Alias Grace

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Alias Grace

by Margaret Atwood

Doubleday Canada | March 14, 2000 | Mass Market Paperbound

Alias Grace is rated 4.7333 out of 5 by 15.
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: Mass Market Paperbound

Dimensions: 592 pages, 6.9 × 4.15 × 1.25 in

Published: March 14, 2000

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0770428495

ISBN - 13: 9780770428495

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Book I read this book for a high school Canadian literature course, it is a heavy read but is one of my favorite books. would recommend it, absolutely loved it
Date published: 2014-07-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I fell in love with this book. Alias Grace is a fiction based off of the true story of Grace Marks, Ontario's first murderess. As a young immigrant to the country, Grace was forced to make her own life in Toronto, and eventually found her way to Richmond Hill where she worked for several months. It is here, that she allegedly had a hand in the murder of her employer and his housekeeper. The book starts out with an intriguing dream and it's in a similar manner that Atwood weaves this tale. She takes you through Grace's childhood (narrated by Grace to her psychologist) into her years as a young woman working in many houses and mansions, past the murder and the trial and into the rest of Grace's life. This is a book you become invested in.
Date published: 2010-08-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Canadian historical fiction So this will be the second Atwood novel I've read in about a year -- the first being The Edible Woman. While The Edible Woman is more of a commentary on consumer culture (it almost reminds me of a feminist version of DeLillo's White Noise), Alias Grace is at the other end of the spectrum entirely as it is historical fiction. With Grace Marks, Atwood creates a memorable character -- not unlike other protagonists she has created in the past. Alias Grace is a bewildering gothic tale of gender ideology, murder, the historical, and the fictitious. It definitely is a novel that will stay with you long after you have finished it, and offers more questions than answers. Great read; I'd recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Atwood, Canadian fiction or historical fiction in general. A good novel for discussion as well.
Date published: 2010-03-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fascinating! This fictionalized account is based on the true story of 16 year old Grace Marks who was accused and found guilty of accessory to the murders of her master and his mistress, the housekeeper, in 1840s Toronto, Canada. As the book starts Grace is in prison and is waiting to be seen by a doctor who has obtained permission to study her. He is not the usual type of doctor but rather a doctor of the mind. The narrative of the book switches from the 1st person of Grace to the third person narrative of the doctor and between these narratives are letters between the characters, excerpts from contemporary papers and poetry. The switching views and narratives keeps the reading moving. I particularly enjoy this type of back and forth narrative. Atwood has done a splendid job of filling in the spaces and presenting a perfectly plausible story of what really may have happened. I really enjoyed the book. The themes are among my favourite topics, Victorian era prisons, asylums, a madwoman, a sensational murder case, and these all make for interesting reading. The character of Grace is fully realized and we care what has happened to her and will become of her but we never really know whether she is guilty, innocent or insane. Atwood's books often give off literary airs but sometimes I think they are just great genre fiction and this one is a magnificent historical fiction. Great book!
Date published: 2008-05-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Now addicted I absolutely loved this book! It was my first Atwood book, and now I'm addicted. I want to read all of her books.
Date published: 2007-11-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic! “Alias Grace” takes place during the 1800’s in Canada. On July 23, 1843 the murders of a farmer Thomas Kinnar and his mistress and housekeeper Nancy Montgomery occurred. Furthermore, Grace Marks and James McDermott, both servants to Thomas Kinnar, had left the country and were found in the Unites States of America. They were accused of murdering Nancy and Thomas and were tried for murder on November 1843. James McDermott was convicted and sentenced to hang. On the other hand, Grace was convicted also but was sentenced to life in jail at the Kingston Penitentiary. As the story unfolds the readers are left to determine whether or not Grace was innocent or guilty and to come to their own conclusion concerning what really happened on the day the murders had taken place. Although this book is fiction, Margaret Atwood based this story around a real crime. Atwood captivates the readers by forcing them to look at Grace Marks through different perspectives. I recommend this book.
Date published: 2006-07-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read I found this book to facinating especially when I discovered the character was a real person. I found myself wanting to research the event after reading the story. Margaret Atwood has a great way of describing detail in a way that make you want to visit the places that she writes about. I have recommended this book to all of my friends.
Date published: 2001-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captivating Margaret Atwood weaves insight and suspense into this historical tale. The language is beautifully poetic and makes this captivating subject even more so. Particularly notable about its telling is the overlapping of actual facts with fictional ones, and the voices and viewpoints of many different characters. Such handling of the story left me in awe at every page. I am now decidedly an Atwood fan.
Date published: 2001-01-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fact and fiction An insightful and somewhat tongue-in-cheek comment on the misinterpretation and deliberate sensationalism that can occur in a media circus that occurs during and after a murder trial. Centered around 1800 characters, the romanticized and villianized portrayals of an unlikely alleged murderer could be easily transposed to reflect modern-day portrayals of media darlings-- regardless of their respective claims to fame.
Date published: 2000-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Atwood's best novel Margaret Atwood does a superb job of captivating her audience with an incredible array of characters and a wonderfully written plot that is different than the rest of her books. Grace Marks comes alive, a young girl at the centre of tragedy and hardship. It is clear that Atwood has spent a great deal of time researching the real story and using her wrtiting talents to finctionaize it in a believable way. I can picture Old Toronto and Kingston in her descriptions. If you want to read an Atwood classic, read this if you don't read anything else. This is in my top ten list!
Date published: 2000-12-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from HerStory Alias Grace is an enchanting tale where fact and fiction are melded to create a perfect escape. Atwood brought the characters back to life. Describing the house, landscape, wardrobe - everything in such detail, that I felt as though I watched the story instead of reading it.
Date published: 2000-11-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Read Alias Grace is truly one of Margaret Atwoods greatest novels. The fact that she uses an actual event in Canadian history makes it even better. The characters are believable and real. The story line never dulls or becomes boring. This is a great book. I couldn't put it down.
Date published: 2000-11-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from COULDN'T PUT THIS ONE DOWN The more I read Margaret Atwood the more I love her style of writing. This was really well done and it is one of the best written novels I have ever read. It is based on a real character and after finishing the novel I was compelled to find out how much was actually known about the main character, Grace Marks
Date published: 2000-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Alias Grace Alias Grace is a very powerful book written in a "mosiac" manner. Margaret Atwood takes a true story about a woman living in "Toronto" in the 1800's and tells us about a suppossed murder and it's consequences through the eyes of many characters. The characters are very believable, and due to Atwood's individualized character traits, one feels empathetic to many of the characters. Atwood also adds a sense of mystery to the book in that some characters believe Grace to be guilty and others believe her to be innocent...one has to keep reading to find out the truth! This is an excellent book, and one that is hard to put down. Enjoy your read!
Date published: 2000-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Alias Grace An excellent read...one can not help but to feel for Grace. I also found it enjoyable because it is a book based on fact in an area not far from home. M. Atwood is a wonderful author.
Date published: 1999-06-19

