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on 24 January 2017
I loved this book. I found it utterly absorbing in how Grace's story was narrated, it sucked me in and held me down. It is told, in her own words, through a series of interview she does with a Doctor. You get a rough idea about the crime she has supposedly committed, and then it goes back to the beginning of her life, and how she reached that point - with the details slowly revealed. It is interspaced with letters that were written to and from Dr's, the clergy and judiciary who are debating whether she is fit to be released, as well as a sub story about the Dr talking to her. It is based on a true story and the ending is guess work, but I really enjoyed how Atwood was tied up. Don't expect the expected in this story though - there is a sting in the tail! We read this in book group and had a lot to discuss. We talked about fiction using real life as a basis, is it a good idea filling in the blanks in stories, we also discussed the treatment of women in bygone age, has this changed at all, and whether those who are in a position of trust and authority are frequently more perverse, criminal and immoral than those they are passing judgement on.
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on 5 September 2013
Part fiction, part fact, Atwood's novel is about the late nineteenth-century murders of Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery in Canada. The narrative centres on Grace Marks, the maid, who together with fellow servant James McDermott, were convicted of the murders. McDermott is hanged while Marks is sentenced to life imprisonment. She is committed to the asylum for a period as her sanity becomes a point of contention.

The reader is always in doubt about Marks's culpability in the murders as various points of view present themselves in the novel, including Grace's own. The way into the story is offered by the (perhaps fictitious and composite) doctor Simon Jordan, whose research into the case involves personal interviews with Grace, as she describes the events leading up to the murders and after, even as he becomes visibly enamoured with the subject of his research.

In parts humorous and farcical (especially in Jordan's entanglements with his landlady, while warding off his mother's domineering interference with his life both marital and professional through her letters from afar), Atwood creates not just an ambivalent heroine in Grace as the latter constructs and deconstructs her narrative, but Atwood also casts a keen eye on the way men and women relate to one another, with almost alarmingly misogynistic overtones (tongue-in-cheek or otherwise). Atwood also proffers views on the scientific advancements of those times, and reveals the obsessions with mesmerism and spiritualism, that serve to colour and complicate Grace's case.

As much a commentary on the problem of identity or identities of self, the novel is also an examination of how the truth can be constructed by narrative as much as it remains nebulous and unfathomable.
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on 1 May 2017
I read many of Margaret Atwood's early books but decided to re- visit some of them again and read newer ones. I enjoyed this book immensely. The author takes the reader on a believable historical journey with fascinating detail but used her wonderful imagination to flesh out the story.
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on 19 January 2018
Not many stories affect me in the way this one has. Grace is an enigma! As deep as a well and as strange as a blue rabbit. She has interrupted my life and my view of her has changed with the pages. I can't decide how I feel about this story and I think that is how Atwood has intended it to be. She neither wishes the reader to like or dislike Grace, only to be confused, as those who judged her were. The writing is so effortless, each word is perfectly placed, the language creates clear pictures in my mind. I am watching the Alias Grace series and thrilled how closely it matches the book. Atwood paints such a clear picture that when I watch the show I feel as though I've seen It before. Everything is how I'd imagined it to be. I love this book. I love this story. I can not wait to read more Atwood. This is a novel I shall never forget.
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on 18 September 2017
This is my first Atwood book and I was completely engrossed. I can see why it may be filmable as her writing is so visual.
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on 6 December 2017
Having watched the Netflix show I was determined to read this and did enjoy it more than the tv series! Margaret Atwood is a fantastic author who knows how to craft a story to keep you hanging on her every word.
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VINE VOICEon 5 June 2014
I think you have to read a few of Margaret Atwood's books to fully appreciate what a truly great writer she is. She can turn her hand to any subject and produce a completely convincing narrative. The reader is transported to and immersed in the time and place of her choosing. This is different to the other Atwood books I have read because it is based on the true story of Grace Marks, a domestic servant who was convicted in the 1840's of the murder of her employer and his housekeeper, but was spared the gallows. The fictional relationship between Grace and Dr Simon Jordan is particularly interesting as Jordan uses an early form of psychoanalysis to try and establish Grace's true role in the crime.
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This novel is a work of genius interweaving real-life accounts with shifting narratives, extracts of poetry and newspaper reports of the time. But the real genius lies not in the narrative structure but the way Atwood's character draws us in and strings us along, evoking our sympathies with the tragic account of her short life prior to being jailed; and all the while, like the psychiatrist Simon Jordan, we are not certain whether she is guilty or not. Is Grace the cold, calculating murderess she is accused of being, stringing us/Simon along without revealing the one thing we want to know beyond everything else? Or was she an innocent victim, wrongly accused by media and public out to seek justice and revenge? In my experience,only people who have something to hide evade telling the truth.
Simon Jordan is drawn into her web and becomes frustrated, confused and uncertain just as I felt on reading Grace's account. Simon Jordan gives up trying to understand Grace and seems to have been taken to the edge of breakdown by her.
I was left with the feeling that Grace was extraordinarily astute, intelligent, charismatic and manipulative. Grace knew just how to play people and so does Margaret Atwood. As anyone will know ,who has had the misfortune to know someone with psychopathic tendencies,contact with such people will leave you feeling utterly confused and disturbed and unable to pin down exactly how they have 'played' you. You just know they have.
This is exactly what Margaret Atwood has done through the character of Grace and it is this which makes this novel a work of genius.
I would have given it 5 stars but I think the way Atwood concluded the story was neither credible or necessary to the plot.
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on 24 May 2014
I read this about 10 years ago and found it curiously unengaging compared to other Margaret Atwood books. I returned to it this year because my son was going to study it for A level, but I decided to listen to the audio book instead (read by Shelley Thompson). It was superb - I couldn't stop listening to it, and when it was finished I started listening to Cat's Eye and the Oryx and Crake trilogy. Grace is a very odd character and I didn't like her, or anyone else in the book much, but Atwood is such a brilliant writer that she draws you in to the story and the relationships. Hearing it read aloud really brings out the wonderful language and the humour of the book.
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on 14 September 2017
A really great read - I hadn't read a review before buying it, but having enjoyed other Atwood writing, I hoped for another good one. It was fascinating, horrifying, with at times delightfully perceptive observations of the unreliable narrator's thoughts processes. Add to your list of to-read.
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