Thursday, January 28, 2010

Review: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

“When I was younger I used to think that if I could hug myself tight enough I
could make myself smaller, because there was never enough room for me, at home
or anywhere, but if I was smaller, I might fit in.” (P 33)

Alias Grace is based on the true story of Canadian Grace, who was accused and convicted of killing her employer, Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper and mistress, Nancy Montgomery. She along with the stable hand are arrested in an inn after the bodies are discovered.

The book flashes to the present where Grace Marks is being interviewed by Dr. Simon Jordan who was hired by a committee that wants to free Grace from prison. She slowly tells her story to Dr. Jordan from crossing the Atlantic with her family to her various jobs before landing at Kinnear's house at the age of 16.

Atwood became interested in Marks' story after reading the works of Susanna Moodie who had written many items on Grace and had met her at least twice. Atwood originally believed what Moodie wrote and even wrote a collection of poems and a television script based off of Moodie's version of Grace's life. However, after digging a bit deeper Atwood realized huge discrepancies in Moodie's version and set out to write her own. In the back of the novel, Atwood contends that she didn't change any of the absolute truth but added her own to other parts.

I really enjoyed Atwood's writing in this book, much more so than Cat's Eye. It would probably rank second after Handmaid's Tale in my favorite of Atwood's novels I have read. It wasn't laced with too many descriptions of crap I don't care to know about or symbolism that made me want to poke my eyeballs out. I did like how the chapters were different names of quilts, which I didn't know right away I will admit I used my trusty google to help me. :)

I also liked how she linked things together and that you got a great picture of the type of people that the main characters were. Not just a glossing over. I also enjoyed the quotes, letters and snippets from Moodie's writing and other newspaper articles throughout the book.

Gone mad is what they say, and sometimes Run Mad, as if mad is a direction, like
west; as if mad is a different house you could step into, or a separate country
entirely. But when you go mad you don’t go any other place, you stay where you
are. And somebody else comes in. - Alias Grace

I will say in the end, I think Grace was a very troubled girl who probably didn't tell the entire truth and based on Atwood's version probably believed herself innocent even though she played a part. Did she actively participate or play a silent partner? Did she know what was going to happen or only after the fact? Did she have amnesia or was that a cop out? I do think she was incredibly selfish, but who wouldn't be. She was all alone in the world and had to look out for herself.

Definitely worth a read. If you've read this book what did you think? Have you heard the story of Grace Marks before? What are your opinions? And Canadian readers, any other awesome Canadian authors I should check out?


Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I haven't read this book but it sounds intriguing!!

Anonymous said...

I still haven't read Atwood, but everytime I read a review of one of her books I know I need to!

Marie Cloutier said...

I loved this book- I think you know that, LOL- and I'm so glad you read it and enjoyed it :-)