Alias Grace: A Novel by Margaret AtwoodAlias Grace: A Novel by Margaret Atwoodsticker-burst

Alias Grace: A Novel

byMargaret Atwood

Paperback | October 5, 2010

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In Alias Grace, bestselling author Margaret Atwood 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?
Margaret Atwood is the author of more than forty volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction, but is best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman (1969), The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), The Robber Bride (1994), Alias Grace (1996), and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000. A ...
Title:Alias Grace: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:592 pages, 7.96 × 5.17 × 1.56 inPublished:October 5, 2010Publisher:McClelland & StewartLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0771008821

ISBN - 13:9780771008825

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love Atwood I loved this book, different than her typical dystopian but a great read!
Date published: 2018-09-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Intriguing It is a long book, but I was intrigued by the story as soon as I began reading and continued to be until I was finished.
Date published: 2018-08-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! I loved getting lost in this one! Atwood did a phenomenal job piecing together historical documents to give this character life. Very gripping.
Date published: 2018-08-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Slow but Good I found this to be a slower read than I would have liked. If you like Atwood, you should give it a try. Otherwise I might pass.
Date published: 2018-08-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intriguing from Start to Finish This is classic Atwood: you're pulled in with the main characters and left wondering by the end, did that really happen? Atwood is brilliant at taking from history and giving this girl a voice. Read it a couple times - you'll want to! (And then watch the miniseries!) #plumreview
Date published: 2018-08-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing as always I have yet to read a book by Margaret Atwood that I did not enjoy. I liked the voice that the author gave to the main character Grace and enjoyed reading all of the little details about her childhood and life before prison. This true story fictionalized by an amazing story teller kept me interested start to finish.
Date published: 2018-08-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing book! If you are thinking of reading anything by Margaret Atwood I would have to say this should be your first! I love that this story was based off a real event, but for the most part it's a work of fiction. I mean who knows what really went on in the mind of the real Grace Marks, but I think Atwood did a great job in trying to reimagine that. It's also cool to read something that takes place so close to home. I live in the GTA so it's cool to see that the characters walk down streets that I recognize.
Date published: 2018-08-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great into to Margaret Atwood My first Atwood book. She is a wonderful story teller and a beautiful writer. My edition included an interview with MA about where she stumbled upon Grace Marks (a real Canadian) and how much of her version is based on fact. Truly an intriguing tale and an interesting look into how/where authors get their ideas. A great introduction to a new author :)
Date published: 2018-08-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Read If you enjoyed The Handmaids Tale you will likely enjoy this book as well, although I found it a little slower.
Date published: 2018-07-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good book I found it interesting that Atwood took an existing historical event and turned it into a novel where she could play around with the characters. The plot line was enjoyable too in the fact that you never quite knew where the main character was truthful or not. However, I found that there were so many underlying events happening that weren't outwardly told, but rather just alluded to. Thus, further into the novel when I thought that the one character was acting strange and I looked up to see what I've missed, it turns out the character had been doing a lot of shady stuff that I never picked up on. I understand that it's probably more my fault that I didn't pick up on it, but if it was presented in a different manner, perhaps I would have enjoyed the novel more.
Date published: 2018-07-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really enjoyed Alias Grace! As a fan of Margaret Atwood's novels, I have to say that Alias Grace is one of my favorites. I love the voice and tone used throughout the story, and the way the author went about setting the scene. As per usual, Margaret Atwood has written an impressive historical fiction piece that ends with a dramatic twist. #PlumRewards
Date published: 2018-07-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not Too Shabby I enjoyed this book, but it was definitely a slow read for me. I appreciated all the details and the history in the book–I feel like I really got to know these characters well. It was very interesting, just not a page turner for me.
