Alias Grace (Readers Companion)

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Overview

Margaret Atwood's books have sold over three million copies in the United States alone. She has long been one of the world's most respected novelist as well as one of its most popular. Alias Grace, her latest novel and a finalist for England's prestigious Booker Prize, has only solidified her reputation in both respects. It has adorned bestseller lists across the country while at the same time being praised by reviewers from coast to coast. From the first paragraph of this stunning novel, it is clear that ...
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Alias Grace

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Overview

Margaret Atwood's books have sold over three million copies in the United States alone. She has long been one of the world's most respected novelist as well as one of its most popular. Alias Grace, her latest novel and a finalist for England's prestigious Booker Prize, has only solidified her reputation in both respects. It has adorned bestseller lists across the country while at the same time being praised by reviewers from coast to coast. From the first paragraph of this stunning novel, it is clear that Atwood's newest achievement will take its place besides her bestselling classics.

In Alias Grace 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, the wealthy Thomas Kinnear, and of Nancy Montgomery, his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence after a stint in Toronto's lunatic asylum, Grace herself 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 female fiend? A bloodthirsty femme fatale? Or is she the victim of circumstances?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385490917
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/1997

Meet the Author

Margaret  Atwood
Margaret Atwood
Accomplished in equal measure as a poet, novelist, and essayist, Margaret Atwood is as much a dazzling storyteller as she is a committed feminist. Her novels and stories educate as much as they entertain, but without ever veering into dogmatism.

Biography

When Margaret Atwood announced to her friends that she wanted to be a writer, she was only 16 years old. It was Canada. It was the 1950s. No one knew what to think. Nonetheless, Atwood began her writing career as a poet. Published In 1964 while she was still a student at Harvard, her second poetry anthology, The Circle Game, was awarded the Governor General's Award, one of Canada's most esteemed literary prizes. Since then, Atwood has gone on to publish many more volumes of poetry (as well as literary criticism, essays, and short stories), but it is her novels for which she is best known.

Atwood's first foray into fiction was 1966's The Edible Woman, an arresting story about a woman who stops eating because she feels her life is consuming her. Grabbing the attention of critics, who applauded its startlingly original premise, the novel explored feminist themes Atwood has revisited time and time again during her long, prolific literary career. She is famous for strong, compelling female protagonists -- from the breast cancer survivor in Bodily Harm to the rueful artist in Cat's Eye to the fatefully intertwined sisters in her Booker Prize-winning novel The Blind Asassin.

Perhaps Atwood's most legendary character is Offred, the tragic "breeder" in what is arguably her most famous book, 1985's The Handmaid's Tale. Part fable, part science fiction, and part dystopian nightmare, this novel presented a harrowing vision of women's lives in an oppressive futuristic society. The Washington Post compared it (favorably) to George Orwell's iconic 1984.

As if her status as a multi-award-winning, triple-threat writer (fiction, poetry, and essays) were not enough, Atwood has also produced several children's books, including Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (1995) and Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes (2003) -- delicious alliterative delights that introduce a wealth of new vocabulary to young readers.

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    1. Hometown:
      Toronto, Ontario
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 18, 1939
    2. Place of Birth:
      Ottawa, Ontario
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Toronto, 1961; M.A. Radcliffe, 1962; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1967
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 46 )
Rating Distribution

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(17)

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(19)

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(10)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 46 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2004

    A True Classic

    I read a review, maybe on the cover, that claimed this was written like a classic with the pace of a modern novel. That is exactly how I felt about this book. The writing was incredible. I felt completely sucked into that time period as I read. One thing that did help me anticipate the ending was that I read the Afterward before reading book. I really think it helped me not go overboard with all the possible ways it could end, and I was very satisfied with how Atwood chose to end the story. The pacing was a little slow at first, but once Grace began telling her story I could not put it down.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2011

    Alias Grace

    The worst part of the book for me was how the author wrote it and her style. I always got confused on who it was talking about or who was doing the talking. Also, there were parts that seemed like they didn't have a purpose in being in the book, such as when the narrator or Grace would randomly talk about certain people. It seemed more like rambling random facts that weren't necessarily important to the plot. As far as the end went, I'm still not sure as to if she actually killed them or not. It talks about her experiences throughout the book but never if she was actually guilty or not reguardless of what other people thought. Even though the style of writing was a little weird, it made the book fun to read.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Beautiful display of a writer's craft.

    The beauty of Alias Grace lies not within the plot, which is mysterious and based on a true story, nor within the voices of the characters, but within the artistry that Atwood has demonstrated as the true craft of a writer. The ability to take a story and turn it into something more, create a world based on ours, where the characters step from the page.

