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on 11 December 2017
I found this book to be unusual and interesting initially. The final 25% was a bit laboured and then it picked up again at the end. I was determined to finish it in a tidy way, so that I could get on and start my next book.
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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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on 17 November 2017
Bought as present
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on 22 November 2017
I found this a pretty gripping read with an interesting story. I would recommend it, particularly to those who enjoyed other works by this author
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on 2 December 2017
Margaret Atwood is brilliant. Alias Grace is filled with atmosphere.
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on 9 October 2017
brilliant read
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 27 August 2017
The year is 1843, the place is Ontario, Canada and the victims are Thomas Kimner and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery. Thomas had been shot whilst Nancy had been strangled.  James McDermott, Thomas Kimner’s stable hand and Grace Marks his maid were apprehended trying to escape to America and put on trial for murder. James McDermott was hanged whilst Grace was imprisoned for life. These are the facts that Margaret Atwood uses as the base of her multi-faceted novel to bring Grace’s story to life, whether her version comes close to the truth the reader will have to decide.

“I have of course fictionalized historical events (as did many commentators on this case who claimed to be writing history). I have not changed any known facts, although the written accounts are so contradictory that few facts emerge as unequivocally ‘known.’”

 By the time we meet her Grace has been imprisoned for quite some time. A model prisoner she is engaged as a maid to the Governor of the prison where she is being held. Petitions for her release have been a feature of those who protest her innocence but one man, the fictional Dr Simon Jordan wants to use her to explore her sanity, he has a goal to open a private clinic and a case study that gets attention could help him along this road. But is or was Grace ever insane? Why else would a young maid suddenly turn on her employers and become a notorious murderess? Or is there other elements to the story that the Victorian values of the day could not or would not see?

It is the conversation that Grace has with Dr Jordan that gives us her background, the long arduous journey from Dublin, the trials of living with a feckless father and younger siblings to care for and Grace’s ‘escape’ into working life as a maid, with friends who teach her the ways of the world. No one can say Grace’s story is anything but captivating and it’s bolstered by the picture of Grace recounting it whilst stitching at the table in the Governor’s house. Grace explains to Dr Jordan about the quilts that every young woman should have before she marries, the stories behind the different patterns these objects that were in every household having their own stories to tell. And of course the Doctor doesn’t know what is true and we are reminded of the uncertainty of the narrative by some fairly nifty switches from the first to the third person, denoting thoughts and words within the text itself. This gives the narrative a nebulous feel, the truth surely lies somewhere within the book, but it may be you have to decide where.

I was enchanted not only by Grace’s own story but the way that she uncovers the lives of many other women in the course of her conversations with the good Doctor. From her mother, to her friend and fellow maid Mary Whitney and Nancy the Housekeeper and mistress of Thomas Kimner then up the ranks to the daughters of the Governor who still covet a quilt for their own dowry but will have someone else carry out the minute stitching for them. Each is worthy of a story in their own right leaving me stuffed full of life-like characters by the time I turned the last page on Grace Marks and her story.
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on 22 July 2017
What a great book! Thoroughly enjoyed the writing style and the story, more so as it is based on true events. I thought the main characters were crafted so well it was like watching a film in my mind when reading this as her writing is so descriptive you really formulate the people in your head - well worth reading if you have ever read The Observations by Jane Harris then you'll like this!
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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 21 November 2017
I have a number of Margaret Atwood books on my Kindle that I have still not got round to reading and after I heard that Netflix were making a drama based on Alias Grace (and I like to read the books before watching the TV series or film) I bumped it to the top of my TBR list.

We follow the true story of Grace Marks in Ontario, Canada in the year 1843, where Thomas Kimner and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery have been murdered. Grace (Thomas’ maid) and James McDermott (Thomas’ stable hand) have been apprehended trying to escape to America and put on trial for the murders. James McDermott was hanged whilst Grace was imprisoned for life and Margaret Atwood brings Grace’s story to life for us.

When we meet Grace, she has been imprisoned for quite some time already. As a model prisoner she is engaged as a maid to the Governor of the prison where she is being held. People have petitioned for Graces’ release but we are introduced to Dr Simon Jordan who wants to use Grace to explore her sanity, he has a goal to open a private clinic and a case study that gets attention could help him along this road.

Through conversations that Grace has with Dr Jordan we learn of the events leading up to the murders. We also learn about Grace's’ background, her journey from Dublin, living with an abusive father and younger siblings and how she ended up working as a maid, with friends who teach her the ways of the world. Grace’s story is captivating and fascinating and the reader is left to decide if what she is saying is truth.

The flow of the book is easy to follow and the writing is in parts both humorous, shocking and sad. As with other Margaret Atwood books, the characters are very well formed and you soon become wrapped up in their lives. I was slightly disappointed with the ending and I don’t think this is the best Margaret Atwood book I have read but I am looking forward to reading more of her other work and also watching the TV series.
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