In her bestselling novel The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood masterfully took us to a chilling world of the future. In her astonishing new novel Alias Grace, she just as convincingly takes us back 150 years and inside the life and mind of one of the most notorious women of the 1840s. Grace Marks is serving a life sentence for her part in the vicious murders of Thomas Kinnear, a wealthy landowner, and Nancy Montgomery, his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Grace herself now claims to have no memory of the murders.Simon Jordan, a young New England doctor in the field of mental health and an expert on amnesia, has been engaged to find out the truth. To do so, he must awaken that part of Grace's mind that lies dormant, using the practices of the science he has such great faith in. As Grace reveals details about Kinnear's and Nancy's unconventional domestic arrangements, Simon brings her closer and closer to the day she has so determinedly repressed.Into this rich work of the imagination--of sex, violence, immigration, spiritualism, and the brutal existence of the underprivileged--Margaret Atwood has brought her brilliant insights into the relationships between men and women and those between the society of the entitled and those without positions. Superbly evoking a century past and alive with mesmerizing storytelling, Alias Grace is vintage Atwood.
"Since she was a child, Atwood has been fascinated by the true story of Grace Marks, a 16-year-old, nineteenth-century Canadian domestic worker convicted of the murder of her employer, Thomas Kinnear. Now, in Atwood's first historical novel and perhaps her strongest work to date, she tells us why. Grace's enduringly enigmatic tale embodies Atwood's signature theme--the myriad ironies and injustices of women's lives--and, as she portrays a fictionalized Grace in prose as elegant as Eliot's or Wharton's, she also gleefully exposes all the hypocrisy, sexism, ignorance, and fear embedded in Victorian culture. We learn Grace's story, or, at least, Grace's carefully modulated version of it, during the course of her sessions with a naive American "doctor of the mind" named Simon Jordan. Grace claims to have no memory of the murder of Kinnear, or of Nancy Montgomery, his housekeeper and lover, and denies having had sexual relations with James McDermott, who was hung for his part in the crime. When Jordan arrives, determined to help her regain her memory and, hopefully, clear her name, she has already served 15 years of a life sentence, some in an asylum. Atwood uses their conversations, which are electric with suppressed desire and suspense, as a forum for considering everything from the class system to treatment of the insane, prostitution, spiritualism, and sensationalized journalism. Atwood's humor has never been slier, her command of complex material more adept, her eroticism franker, or her descriptive passages more lyrical. This is a stupendous performance and bound to win Atwood even greater acclaim. --Donna Seaman"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Intrigued by contemporary reports of a sensational murder trial in 1843 Canada, Atwood has drawn a compelling portrait of what might have been. Her protagonist, the real life Grace Marks, is an enigma. Convicted at age 16 of the murder of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his housekeeper and lover, Nancy Montgomery, Grace escaped the gallows when her sentence was commuted to life in prison, but she also spent some years in an insane asylum after an emotional breakdown. Because she gave three different accounts of the killings, and because she was accused of being the sole perpetrator by the man who was hanged for the crime, Grace's life and mind are fertile territory for Atwood. Adapting her style to the period she describes, she has written a typical Victorian novel, leisurely in exposition, copiously detailed and crowded with subtly drawn characters who speak the embroidered, pietistic language of the time. She has created a probing psychological portrait of a working-class woman victimized by society because of her poverty, and victimized again by the judicial and prison systems. The narrative gains texture and tension from the dynamic between Grace and an interlocutor, earnest young bachelor Dr. Simon Jordan, who is investigating the causes of lunacy with plans to establish his own, more enlightened institution. Jordan is hoping to awaken Grace's suppressed memories of the day of the murder, but Grace, though uneducated, is far wilier than Jordan, whom she tells only what she wishes to confess. He, on the other hand, is handicapped by his compassion, which makes him the victim of the wiles of other women, toohis passionate, desperate landlady, and the virginal but predatory daughter of the prison governor. These encounters give Atwood the chance to describe the war between the sexes with her usual wit. Although the narrative holds several big surprises, the central questionWas Grace dupe and victim or seductress and instigator of the bloody crime?is left tantalizingly ambiguous. Major ad/promo; author tour. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved