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Alias Grace

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3.96  ·  Rating Details  ·  52,411 Ratings  ·  2,392 Reviews
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 Thoma ...more
Hardcover, Large Print, 472 pages
Published February 1st 1996 by Nan A Talese (first published 1996)
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Lindsay J. In both books the female lead is imprisoned. In this sense they are similar. However, Alias Grace is first imprisoned by the limitations of choice,…moreIn both books the female lead is imprisoned. In this sense they are similar. However, Alias Grace is first imprisoned by the limitations of choice, then actually imprisoned behind steel bars.
The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopian story and Alias Grace is written in the form of a memoir/historical story since it is based on true events.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kalliope




Working with patches. Patchwork. Putting together various pieces of material that already existed and joining them into a new design.

This is the theme that Margaret Atwood has developed through her novel, and I am not making this up for the sake of my review. Her concluding paragraphs, spoken by her heroine, are about the patched Tree of Paradise.

The Tree itself is of triangles, in two colours, dark for the leaves and a lighter colour for the fruits; I am using purple for the leaves and red for
...more
Jamie
Margaret Atwood occupies a strange nook in my heart. She's become a bit of a chore lately, as I'm including her in my senior honors thesis; on the other hand, I've now read almost all of her novels, and while none are bad or even...not really good. Just that because a few of the novels shine so brightly, that the others seem duller in comparison.

Well, Alias Grace is a supernova. It's an absolutely phenomenal novel, and a truly thrilling read. It's a departure for Atwood, as it's historical ficti
...more
Jean
Mar 30, 2016 Jean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"When you are in the middle of a story it isn't a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It's only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else."

This powerful passage is from Margaret Atwood's 1996 novel Alias Grace. She dev
...more
Tatiana
Jun 05, 2011 Tatiana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001, booker, 2011
I felt about Alias Grace the same way I did about probably half of Atwood's novels I've read so far - I just didn't fully get it.

Nobody conveys Life ain't easy for a woman message as well as Atwood. Past, present, future - the living is rough for women. It is particularly unpleasant for Grace Marks, a young servant girl in mid-19th century Canada, accused of murdering her employer and his housekeeper with the help of her co-worker and alleged paramour, and who is locked up first in an insane as
...more
Paul Bryant
Jul 07, 2009 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At the very heart of certain narratives is a lacuna, to which the reader is drawn ineluctibly, as the centre of a whirlpool of meanings. It may indicate something essentially unknowable, ineffable - the lacuna in the Old Testament is when God tells Moses I AM THAT I AM, which lets us know in no uncertain terms that this thing is not of logic or language, whatever it may be; the lacuna of the New Testament is Christ's three days in the tomb - we are not told anything about that, it is unknowable. ...more
Doug Bradshaw
Nov 13, 2015 Doug Bradshaw rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
**Minor Spoilers**

This book is as close to time travel and walking in the shoes of another person as it gets, perfect historical fiction based on a fascinating actual case of a 15 year old girl thrown into prison for a double homicide. Most of the story comes in from two perspectives, Grace Marks herself telling her story to a young MD/psychologist working to see if he can get her released from prison, and then from the young physician himself listening to her story, never sure he can truly trus
...more
Shovelmonkey1
Jul 03, 2013 Shovelmonkey1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: murder mystery fans
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
The Handmaid's Tale and the Blind Assassin were my previous Atwood reads and while I understand her alpha-author status in Canada and international reputation, her works just do not quite blow my mind enough to turn me into an obsessive Atwood completist. Before I decided to read Alias Grace it had been on my shelf for three years gathered enough dust to sculpt a dust bunny the size of an actual rabbit. I feel the same about A.S Byatt... no reason, no discernible malaise directed at these two la ...more
BrokenTune
Jan 23, 2016 BrokenTune rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, canada
"Sometimes at night I whisper it over to myself: Murderess, Murderess. It rustles, like a taffeta skirt across the floor.
Murderer is merely brutal. It’s like a hammer, or a lump of metal. I would rather be a murderess than a murderer, if those are the only choices."


Alias Grace is Margaret Atwood's record of Grace Marks, who convicted of murder, spent thirty years in prison and a mental institution before being pardoned.

The book is based on true events of one of Ontario's most ambiguous cases - t
...more
Maxine
Aug 16, 2011 Maxine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Alias Grace, although a work of fiction, is based on one of Canada's most infamous murder cases. In Toronto, in 1843 16-year-old Grace Marks and fellow servant, James McDermott were accused of murdering their employer, Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper and mistress, Nancy Montgomery. Both were sentenced to death and McDermott was hanged. However, Grace's lawyer was able to get her sentence commuted to life imprisonment by arguing her youth, her gender, and, according to him, her feeble-mindedne ...more
Tony
Apr 20, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
It really happened. In 1843, in a remote Canadian farmhouse, James McDermott killed his employer, Thomas Kinnear, and Kinnear's housekeeper and mistress, Nancy Montgomery. The two open questions were: 1) was the 15 year-old servant Gracie Marks the paramour of McDermott; and 2) was Grace involved in the murder?