Date published: 2018-06-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Pretty Good I had an interesting relationship with this book. I first read the Handmaid's Tale on my kobo before deciding to go gung ho and read some of her other works. I got this one and was pretty intrigued with it until I lost it. I literally lost the book so there was about a week where I didn't read it as I tried to find it and then request it from the library again. It has little to do with my opinion of the story itself but just to kind of give a sense of my journey with it. I find her books - interesting is the right word. Not in a bad way but just that it touches on things not usually discussed in writings (farts and such) and how it draws you into the story in a different way. The discussion of equality and what makes a person kill and poverty and sexual harassment and choices were all very well done though I found the doctors (it's been a little while so I cannot remember the name) behaviour around women a little creepy but maybe that's just the impression she wanted to give of men in general even if they all appear good on the surface. I was also disappointed that SPOILER we do not find out how involved she actually was but I guess since it is based on a real story and in the real story we don't know she wanted to keep it ambiguous. The being possessed seemed a little from the left wing but I guess since it was in front of the spiritualists it was meant to play into their interest and convince them of her innocence but it didn't really work because it still took her years to be released. I also found the ending bittersweet. I mean she didn't love him and I didn't get that sense of chemistry or a sense of happiness from them but I guess she was right in that there wasn't much choice and she had no skills or options for supporting herself. With that said it was a fascinating read with a very honest insight to Pioneer life in Canada especially if you were a woman accused of murder.
Date published: 2018-06-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from ok Not a great Margaret Atwood story. I did not enjoy the dull tone Grace takes.
Date published: 2018-06-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Just OK I didn't love this book. The story was intriguing, but it didn't really grab my attention the way Atwood's other books have.
Date published: 2018-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! One of my favourite Atwood books thus far (and I've read a lot of them)! Definitely not a casual or easy read, but very engaging - as long as you're committed you'll love it! #plumreview
Date published: 2018-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really engaging story! I thought the story was incredible, and I was so happy to have received this as a gift. I think Margaret Atwood has a really unique way of storytelling, which really forces the reader to pay attention. This isn't a casual beach read, but it's a really wonderful book and I'd recommend it in a heartbeat! I loved it.
Date published: 2018-05-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved this! I bought this a month ago and I'm so glad I did! #plumreview
Date published: 2018-05-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Magic Atwood is a magician and this is book is just another masterpiece. I loved reading this book. So beautiful and full of so many details but never boring or frustrating!
Date published: 2018-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Ready for another book like that! I loved this book!!!! Really liked the historical side of the story. Was a big book to read but it went so fast. I want more books like this one for sure!
Date published: 2018-04-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Phenomenal It is a challenging book to read at times, but I love Atwood, she's a fantastic author and in a class of her own.
Date published: 2018-04-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from solid read I liked this book a lot even if it was hard for me personally to get used to the stream of consciousness way of writing that Margaret used for this book. once I got over it though, I could see how well suited it was for this book. loved grace, loved the fact that it was in Canada and I loved the end scenes a lot!
Date published: 2018-04-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Painful This was a painful read. I loved handmaid's tale and generally the way Atwood writes but this one was just boring. So many unnecessary details that sometimes you forget what you were reading. I know a lot of people liked this novel but I just think a lot of unnecessary details lead to the ending, which was interesting. Also like the touch of history in this book.
Date published: 2018-04-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Classic Margaret Atwood I am biased as I love Margaret Atwood, but I thought that this was one of her best.
Date published: 2018-03-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Suspenseful read that was a little dragged out This was my first Margaret Atwood book, which I strategically chose in wake of the new CBC limited series Alias Grace. Atwood has a very unique writing style, that I personally really like and makes for a captivating and pleasant reading experience. I found this particular novel quite interesting and once I found out the main character, Grace Marks, was based on a real person I couldn't wait to finish the book in order to start researching the actual story. From my findings, Atwood's story is consistent with the real one with obvious parts dramatized for entertainment value - this is something I respect and appreciate in an author who retells non-fiction. Perhaps the only thing I didn't like about this book was it's length, sometimes I would find myself a little bored or antsy to skip ahead. Since the story was suspenseful, I would have appreciated a more 'fast paced' account.