    Atwood based Alias Grace on a true story. The celebrated murderess, young Grace Marks, was a real person in Canada in 1843. She was arrested, along with a man named James McDermott, accused of murdering their employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his pregnant housekeeper-mistress Nancy Montgomery. Grace told three different versions of the murder throughout the trial and was sentenced to life in prison, while McDermott hung. In the novel, Doctor Simon Jordan makes it his mission to lead Grace through her life leading up the day of the murders. The question remains: was Grace telling the truth in any of her questionable versions? Did she knowingly participate in the deaths of two innocents and one unborn child? Why can't she seem to remember the events, but remember dressing in the dead woman's clothing and escaping to the States?

    Margaret Atwood's novel is based on historical documentation and news articles which are prevalent throughout the book and serve to ground the novel, but they also uplift the story into a living tale. No one knew for certain if Grace was an innocent bystander, or a devilish accomplice. Petitions for her release are routinely submitted and rejected. The power of this novel is that I want Atwood's version to be the real thing, but that means I question Grace's motives; is she really as naive as she seems? I am still not sure what I want of her. I want her to be innocent, but I want her to be guilty. I want her to escape with Jeremiah the Peddler, but live happily ever after with a husband and normal life. I want Mary Whitney to live, but I want her to have never lived.

    Alias Grace is a dark, intriguing, and haunting mystery which stays with us after the last page and for that I must give it 5 stars. I encourage you to read it, and formulate your own thoughts on Grace Marks.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 14, 2010

    Alias Grace Literary Criticism

    Margaret Atwood's stunning, attention stealing novel is a story of suspense. I found myself unable to put it down once I began reading. The novel's contents that I found myself imagining all seemed very realistic to me. So overall I believe Alias Grace is a wonderful story, also a fictional re-telling of a murder case from Canada in the 1800's.
    The story began 8 years into Grace's imprisonment with a story she told her doctor drawing me in. Why was she locked away, I kept asking myself as I read, and at the age of sixteen? What could someone so young have done? Throughout the book, Atwood, from Grace's view speaking to her doctor, Dr. Jordan, tells us Grace's story. Grace chooses to tell the most important events of her life from her earliest memories leading up to the predicament she seems to have no remembrance of, the murder of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and Nancy Montgomery, his house keeper and mistress. Dr. Jordan hopes that talking to her about the events leading up to the murder that she'll remember and everyone will finally know if she's innocent or guilty. After finding that the talking didn't help decipher Grace's innocence Dr. Jordan decides to let another form of doctor, Dr. Dupont, hypnotize Grace to ask her questions and finally find whether she is innocent or not.
    Throughout this book the main theme I seen was sex. Mary Whitney, a good friend of Grace's, became pregnant and the father denied it and threw her some money. She had a type of an "abortion" and died the day after. Nancy and Thomas were suspected of sex also because Nancy was found to be pregnant after her death. Mrs. Humphrey, Dr. Jordan's landlady, becomes his mistress, and they seem to have a sexual connection only at night when he returns from his long days. On Grace's birthday, Grace and Jamie Walsh spent time together in the orchard, on Thomas Kinnear's land, and when Grace returned she was accused by McDermott of having sex. Then, in one of McDermott's confessions it is said that Grace promised sex for his help in the murders.
    Margaret Atwood described things well and used a great amount of poetic devices. One of my favorite descriptions was of Thomas Kinnear's when Grace was first arriving she says, "At last we were going past his orchard and up his driveway, which was curved and about a hundred yards long, and ran between two lines of maple trees of medium size. There was the house at the end of the drive, with a veranda along the front of it and white pillars, a big house but not as big as Mrs. Alderman Parkinson's." (208) I chose this description because it was one that I could easily imagine and it didn't go on and on with unnecessary adjectives. One thing I observed of Atwood's use of poetic devices is that she liked to use poems and rhymes to explain things. One grace remembered from her childhood, one she picked up from her father who obviously didn't like being married, was:
    "Needles and pins, needles and pins,
    when a man marries his trouble begins." (103)
    In conclusion, I highly recommend Margaret Atwood's novel, Alias Grace.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 9, 2009

    A Compelling Read

    This book was a great companion when our power went out for 3 days during a snowstorm and all we had was the fireplace for heat in our 100 year old farmhouse and lanterns for light at night. The pilgrimage described in the first few chapters of the book helped me put my current predicament into perspective.

    Character development was intriguing, plot was intense. Overall another great book by Atwood. I just felt the ending left a little to be desired, or I would have rated it 5 stars.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2003

    Ruined by the ending

    I almost liked this book. I was completely caught up in the story and enthralled by Grace until just before the murder that made the real Grace Marks infamous. I couldn't wait to see how Atwood pulled together the person that I had become so involved with and the awful events. The tension was incredible. Unfortunately, at that point, I felt that Atwood flinched, blinked, dodged, chickened out and otherwise completely dropped the ball. She more or less clumsily draws a veil over that event. I suppose that it would have been possible to have written so skillfully as to have maintained the mystery without leaving the reader feeling cheated, but I was thoroughly disappointed. The intimate detailed narrative is suddenly vanishes and Grace never tells us what happened. She seems to become a different and, for me, very unlikable person. Strictly for people who judge a novel by its prose but not its plotting.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2003

    Compare with Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy: servant think.

