Alias Grace: A Novel

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Alias Grace: A Novel

by Margaret Atwood

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | October 13, 1997 | Trade Paperback |

4.7333 out of 5 rating. 15 Reviews
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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?

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 480 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.79 in

Published: October 13, 1997

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385490445

ISBN - 13: 9780385490443

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– More About This Product –

Alias Grace: A Novel

by Margaret Atwood

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 480 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.79 in

Published: October 13, 1997

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0385490445

ISBN - 13: 9780385490443

Read from the Book

1859. I am sitting on the purple velvet settee in the Governor''s parlour, the Governor''s wife''s parlour; it has always been the Governor''s wife''s parlour although it is not always the same wife, as they change them around according to the politics. I have my hands folded in my lap the proper way although I have no gloves. The gloves I would wish to have would be smooth and white, and would be without a wrinkle. I am often in this parlour, clearing away the tea things and dusting the small tables and the long mirror with the frame of grapes and leaves around its and the pianoforte; and the tall clock that came from Europe, with the orange-gold sun and the silver moon, that go in and out according to the time of day and the week of the month. I like the clock best of anything in the parlour, although it measures time and I have too much of that on my hands already. But I have never sat down on the settee before, as it is for the guests. Mrs. Alderman Parkinson said a lady must never sit in a chair a gentleman has just vacated, though she would not say why; but Mary Whitney said, Because, you silly goose, it''s still warm from his bum; which was a coarse thing to say. So I cannot sit here without thinking of the ladylike bums that have sat on this very settee, all delicate and white, like wobbly softboiled eggs. The visitors wear afternoon dresses with rows of buttons up their fronts, and stiff wire crinolines beneath. It''s a wonder they can sit down at all, and when they
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From the Publisher

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?

From the Jacket

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?

About the Author

Margaret Atwood is the author of over twenty-five books, including fiction, poetry, and essays.  Among her most recent works are the bestselling novels Cat''s Eye and The Robber Bride, and the collections Wilderness Tips and Good Bones and Simple Murders.  She lives in Toronto.

Author Interviews

Q: Many of the characters in Alias Grace , including Grace Marks, are historical figures. How did you first discover this story? A: I came across it a long time ago when I was writing a series of poems about one of the people who makes an appearance in the book--Susanna Moodie, who wrote the story. But she wrote it, as she says, from memory, and she got a lot of it wrong, as I found when I went back to the actual newspapers of the time and went into things such as the prison records. It always bothered me that the story Moodie told was so theatrical. It made you wonder, could it really have been like that? And when I went back to check, in fact, it wasn’t. She had done a certain amount of embroidery. Q: How did you determine when to stick to the facts, and when to fictionalize? A: When there was a known fact, I felt that I had to use it. In other words, I stuck to the known facts when they were truly known. But when there were gaps or when there were things suggested that nobody ever explained, I felt I was free to invent. For instance, Mary Whitney was the name that appeared as Grace’s alias in the picture that accompanies her confession, but none of the commentators ever mentions a thing about it. Although people at the time may have set down a version of events, you can’t actually go back and question them. And they leave out the things that you would most like to know. People don’t have the consideration to foresee that you might be interested in this stuff 150 years late
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Editorial Reviews

"Alias Grace has all the pacing of a commercial novel and all the resonance of a classic."
--Washington Post Book World

"A stunning novel full of sly wit, compassion and insight, boasting writing that is lyrical, assured, evocative of time and place, and seductive in its power to engage us."
--Houston Chronicle

"Atwood provides the elements of a walloping good read: suspense, mystery, titillation, and a fully crafted but never ponderous historical milieu."
--St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Villain or victim, Atwood''s Grace is intriguing company."
--People

"A shadowy, fascinating novel."
--Time

Bookclub Guide

1. This novel is rooted in physical reality, on one hand, and floats free of it on the other, as Atwood describes physical things in either organic, raw terms (the "tongue-colored settee") or with otherworldly, more ephemeral images (the laundry like "angels rejoicing, although without any heads"). How do such descriptions deepen and reinforce the themes in the novel?

2. The daily and seasonal rhythm of household work is described in detail. What role does this play in the novel in regard to its pace?

3. Atwood employs two main points of view and voices in the novel. Do you trust one more than the other? As the story progresses, does Grace''s voice (in dialogue) in Simon''s part of the story change? If so, how and why?

4. Grace''s and Simon''s stories are linked and they have a kinship on surface and deeper levels. For instance, they both eavesdrop or spy as children, and later, each stays in a house that would have been better left sooner or not entered at all. Discuss other similarities or differences in the twinning of their stories and their psyches.

5. Atwood offers a vision of the dual nature of people, houses, appearances, and more. How does she make use of darkness and light, and to what purpose?

6. In a letter to his friend Dr. Edward Murchie, Simon Jordan writes, "Not to know--to snatch at hints and portents, at intimations, at tantalizing whispers--it is as bad as being haunted." How are the characters in this story affected by the things they don''t know?

7. How and why does Atwood conceal Grace''s innocence or guilt throughout the novel? At what points does one become clearer than the other and at what points does it become unclear?

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