Date published: 2018-03-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Slow start, but finished strong I think my expectations may have been a bit too high going into this novel since I'd heard nothing but rave reviews about it. I did enjoy it, but it was slow to capture my interest. I would recommend though -- once it hooked me, I couldn't wait to see how it ended.
Date published: 2018-03-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Intriguing Great book! Especially interesting if you live in GTA area.
Date published: 2018-03-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Atwood doesnt dissapoint One of my favorite books of all time! If you like fictionalized historical events than you will love this book - especially if you live in or around Toronto. Fascinating characters and setting, couldn't put it down
Date published: 2018-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding If you are a Margaret Atwood fan or enjoyed her novel "The Handmaid's Tale" then you should definitely check out Alias Grace. It has a bit of a slow beginning but once the ball gets rolling it takes you on a literary rollercoaster ride you will not forget and that will keep you reading until the very last page!
Date published: 2018-03-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Yes to Atwood! A slow beginning but then then I couldn't have myself put it down. One of my favourites of 2107.
Date published: 2018-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Was a bit slow in the beginning, but once i passed the first few chapters I was hooked. What a page turner. The description of a crime taken place many years before, she really did her research to paint a very detailed picture of what happen (assumed happened). Definitely something i couldn't put down nor did i want it to end!
Date published: 2018-02-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well-written Although perhaps not quite as compelling as The Handmaid's Tale, this book is fascinating and lets readers walk through the streets of historic Toronto and Kingston. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Date published: 2018-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from amazing One of my faves from Atwood to date....a true page turner!
Date published: 2018-02-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Read The true crime aspect of this story, and especially the unknowable parts, are definitely part of the allure. Atwood does a great job of fictionalizing this story.
Date published: 2018-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from LOVED!!! Intriguing!! This was such an interesting read! Purchased after reading The Handmaid's Tale as I soon recoginized that Margaret Atwood's books are some of my all time favourite reads! Nice large book...that kept me riveted and wanting more and more. Love that its based on a true story...another beautifully done read from Atwood!
Date published: 2018-02-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great A novel rich in historical fiction content. An intriguing story.
Date published: 2018-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from AN ASTOUNDING NOVEL I loved reading this novel because of its detail and historical fiction content. The story of Grace Marks is so interesting, and Atwood's take on this piece of Canadian history truly intrigues its readers.
Date published: 2018-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love this Author This is a must have in on your book shelf, such a good classic from an amazing author
Date published: 2018-01-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok Love reading a chapter before bed.
Date published: 2018-01-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from great book more sedate than atwood's other work, no less engrossing or visceral.
Date published: 2018-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Her writing is so mesmerizing.
Date published: 2018-01-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Atwood As usual Atwood always delivers, each of her books give us something to think about.
Date published: 2017-12-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great I bought this for my mom after she watched a couple episodes of the show. I hope she enjoys it
Date published: 2017-12-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great I bought this for my mom after she watched a couple episodes of the show. I hope she enjoys it
Date published: 2017-12-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Intriguing!! This was such an interesting read! I got the book after I read The Handmaid's Tale and realized that I really enjoy Margaret Atwood's books. It's a thick book so it took me a little longer to read than usual, but it was interesting and kept me wanting more. I enjoyed that it was based on a true story, and that the mystery of the story remained throughout the entire book.
Date published: 2017-12-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood And as we notice Atwood’s abilities in working with patches, we recognized her literary artistry and her understanding of the powers of fiction. When stories are woven they are nothing at all, but when they are finished, with all their parts sewn together, they become what they are. Not surprisingly is Scheherezade invoked in the novel. For stories, mixing truths and falsities acquire the nature of something else. They are not too different from the Tree of Paradise, the tree of Life and of Good & Evil.
Date published: 2017-12-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Real Page Turner From the moment I started reading, I could not put this book done. The story takes many twists and turns and keeps the reader guessing right to the last page
Date published: 2017-11-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Didn't want to put it down! I read this for a senior year high school English class. We had to select a work by a Canadian author. Really enjoyed reading this novel, all the historical aspects, and the whole sense that it is based around true events.
