By (author) Margaret Atwood
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Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
Book DescriptionSometimes I whisper it over to myself: Murderess. Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt along the floor.' Grace Marks. Female fiend? Femme fatale? Or weak and unwilling victim? Around the true story of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the 1840s, Margaret Atwood has created an extraordinarily potent tale of sexuality, cruelty and mystery.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9781860492594
(197mm x 132mm x 38mm)
Imprint: Virago Press Ltd
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 1-Sep-1997
Country of Publication: United Kingdom
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UK Kirkus Review » Margaret Atwood's compelling novel is based on the true story of one of Canada's most notorious 19th-century murders. A poor servant girl, Grace Marks, just 16 at the time, was jointly accused of the murder of her master, Thomas Kinnear, and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery, who were living in a thinly-disguised common-law marriage. Her co-accused James McDermott, another servant, was widely assumed to be her lover, but their true motive for the killings was endlessly speculated on and never discovered. 'It is not the culprits that need to be forgiven; rather it is the victims, because they are the ones who cause all the trouble.' This is Grace's conclusion. Her dry wit and often biblical turn of phrase sharply flavour this novel, which looks with intelligent amusement and a good historical sense at the clashes of id and superego, the need for order and rationality versus the yearning for drama and mystery. The story unfolds as a kind of detective story. The self-possessed Grace is an enigmatic challenge to the young neurologist who hopes to lift her partial amnesia and make his name. It is to him that she tells her story, which, from her short and wretched Irish-immigrant childhood to her abortive escape from rural Canada with the killer, shows the stays of women's lives pulled tight. Her subsequent long years of reflection have resulted in a deep cynicism combined with the innocence of one who has spent all her adult life locked away. Almost gleefully, Atwood raises awkward questions: What is buried in the cellar? Who is listening at the door? And is the voice speaking through us always our own? In an interesting subtext the excerpts from contemporary newspaper reports introduce each chapter and the treatment Grace Marks received at the hands of the press makes particularly salutary reading in the light of modern tabloid reporting. (Kirkus UK)
US Kirkus Review » A fascinating elaboration - and somewhat of a departure for Atwood (The Robber Bride, 1993, etc.) - of the life of Grace Marks, one of Canada's more infamous killers. As notorious as our own Lizzy Borden, Grace Marks was barely 16 when she and James McDermott were arrested in 1843 for the brutal murder of their employer Thomas Kinnear and his pregnant mistress/housekeeper Nancy Montgomery. The trial was a titillating sensation; McDermott was hanged, and Grace was given the dubious mercy of life imprisonment. Some felt her an innocent dupe, others thought her a cold-blooded murderer; the truth remains elusive. Atwood reimagines Grace's story, and with delicate skill all but replaces history with her chronicle of events. Anchoring the narrative is the arrival of Dr. Simon Jordan, who has come to investigate the sanity of Grace after some 16 years of incarceration. A convert to the new field of psychiatry, Jordan is hoping to help Grace recover her memory of the murders, which she claims no recollection of. He begins by asking for her life story. Grace tells him of her first commission as a laundry maid in a grand house, and of her dear friend Mary, dead at 16 from a botched abortion. On she goes until she calmly relates the events that led up to the murders, and her attempted escape with McDermott afterward. Hypnotism finally "restores" her memory (or is Grace misleading Jordan?), with results that are both shocking and ambiguous. Employing a variety of narratives - Grace's own, Dr. Jordan's, letters, newspaper accounts from the time, poems from the period, and the published confessions of the accused - a complex story is pieced together. The image of the patchwork quilt, used repeatedly in the novel, is a fitting metaphor for the multiplicity of truths that Grace exemplifies. Through characteristically elegant prose and a mix of narrative techniques, Atwood not only crafts an eerie, unsettling tale of murder and obsession, but also a stunning portrait of the lives of women in another time. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood is Canada's most eminent novelist and poet. She has won many awards including the SUNDAY TIMES Author of the Year Award and she has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times.
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