    Alias Grace is a psychological/ detective novel for me. Grace's interview with the dudding alienist reveals to the reader things like: if one wishes for something it won't come true, if one talks openly about things it jinxes them. These are the constraints that "lower class" working people live with. I suppose these powerful voodoo cultural limits are everywhere. But Atwood makes them visible. In Lucy by J. Kincaid the novel also deals with a servant and her relationships with her social environment and how with her employers it is bitter and full of class hatred or indifference. Unbridgable. And it is not from lack of exposure, or lack of mingling, it seems innate to the higher and lower relationship. I read somewhere that friends can only be on equal terms perhaps the reverse is true. Inequality breeds bad things. Maybe a support group would help or medication.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2002

    Dark Deeds in Young Toronto

    Alias Grace is Atwood's best effort to date. A dark and absorbing story starting almost two centuries ago and tapping into the human psyche from the first page. This one will keep you turning the page right to the end. Well deserving of it's awards, not to be missed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2001

    Margaret Atwood is a literary genius

    Alias Grace is by far one of the most superior literary masterpieces of the 20th century. Complex, intriguing, spellbinding and engrossing are just a few of the adjectives I would use to describe this novel. A true murder mystery set against a historical backdrop, Ms. Atwood clearly does her research and places the writer 'back in time' to experience the harsh and cruel realities faced by the novel's 'antiheroine' Grace Marks. I strongly recommend it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2014

    Better than Expected

    I read this for a book club & probably wouldn't have done so otherwise. I was pleasantly surprised, particularly by the humor. The ending was contrived & inartful, almost as if Ms. Atwood was tired of her own story.
    I've read lots of her other writing, which I much prefer, but she excelled here in recapturing a woman's life at a bleak time. -- catwak

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2013

    Amiti

    Cool……… also, I think you should continue Broken Shadows if you'd like… I forgot to mention that back there in my rambles… haha… ~Your Buddy

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 14, 2013

    The ending felt a bit rushed, but considering how the story play

    The ending felt a bit rushed, but considering how the story played out it made sense why it was done this way. The author's style mixes 1st person perspective, 3rd person, and document style. It's can be pretty mixed but once you will find the rhythm to it.  

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2013

    Love this book

    Scary and engrossing! I'd read it again. One of Atwood's besr.

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  • Posted January 25, 2013

    Great read

    I read this in a day because I couldnt put it down. Well written victorian era story. Enthralling story that will keep you reading to find out what "really" happened all the way to the end. Women, especially, will be interested and surprised at the inner thoughts of the main character. WHO IS SHE REALLY? A must read...suspense filled drama....not overdone.....very well written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2012

    The book looks awsome!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The book looks like a girl thats locked up and she is trying to get out.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 20, 2011

    Great Book, keeps you interested

    Alias Grace is a book to which a reader will be engaged throughout the whole novel. It's plot is well developed and intense, thus allowing the reader to always want more on entering each chapter. The uses of literary elements are superb however one must keep an eye out to catch and understand what is truly being sad. Great book once again, perfect for everyday readers!

    *Cheers

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  • Posted May 12, 2011

    Solid Novel

    How would you describe the author's style?
    I enjoyed Atwood's style of writing throughout the novel. She changes it up at different points. For example, at the beginning and at the end her writing becomes somewhat complex for the reader. She writes in such away that it lets the brain of the reader visualize the situations. Towards the middle of the novel she wrote more simply and straight to the point. She gave the reader specific, easy to understand facts which I liked because it was less work on my brain.
    "SPOILER ALERT"
    I like how Atwood didn't really reveal to the reader if Grace was guilty or not. It lets the reader come to a conclusion by themselves. I like that because I have a good imagination. I liked seeing the progression and development of Grace Marks throughout the novel as well. Overall, I thought it was a pretty solid novel and I would recommend it to others.

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  • Posted May 1, 2011

    GOOD BOOK!

    How would you describe the author's style?

    I didn't really like Atwood's style of writing just because it was a little slow towards the middle. I liked the parts where Grace was talking and she was thinking and dreaming and telling some of the stuff to Dr. Jordan. I did not like all the background stuff and learning about Dr. Jordan on his free time because I thought it was kind of boring. I also did not like that there was not quotation marks anywhere. Also I was upset that whether Grace was guilty or not was never really revealed. That question is the only mystery part of the book and I was disappointed that the answer wasn't clearly given. The most exciting part of the book was when Grace was telling her story about Nancy and Mary. Overall it was a pretty good book but a little bit slow and excessive outside information about some of the minor characters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2006

    Pregnancy

    In regards to Alias Grace and pregnancy, it is safe to say that in those days, women who faced pregnancy had their lives turned upside down. Also an old book came into my head when reading this book, dont know if anyone knows it but its called Tess of the d'Ubervilles. Some relation to Alias Grace, in regards to pregnancy

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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