Date published: 2017-11-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good interpretation of real events. This is the second Atwood novel I have read. I have to say that I enjoyed the character development and the way the author set the scene. One thing I wish I knew is what really happened to Grace in real life. Atwood's interpretation of events was believable and I found it an enjoyable read.
Date published: 2017-11-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Margaret Atwood is amazing! Well written and engaging. Interesting story based on historical events.
Date published: 2017-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great read My first Margaret Atwood read, and I will definitely go back to her again. Phenomenally written and an intriguing story.
Date published: 2017-10-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from By far my favourite Atwood novel This is the Atwood book I recommend to people who want to read one of her novels. A++
Date published: 2017-10-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Tough to get into This book did not have me hooked right away. I started it and actually left it for about a month before I picked it up again and got into it. Once I was hooked though I was hard to put down
Date published: 2017-10-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this Book I really enjoyed this book! Im looking forward to the tv series!
Date published: 2017-10-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Classic Atwood writing A bit to get into but once you do there is no stopping. Wonderful read. Recommend the book before the show.
Date published: 2017-09-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Buy Bought this about a month ago and it is great
Date published: 2017-09-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Classic Atwood Wanted to read this book before the mini series aired. Initially I was put off by the size of the book and the dense prose. However, once I got started, I was hooked. Great story. Bravo Ms Atwood.
Date published: 2017-09-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Alias Grace is a story waiting for an outstanding author to tell it. Margaret Atwood brings to life the true story of a young girl in Southern Ontario who becomes caught up in a terrible murder. Based on true facts, and written as a historical fiction, Margaret Atwood makes this an unforgettable read.
Date published: 2017-09-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Amazing story Enjoyed the book very much.
Date published: 2017-09-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Canadian Fiction Wonderful novel. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2017-09-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from excellent read An excellent read, cant wait for the show on cbc
Date published: 2017-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from excellent book as someone who lives in Kingston, this is one of the best depictions of our city
Date published: 2017-09-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Canadian historical read I bought this last week and could not put it down. Really interesting piece of Canadian fiction, based on true events. Now I want to visit Kingston again. Very interesting ending to this book, not too expected at all. Atwood at her best!
Date published: 2017-09-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from yes quite insightful and overall enjoyable.
Date published: 2017-09-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great great story and characters
Date published: 2017-07-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Unique! I read this during my last year in high school and have continued to read books by Margaret Atwood since!! The style of writing is so unique and complex and the story was told in such a brilliant way. Is different enough that you'll either like it completely or not like it at all.
Date published: 2017-07-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from OK It was mildly entertaining and a bit disappointing.
Date published: 2017-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from By far my favorite book I loved this book so much. I find once you get through the first 100 pages and get use the style of writing you fly through it in a breeze. The story has me still spinning it in my head about how Grace really was.
Date published: 2017-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from First Margaret Atwood book I ever read I had tried other books by Atwood but found them not to my liking or too hard to get into. Not this one though. I was plunged into a whole new world and i couldn't put it down. I didn't want it to end. One of the best books I have ever read. Highly recommended!!
Date published: 2017-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Totally lost myself in this read!
Date published: 2017-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this read! Alias Grace was my first Margaret Atwood novel and it did not disappoint. Based on a true story, Alias Grace painted a vivid picture of life and justice in early Canada.
Date published: 2017-03-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great book This was the first novel that I read by this author. What drew me to the story was that it was based on true events. I love how Margaret Atwood gave life to the character of Grace Marks. I was entranced and fell in love with her writing.
Date published: 2017-03-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great book! It's quite a heavy read, with lots of twists. It's really hard to understand some themes but it's such an interesting book where it will def leave you to create your own conclusion which can be annoying but very intriguing #plumreview
Date published: 2017-02-20
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Eh I found this novel hard to get through, although the story is good, I just found the writing tedious. I am an Atwood fan so blame the reader and not the writer to n this one. it will not stop me from reading her books.
Date published: 2017-01-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great book! This is the first book I read by Margaret Atwood and I loved it.
Date published: 2017-01-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating I really enjoyed this because it is loosely based on the real murders. The book gives some humanity to Grace while still leaving an uneasy feeling of doubt about her innocence. Very well done.
Date published: 2016-12-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent This was one of the first books by Margaret Atwood that I read that got me hooked on her books. It is an interesting read and I loved it.
Date published: 2016-12-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Loved this! This is one my of faves from Margaret Atwood. Totally recommend!
Date published: 2016-12-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent read. I have read quite a few of Margaret Atwood's books and this is another that did not let me down. Very interesting read and I love how she took true events and made it into her own story. Definitely worth the read.
Date published: 2016-12-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Heavy ...and wonderful. Story really sticks with you. This was my first Margaret Atwood read and I haven't forgotten it.
Date published: 2016-11-18
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

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 walk, nothing touches their legs under the billowing skirts, except their shifts and stockings. They are like swans, drifting along on unseen feet; or else like the jellyfish in the waters of the rocky harbour near our house, when I was little, before I ever made the long sad journey across the ocean. They were bell-shaped and ruffled, gracefully waving and lovely under the sea; but if they washed up on the beach and dried out in the sun there was nothing left of them. And that is what the ladies are like: mostly water.There were no wire crinolines when I was first brought here. They were horsehair then, as the wire ones were not thought of. I have looked at them hanging in the wardrobes, when I go in to tidy and empty the slops. They are like birdcages; but what is being caged in? Legs, the legs of ladies; legs penned in so they cannot get out and go rubbing up against the gentlemen's trousers. The Governor's wife never says legs, although the newspapers said legs when they were talking about Nancy, with her dead legs sticking out from under the washtub.It isn't only the jellyfish ladies that come. On Tuesdays we have the Woman Question, and the emancipation of this or that, with reform-minded persons of both sexes; and on Thursdays the Spiritualist Circle, for tea and conversing with the dead, which is a comfort to the Governor's wife because of her departed infant son. But mainly it is the ladies. They sit sipping from the thin cups, and the Governor's wife rings a little china bell. She does not like being the Governor's wife, she would prefer the Governor to be the governor of something other than a prison. The Governor had good enough friends to get him made the Governor, but not for anything else.So here she is, and she must make the most of her social position and accomplishments, and although an object of fear, like a spider, and of charity as well, I am also one of the accomplishments. I come into the room and curtsy and move about, mouth straight, head bent, and I pick up the cups or set them down, depending; and they stare without appearing to, out from under their bonnets.The reason they want to see me is that I am a celebrated murderess. Or that is what has been written down. When I first saw it I was surprised because they say Celebrated Singer and Celebrated Poetess and Celebrated Spiritualist and Celebrated Actress, but what is there to celebrate about murder? All the same, Murderess is a strong word to have attached to you. It has a smell to it, that word—musky and oppressive, like dead flowers in a vase. Sometimes at night I whisper it over to myself. Murderess, Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt across the floor.Murderer is merely brutal. It's like a hammer, or a lump of metal. I would rather be a murderess than a murderer, if those are the only choices.Sometimes when I am dusting the mirror with the grapes I look at myself in it, although I know it is vanity. In the afternoon light of the parlour my skin is a pale mauve, like a faded bruise, and my teeth are greenish. I think of all the things that have been written about me—that I am an inhuman female demon, that I am an innocent victim of a blackguard forced against my will and in danger of my own life, that I was too ignorant to know how to act and that to hang me would be judicial murder, that I am fond of animals, that I am very handsome with a brilliant complexion, that I have blue eyes, that I have green eyes, that I have auburn and also brown hair, that I am tall and also not above the average height, that I am well and decently dressed, that I robbed a dead woman to appear so, that I am brisk and