– More About This Product –

Alias Grace

by Margaret Atwood

Format: Mass Market Paperbound

Dimensions: 592 pages, 6.9 × 4.15 × 1.25 in

Published: March 14, 2000

Publisher: Doubleday Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0770428495

ISBN - 13: 9780770428495

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?

About the Author

Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa in 1939, and grew up in northern Quebec and Ontario, and later in Toronto. She has lived in numerous cities in Canada, the U.S., and Europe. She is the author of more than forty books — novels, short stories, poetry, literary criticism, social history, and books for children. Atwood’s work is acclaimed internationally and has been published around the world. Her novels include The Handmaid’s Tale and Cat’s Eye — both shortlisted for the Booker Prize; The Robber Bride , winner of the Trillium Book Award and a finalist for the Governor General’s Award; Alias Grace , winner of the prestigious Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy, and a finalist for the Governor General’s Award, the Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; The Blind Assassin , winner of the Booker Prize and a finalist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; and Oryx and Crake , a finalist for The Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Award, the Orange Prize, and the Man Booker Prize. Her most recent books of fiction are The Penelopiad , The Tent , and Moral Disorder . She is the recipient of numerous honours, such as The Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence in the U.K., the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature in the U.S., Le Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France, and she was the first winner of the London Literary Priz
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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
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From Our Editors

Grace Marks does not come from a moneyed background, and she lacks the respectability or formal education to get anything more respectable than a housemaid’s position. Not long after her arrival in Canada from Ireland, she finds employment with Nancy Montgomery and winds up regretting it when the authorities come knocking on her door, claiming Grace murdered her. Several years following her conviction, Grace spills her life’s story to Dr. Simon Jordan, a medical doctor exploring the realm of mental illness. Perhaps he is the only one who will ever be able to unlock the secrets Grace has kept stored for so long in Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace.

 

Editorial Reviews

“Brilliantly realized, intellectually provocative and maddeningly suspenseful.” – Maclean ’ s “Atwood confirms her status as the outstanding novelist of our age.” – Sunday Times (U.K.) “Atwood not only crafts an eerie, unsettling tale of murder and obsession, but also a stunning portrait of the lives of women in another time.” – Kirkus Reviews “A masterpiece…perhaps Atwood’s best, most important novel to date.” – Ottawa Citizen “A great book of such wit, wisdom and dazzling storytelling that it leaves me in no doubt that Atwood is the most outstanding novelist currently writing in English.” – Sydney Morning Herald “Atwood’s humor has never been slyer, her command of complex material more adept, her eroticism franker.…This is a stupendous performance. . . .” – Booklist “[Atwood] has surpassed herself, writing with a glittering, singing intensity.…” – New York Review of Books “Stunning.…Atwood is in perfect control. And her fusion of real events and fiction is as contemporary as it is ingenious.” – Calgary Herald “A rare and splendid novel that pulls you in and won’t let go.…” – Washington Post Book World “Atwood’s imaginative control of her period flows, irresistible and superb.…[She] has pushed the art to its extremes and the result is devastatin
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Bookclub Guide

Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa in 1939, and grew up in northern Quebec and Ontario, and later in Toronto. She has lived in numerous cities in Canada, the U.S., and Europe.

She is the author of more than forty books — novels, short stories, poetry, literary criticism, social history, and books for children. Atwood’s work is acclaimed internationally and has been published around the world. Her novels include The Handmaid’s Tale and Cat’s Eye — both shortlisted for the Booker Prize; The Robber Bride, winner of the Trillium Book Award and a finalist for the Governor General’s Award; Alias Grace, winner of the prestigious Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy, and a finalist for the Governor General’s Award, the Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; The Blind Assassin, winner of the Booker Prize and a finalist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; and Oryx and Crake, a finalist for The Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Award, the Orange Prize, and the Man Booker Prize. Her most recent books of fiction are The Penelopiad, The Tent, and Moral Disorder. She is the recipient of numerous honours, such as The Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence in the U.K., the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature in the U.S., Le Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France, and she was the first winner of the London Literary Prize. She has received honorary degrees from universities across Canada, and one from Oxford University in England.

Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto with novelist Graeme Gibson.


From the Hardcover edition.

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-coloured 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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