Oh, people wanted to believe the worst. McDermott and Marks were found in flight across the border in the States. There wasn't much of a trial. McDermott was easily convicted and would han
...more
Maciek
Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood's ninth novel is a work of historical fiction, although based on a true historical event - the story of Grace Marks, a Canadian housemaid who was convicted of murdering her employer Thomas Kinnear, and suspected of murdering his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery on July 23, 1840. The murder has been extensively reported in Canadian, American and British newspapers. It has sparked quite a controversy: Nancy was Kinnear's mistress who has before given birth to an illegitim ...more
Debbie "DJ" Wilson
Another wonderful read from Margaret Atwood. I went into this book blind, not knowing this is Atwood's re-creation of an actual event that took place in the mid 1800's. The amount of research and location of records must have been extremely difficult. I think knowing this from the outset would have made a difference in my experience of this book. While it keep me fully engaged throughout, I found it a little slow and overly descriptive at times. Becoming aware that this was an actual event, I fi ...more
Alice Poon
Jul 19, 2015 Alice Poon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition


This is an intriguing story that Margaret Atwood has creatively re-woven from a true murder case that took place in the 1800s in the suburbs of Toronto, Canada. It is written from the perspectives of the imprisoned murderess and of the mental illness physician who was hired, sixteen years after her conviction, by campaigners for her release, to study her mental state prevalent at the time of the perpetration of the crime.

Interlaced with the enthralling narrative is the author’s insight into the
...more
Stela
Take a sensational event. Gather all information available about it, credible or not (testimonies, newspaper articles, letters etc.). Fill in the gaps with your own imagination. Carefully delete any border between reality and fiction. Here it is: the perfect recipe for a postmodernist novel.
And what a novel! As usual, Margaret Atwood creates a "oeuvre d'art". The story of Grace Marks, a "celebrated Canadian murderer" of the 19th century, is retold in a ludic manner, enriched with unexpected mea
...more
Madeline
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chrissie
My first Atwood.

Actually, I picked up this book not so much to learn about the murder of Thomas Kinnear, a wealthy Ontario farmer, and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery, on July 28, 1843, but rather to try the author. I had heard such great things about Margaret Atwood, and historical fiction is a genre I enjoy. The writing is special. The author is skilled and I was impressed. She has a talent for putting just the right lines into her different characters' mouths. There is humor. This humor is
...more
Paige Pradko
Reading Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood is like trying to see a distant horizon clearly through a kaleidoscope. I found myself continuously maneuvering facts and characters to get to the truth. But of course, everyone has a different truth and what is truth anyway. The book begins by Grace telling us a surreal, dreamlike story of a murder, and we learn immediately that she is in prison. But, we do not know who, what, where, when, with who, why, or anything else for that matter. Much of Grace's me ...more
Johnny D
Aug 03, 2012 Johnny D rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I was approximately eleven, a young teen and his friend approached the schoolyard fence during recess and talked to two of my friends and me. After asking us if we went to a school for albinos (it wasn't a school for albinos, it just so happened to be a school filled with children of mostly Dutch background), he proceeded to tell us a number of tales.

There was, according to him, an insane janitor that lived in the shed atop the vocational school across the way. This janitor had once murdere
...more
Lori
Aug 30, 2007 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007august
I loved this book.

Right up until I didn't.

Atwood creates such compelling characters, and Grace Marks was no exception. I was curious (did she commit murder?), compassionate (boy, her life sucked) and drawn in (the tale bit by bit enthralled me). I couldn't make the pieces fit, which was just what I wanted.

For about 450 pages.

And then it all unravels. I knew she'd have to give the readers an answer as to what really happened, even though we'd been spoonfed info tiny bit by bit. The revelation was
...more
nettebuecherkiste
Kanada, 1859. Die Magd Grace Marks ist seit ihrer Verurteilung 1843 wegen des Mordes an ihrem Arbeitgeber und dessen Haushälterin inhaftiert. Ihr Mittäter wurde ebenfalls verurteilt, jedoch hingerichtet. Graces Strafe wurde aufgrund ihrer extremen Jugend – sie war zum Tatzeitpunkt erst 16 Jahre alt – in eine lebenslange Freiheitsstrafe umgewandelt. Der junge Nervenarzt Simon Jordan möchte Grace studieren – und ihr die Wahrheit über die Morde entlocken. Inwiefern hat sie an ihnen mitgewirkt? War ...more
Claudia
Dec 06, 2015 Claudia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Was für ein Leben?