smart about my work, that I am of a sullen disposition with a quarrelsome temper, that I have the appearance of a person rather above my humble station, that I am a good girl with a pliable nature and no harm is told of me, that I am cunning and devious, that I am soft in the head and little better than an idiot. And I wonder, how can I be all of these different things at once?It was my own lawyer, Mr. Kenneth MacKenzie, Esq., who told them I was next door to an idiot. I was angry with him over that, but he said it was by far my best chance and I should not appear to be too intelligent. He said he would plead my case to the utmost of his ability, because whatever the truth of the matter I was little more than a child at the time, and he supposed it came down to free will and whether or not one held with it. He was a kind gentleman although I could not make head nor tail of much of what he said, but it must have been good pleading. The newspapers wrote that he performed heroically against overwhelming odds. Though I don't know why they called it pleading, as he was not pleading but trying to make all of the witnesses appear immoral or malicious, or else mistaken.I wonder if he ever believed a word I said.When I have gone out of the room with the tray, the ladies look at the Governor's wife's scrapbook. Oh imagine, I feel quite faint, they say, and You let that woman walk around loose in your house, you must have nerves of iron, my own would never stand it. Oh well one must get used to such things in our situation, we are virtually prisoners ourselves you know, although one must feel pity for these poor benighted creatures, and after all she was trained as a servant, and it's as well to keep them employed, she is a wonderful seamstress, quite deft and accomplished, she is a great help in that way especially with the girls' frocks, she has an eye for trimmings, and under happier circumstances she could have made an excellent milliner's assistant.Although naturally she can be here only during the day, I would not have her in the house at night. You are aware that she has spent time in the Lunatic Asylum in Toronto, seven or eight years ago it was, and although she appears to be perfectly recovered you never know when they may get carried away again, sometimes she talks to herself and sings out loud in a most peculiar manner. One cannot take chances, the keepers conduct her back in the evenings and lock her up properly, otherwise I wouldn't be able to sleep a wink. Oh I don't blame you, there is only so far one can go in Christian charity, a leopard cannot change its spots and no one could say you have not done your duty and shown a proper feeling.The Governor's wife's scrapbook is kept on the round table with the silk shawl covering it, branches like vines intertwined, with flowers and red fruit and blue birds, it is really one large tree and if you stare at it long enough the vines begin to twist as if a wind is blowing them. It was sent from India by her eldest daughter who is married to a missionary, which is not a thing I would care to do myself. You would be sure to die early, if not from the rioting natives as at Cawnpore with horrid outrages committed on the persons of respectable gentlewomen, and a mercy they were all slaughtered and put out of their misery, for only think of the shame; then from the malaria, which turns you entirely yellow, and you expire in raving fits; in any case before you could turn around, there you would be, buried under a palm tree in a foreign clime. I have seen pictures of them in the book of Eastern engravings the Governor's wife takes out when she wishes to shed a tear.On the same round table is the stack of Godey's Ladies' Books with the fashions that come up from the States, and also the Keepsake Albums of the two younger daughters. Miss Lydia tells me I am a romantic figure; but then the two of them are so young they hardly know what they are saying. Sometimes they pry and tease; they say, Grace, why don't you ever smile or laugh, we never see you smiling, and I say I suppose Miss I have gotten out of the way of it. My face won't bend in that direction any more. But if I laughed out loud I might not be able to stop; and also it would spoil their romantic notion of me. Romantic people are not supposed to laugh, I know that much from looking at the pictures.The daughters put all kinds of things into their albums, little scraps of cloth from their dresses, little snippets of ribbon, pictures cut from magazines—the Ruins of Ancient Rome, the Picturesque Monasteries of the French Alps, Old London Bridge, Niagara Falls in summer and in winter, which is a thing I would like to see as all say it is very impressive, and portraits of Lady This and Lord That from England. And their friends write things in their graceful handwriting, To Dearest Lydia from your Eternal Friend, Clara Richards; To Dearest Marianne In Memory of Our Splendid Picnic on the Shores of Bluest Lake Ontario. And also poems:As round about the sturdy Oak Entwines the loving Ivy Vine, My Faith so true, I pledge to