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Brilliant,
Dramatic,
Interesting

1 review

alias Grace.
by Margaret Atwood

Published: 2011-06-08
Kindle Edition : 482 pages
51 members reading this now
26 clubs reading this now
17 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 1 of 1 members
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Handmaid's Tale

Soon to be a Netflix Original series, Alias Grace takes readers into the life of one of the most notorious women of the nineteenth century.

It’s 1843, and Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the ...
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Introduction

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Handmaid's Tale

Soon to be a Netflix Original series, Alias Grace takes readers into the life of one of the most notorious women of the nineteenth century.

It’s 1843, and Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer and 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.

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?

Captivating and disturbing, Alias Grace showcases bestselling, Booker Prize-winning author Margaret Atwood at the peak of her powers.

Editorial Review

In 1843, a 16-year-old Canadian housemaid named Grace Marks was tried for the murder of her employer and his mistress. The sensationalistic trial made headlines throughout the world, and the jury delivered a guilty verdict. Yet opinion remained fiercely divided about Marks--was she a spurned woman who had taken out her rage on two innocent victims, or was she an unwilling victim herself, caught up in a crime she was too young to understand? Such doubts persuaded the judges to commute her sentence to life imprisonment, and Marks spent the next 30 years in an assortment of jails and asylums, where she was often exhibited as a star attraction. In Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood reconstructs Marks's story in fictional form. Her portraits of 19th-century prison and asylum life are chilling in their detail. The author also introduces Dr. Simon Jordan, who listens to the prisoner's tale with a mixture of sympathy and disbelief. In his effort to uncover the truth, Jordan uses the tools of the then rudimentary science of psychology. But the last word belongs to the book's narrator--Grace herself.

Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

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?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by cdunbar (see profile) 01/03/18

 
by Ljwagoner (see profile) 04/04/17

3.75?? More wonderful writing by Margaret Atwood. This book is different in that this book was based on a true story. The story did progress slowly, but I found it a compelling read none the less.

 
  "don't be put off if beginning is boring"by ebach (see profile) 09/06/16

If you haven’t read a Margaret Atwood novel before, as I hadn’t, you might be put off by ALIAS GRACE if you give up before page 43. I almost did. Luckily, I reminded myself to give it a ... (read more)

 
  "Slow start but becomes addictive and extremely thought-provoking. My bookclub still talks about this book sometimes."by kdr4xmom (see profile) 08/15/11

 
  "Based on a true story, this is a story of murder, innocence, and illusion"by watsonjl (see profile) 03/17/09

Our group loved this book. We're big Margaret Atwood fans, and this is one of her least known books, however, it's just as good as the others! There are twists and turns, and the best part... (read more)

 
  "Book club loved this book for discussion"by kdr4xmom (see profile) 01/12/09

The start of the book is slow and confusing but the more I read the more engrossed I became. Still can't decide if she did it or not?!

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