"Die Gefangene seufzte und hob die Hände beide:
Man quält mich, sagte sie, und ich leide;
Doch sie sind wenig wert, eure Riegel und Türen dicht;
Und wären sie aus Stahl, sie hielten mich nicht."
Emiliy Bronte, "Die Gefangene", 1845

Dies ist die Geschichte von Grace Marks, die 1843 zusammen mit ihrem angeblichen Liebhaber ihre Arbeitgeber ermordet haben soll.
Erst 16-jährig wird Grace zuerst zum Tode verurteilt und dann doch noch begnadigt. Begnadigt heißt in diesem Fall 29 Jahre Gef
...more
Candi
Sep 02, 2015 Candi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a gem. A work of fiction, but based on actual historical events, Alias Grace is the story of the convicted murderess, Grace Marks. Sixteen year old Grace and fellow servant James McDermott are said to have brutally murdered their employer, Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper and supposed mistress, Nancy Montgomery, in Canada during the 1840’s. However, Grace claimed to have no memory of her own culpability in these murders. Both were found guilty; James McDermott was condemned to dea ...more
Jessica
Jul 26, 2007 Jessica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jennifer (aka EM)
Ahh, this is Ms Atwood at her most skewering. Grace possesses a remarkable voice. She is an enigma, but more, she is a litmus test. As she sits and sews, quietly telling her story, she lures others to reveal their own weaknesses. Grace is the great equalizer between the empowered and the powerless. It's really a novel of hypocrisy and duplicity -- but whose? And, if Grace -- impoverished, abused and Irish; without a friend in the world -- is guilty; what are the gentry - the gentlemen doctors, t ...more
Ginny_1807
Apr 26, 2013 Ginny_1807 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ginny_1807 by: Stela
“Una storia, quando ci sei nel mezzo non è una storia, è solo confusione: un fragore indistinto, un andare alla cieca, tra vetri rotti e schegge di legno; è come una casa che vortica in una tromba d’aria, una nave che si schianta contro gli iceberg o precipita giù per le rapide, e nessuno a bordo può fermarla. È soltanto dopo che diventa una storia, prende una forma. È quando la racconti, a te stessa o a qualcun altro.”

Magnifica ricostruzione biografica basata sulla rielaborazione critica del ma
...more
Jennifer
I read this as part of a group read. There were most certainly mixed feelings about it. I have been afraid to read anything more by this author since reading The Handmaid's Tale. That one stayed with me. I enjoyed the different perspectives provided in this story. I liked Grace the best. I wish we had been given more of the story from her. Simon I could have done without. He was a tool, but not a very good one. What I meant to say is that he was a tool used by the author to move the story along. ...more
Michael
Atwood's talent is evident from a wonderful stream-of-consciousness rendering of Grace, who as a 16-year old Irish immigrant maid in the 1840's in rural Ontario was convicted of aiding in the murder of her master and his household manager and lover. Based on a true case, she was found in a hotel with the hired hand who confessed to the crime. The tale does well in portraying Grace's resilience and the process of her examination by a psychiatrist after years in prison. The manners and morals of t ...more
matt


Better than The Handmaid's Tale, in my humble opinion. As good as THT was, there was a sort of self-conscious Orwellian allegory kind of thing going on that sort of blunted the edges of the very real and very pointed social criticism.

This one's more of a barn burner...plot moves fast, it's really engaging and kind of dark. I remember reading this and completely ignoring the bustling room all around me.

Don't you love it when that happens? It's like a textual cocoon...
Amanda
Dec 17, 2015 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars but I'm not rounding up because I felt the ending was just a tad too contrived. This is a fascinating story based on a real life case of a woman who was convicted of murder in the 1800's. There was a ton of controversy was she guilty was she insane? The facts are very controversial and I thought Atwood did a fabulous job of weaving them into a great novel. She should write more historical fiction.
Jack Jordan

The more I read Atwood's work, the more I'm dedicated to it; once I finish one title, I'm instantly looking forward to starting the next.

With Alias Grace, Atwood has perfectly embodied a literary classic - it reminded me of works like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Rebecca and others; luckily for us, Atwood hasn't held back on her frankness on sex and other topics that she writes of so well.
Atwood gently weaves fact and fiction in this tale,so well that I can't help but want to believe that thi
...more
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  • The Diviners
  • The Wars
  • Away
  • The Polished Hoe
  • The Last Crossing
  • Solomon Gursky Was Here
  • The Wreckage
  • A Mixture of Frailties (Salterton Trilogy, #3)
  • Unless
  • Three Day Road
  • Clara Callan
  • A Good House
  • No Great Mischief
  • The Navigator of New York
  • Fugitive Pieces
  • Green Grass, Running Water
  • The Nice and the Good
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Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College.

Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, childr
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More about Margaret Atwood...

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Gone mad is what they say, and sometimes Run mad, as if mad is a different direction, like west; as if mad is a different house you could step into, or a separate country entirely. But when you go mad you don't go any other place, you stay where you are. And somebody else comes in.” 242 likes
“If we were all on trial for our thoughts, we would all be hanged.” 230 likes
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