You, 'Twill evermore be none but Thine, Your Faithful Laura.Or else:Although from you I far must roam, Do not be broken hearted, We two who in the Soul are One Are never truly parted. Your Lucy.This young lady was shortly afterwards drowned in the Lake when her ship went down in a gale, and nothing was ever found but her box with her initials done in silver nails; it was still locked, so although damp, nothing spilt out, and Miss Lydia was given a scarf out of it as a keepsake.When I am dead and in my grave And all my bones are rotten,When this you see, remember me, Lest I should be forgotten.That one is signed, I will always be with you in Spirit, Your loving 'Nancy', Hannah Edmonds, and I must say the first time I saw that, it gave me a fright, although of course it was a different Nancy. Still, the rotten bones. They would be, by now. Her face was all black by the time they found her, there must have been a dreadful smell. It was so hot then, it was July, still she went off surprisingly soon, you'd think she would have kept longer in the dairy, it is usually cool down there. I am certainly glad I was not present, as it would have been very distressing.I don't know why they are all so eager to be remembered. What good will it do them? There are some things that should be forgotten by everyone, and never spoken of again.The Governor's wife's scrapbook is quite different. Of course she is a grown woman and not a young girl, so although she is just as fond of remembering, what she wants to remember is not violets or a picnic. No Dearest and Love and Beauty, no Eternal Friends, none of those things for her; what it has instead is all the famous criminals in it—the ones that have been hanged, or else brought here to be penitent, because this is a Penitentiary and you are supposed to repent while in it, and you will do better if you say you have done so, whether you have anything to repent of or not.The Governor's wife cuts these crimes out of the newspapers and pastes them in; she will even write away for old newspapers with crimes that were done before her time. It is her collection, she is a lady and they are all collecting things these days, and so she must collect something, and she does this instead of pulling up ferns or pressing flowers, and in any case she likes to horrify her acquaintances.So I have read what they put in about me. She showed the scrapbook to me herself, I suppose she wanted to see what I would do; but I've learnt how to keep my face still, I made my eyes wide and flat, like an owl's in torchlight, and I said I had repented in bitter tears, and was now a changed person, and would she wish me to remove the tea things now; but I've looked in there since, many times, when I've been in the parlour by myself.A lot of it is lies. They said in the newspaper that I was illiterate, but I could read some even then. I was taught early by my mother, before she got too tired for it, and I did my sampler with leftover thread, A is for Apple, B is for Bee; and also Mary Whitney used to read with me, at Mrs. Alderman Parkinson's, when we were doing the mending; and I've learnt a lot more since being here, as they teach you on purpose. They want you to be able to read the Bible, and also tracts, as religion and thrashing are the only remedies for a depraved nature and our immortal souls must be considered. It is shocking how many crimes the Bible contains. The Governor's wife should cut them all out and paste them into her scrapbook.They did say some true things. They said I had a good character; and that was so, because nobody had ever taken advantage of me, although they tried. But they called James McDermott my paramour. They wrote it down, right in the newspaper. I think it is disgusting to write such things down.That is what really interests them—the gentlemen and the ladies both. They don't care if I killed anyone, I could have cut dozens of throats, it's only what they admire in a soldier, they'd scarcely blink. No: was I really a paramour, is their chief concern, and they don't even know themselves whether they want the answer to be no or yes.I'm not looking at the scrapbook now, because they may come in at any moment. I sit with my rough hands folded, eyes down, staring at the flowers in the Turkey carpet. Or they are supposed to be flowers. They have petals the shape of the diamonds on a playing card; like the cards spread out on the table at Mr. Kinnear's, after the gentlemen had been playing the night before. Hard and angular. But red, a deep thick red. Thick strangled tongues.

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-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?Discussion questions provided courtesy of Anchor Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. All rights reserved.

Editorial Reviews

"A sublime read.... As satisfying as the best whodunit." London Free Press

"Atwood has surpassed herself, writing with a glittering, singing intensity." New York Review of Books

"Atwood confirms her status as the outstanding novelist of our age." The Sunday Times (UK)