temporaryworlds (temporaryworlds) wrote in bookish,

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#5 Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

At the age of sixteen, Grace Marks, a maid, was convicted of murdering her employer and his mistress. She was sentenced to live the rest of her life behind bars, but retains no memory of the actual event. Years later, Dr. Simon Jordan enters her life, and is determined to discover if Grace is sane or insane, and if there is any way that he can help her break through her wall of amnesia to recover her lost memories. At his bidding, Grace begins to tell the story of her life, from her childhood in Ireland, to her immigration to Canada, to her eventual employment and the murders that came after.

Alias Grace is the third novel that I have read by Margaret Atwood (the first two being The Handmaid's Tale, and The Blind Assassin). It is the first that I have read not to feature any science fiction elements. The result is a stunning work of historical fiction, a creepy Gothic novel based on the life of a real person (Grace Marks) convicted of murder in 1843. Although it's a very different story than The Handmaid's Tale or The Blind Assassin, Alias Grace touches on many similar themes. For one, it is very focused on the lives of women and the challenges they face due to their specific time frame. Reading Alias Grace made me feel very fortunate that I didn't happen to be born anytime close to 1843, given the limited opportunities for women like Grace, the harsh punishments delivered for honest mistakes, and the poor treatment from most of the men. Grace Marks is a great protagonist that you cannot help but feel for during her journey, as are many of the others characters you meet along the way.

Like the previous works I have read by Atwood, Alias Grace is written with an impressive amount of skill. I had to pause several times and just linger over the beauty of her words. Another aspect that I ended up enjoying about the novel is that Atwood wasn't afraid to keep things vague when they needed to be. Not everything is spelled out for us. At the beginning of the book there's a satisfying amount of mystery. Is Grace a murderer? Is she insane? Can we trust what she tells Simon? Over the book, Atwood does an impressive job of slowly building a fascinating story, filled with a twist or two that had me gasping aloud (much to the amusement of my fiance). I enjoyed the fact that by the end of the book, that Atwood wasn't afraid to still keep a few things vague. Instead of feeling unfinished, it was surprisingly satisfying, as if she left it up to the readers to make up their own minds.

Alias Grace is a beautifully written work of historical fiction by a talented author. Although it doesn't have any of the science fiction aspects of The Handmaid's Tale or The Blind Assassin, that doesn't make it any less insightful or entertaining. I happy that I decided to pick up this novel, and am planning on reading more works by her in the future.

Rating: five stars
Length: 468 pages
Source: Readfield Community Library
Other books I've read by this author: The Handmaid's Tale, The Blind Assassin

Next I will be reviewing The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

xposted to temporaryworlds, bookish, and goodreads
Tags: author: a, genre: fiction, genre: historical fiction, review

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