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Margaret Atwood - Alias Grace Legolas Send a noteboard - 12/01/2012 10:26:05 PM
In 1843, a teenager named Grace Marks was sentenced to life in prison in what was then Upper Canada (now Ontario), on the suspicion of being an accomplice to murder. But she rapidly gained a cult following that continued to clamour for her release - because of Christian charity, political reasons, morbid fascination or just because they had a crush on this mysterious and gorgeous young (suspected) criminal.

Of course the available information about Marks is limited, and most of it is so slanted as to be rather unreliable anyway, which leaves Atwood all the room she needs to establish her own version of Grace in her novel Alias Grace.

At the time the novel is set, Grace has been in prison for nearly a decade, and after a temporary stay in an asylum, has now returned to prison, working as a maid and seamstress for the prison director's family. She starts telling the story of her life to an aspiring psychiatrist, Dr. Jordan, who aims to establish once and for all the real facts of the fateful day, at the request of a committee aiming for Grace's pardon. But as they go on, Dr. Jordan starts to realize that things may be more complicated than he thought - and that he's not really that good at remaining objective.

Atwood's Grace is a clever, likeable girl with a stubborn and original-thinking streak, who is continually led into trouble by the men in her life: her father, employers, the many men lusting after her, though she's certainly not a meek victim. As I look back on the book to review it, this pattern becomes increasingly obvious; but while one is reading the book, it is not so blatant as to detract from the story, or to hamper the credibility and depth of the male characters.

Alias Grace is the second novel of Atwood's I've read, after The Handmaid's Tale. The latter irritated and annoyed me so much with its premise that I'm afraid I didn't have much attention for the literary merits I'm sure it had; still, I was left concluding that maybe I should read another Atwood novel instead, rather than being turned off her for good. As it turns out, that hunch was correct.

Fortunately (for me, anyway), Alias Grace is set in a time and place where the repression of women and hypocritical male behaviour towards women were rife, allowing Atwood to decry those without needing to resort to absurd hyperbole and far-fetched slander like in the aforementioned Handmaid's Tale. The novel is a restrained but all the more powerful testimony of the injustice in gender relations in times past and present - in addition to simply being a very fine novel without easy answers, and a fascinating description of life in mid-19th century Canada in the bargain. The book got Atwood her third Man Booker shortlist nod (the fourth time, for The Blind Assassin, she would finally go on to win), which I'm certainly inclined to say was merited. Highly recommended.
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Margaret Atwood - Alias Grace - 12/01/2012 10:26:05 PM 8473 Views
The movie adaptation is in pre-production, btw *NM* - 12/01/2012 10:35:20 PM 631 Views
I read this for a Canadian Literature class once. - 12/01/2012 10:38:48 PM 1335 Views
It certainly has an interesting ending. - 12/01/2012 11:02:06 PM 1279 Views
Sounds interesting! - 12/01/2012 11:38:58 PM 1294 Views

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