, who is on her third and final attempt to conceive a child with a government appointed ‘Commander.’ Every month she has an impersonal intercourse with the Commander and his wife, who is barren.

She had had a child with her husband Luke (a divorcée from his previous wife), before she became Offred and before her marriage was declared void. Everything changed overnight. Money was replaced, women were declared to belong to their men and were offered ‘safety’ and ‘respect’ than they were in the free modern world.

She is desperate to figure what happened to her family, to know what is happening in the world outside the wall, to read write and just to live. She is given a friend Ofglen, who is accountable for Offred’s actions while she runs errands and her for Ofglen.

Offred falls for Nick, the Guardian for the commander, a crime that could lead them both to be publicly hung. Was the risk worth taking? Did she learn anything about her family? Read to know more.

A personal note

Written in the 1980s and still, it has not lost its relevance may reason out why the book is called a classic. If anything, The handmaid’s tale has become more and more pertinent today, given the current world scenario. I hail from a nation where rape seems to the screaming weekly headline, where feminism is more or less a topic for the keyboard warriors and reservation and rationing are the only ways to go by. 

Incidentally, I live in a country which believes in ‘respecting’ women, ‘saving’ them from men, yet are not allowed to make decisions about their unborn fetus. There are nations where women are not even allowed to drive or make a visit to the mall without a proper chaperon. Let us not forget the wall that our dear Mr. Trump has promised to build to protect us from the immigrants and the religious terrorism he is raging against.

You guessed it right, every one of these actions is a fragment of imagination that Margret Atwood takes us through in her novel. And you know what? Somehow we are all conditioned to living and adapting to these rules, that we no longer think that we are complying with them but accepting them as the way of life. Yes, I no longer feel The Handmaid’s Tale is a far-fetched work of fiction.

Book review of The handmaid’s tale

The Handmaid’s Tale might be a little hard to get into, yet once you are into it, you can not stop it. I started reading the book and heard the rest of it when I was out and about living my life because I could not put it down.

The narration is not linear, there are places where you might be confused, especially at the initial parts, but it will grow on you. And oh, I loved the emphasis thrown on the importance of the written and spoken word in creating a new world, as any bibliophile would.

And my dear grammar nazis, yes there are a lot of commas, quotes and other generic rules that are broken, but somehow it works. In fact they make it better. (Mother Earth can swallow me). There are too many seemingly simple lines that make them powerful quotes for that very reason. The ambiguous ending works so well that I cannot stop pondering over.

I am yet to watch Hulu’s take on the book as a TV series, but it is on my to-do list (update: done and I loved it) . You can not read The Handmaid’s Tale  as a breeze through the weekend read. You can not unsee once you have been to the Republic of Gilead and not relate it to the real world.

Bottom-line

If you are one of those who gets offended by the term ‘feminism,’ read the book with an open mind. Given the current state of chaos we live in you will relate to it.

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