Tatiana's Reviews > Alias Grace

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
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bookshelves: 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 asylum and then prison. Atwood finds a way to explore plenty of issues from a feminist standpoint here - poverty, servitude, sexual repression, violence, insanity - and does is marvelously.

What didn't work for me was Grace's story itself. Evidently, this real-life criminal case got a lot of attention back in a day. Was Grace a cunning murderess? Or did her supposed lover force her to participate in this gruesome crime? Did she make up her convenient memory loss?

People speculated about this 150 years ago without coming to any definitive conclusion. Atwood doesn't give any answers in her fictionalized version either. After establishing Grace's character so well, the author failed in my eyes to come up with a convincing solution to the mystery, or a believable motivation for either scenario. If Grace was in fact the evil murderess, why did she desire to kill her master? And if her co-conspirator was in charge, what was his reason? I never understood this.

I appreciate ambiguity on fiction, but what is the point of reconstructing a crime, examining it if you do not give any opinion as to what actually took place? Frustrating.
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Reading Progress

December 21, 2009 – Shelved
December 21, 2009 – Shelved as: 1001
November 21, 2010 – Shelved as: booker
May 12, 2011 – Started Reading
May 12, 2011 –
page 23
May 12, 2011 –
page 23
May 27, 2011 –
page 51
May 30, 2011 –
page 100
June 2, 2011 –
page 240
June 5, 2011 – Shelved as: 2011
June 5, 2011 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-15 of 15 (15 new)

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Regina Oh no not a huge fan? I read this in 1999 and loved it. Why only 3 stars?

Tatiana Regina, mostly I just thought that the whole (view spoiler) wasn't explored fully.

Why did you like it? I wish you had a review I could read.

Emily May Yeah, I know what you mean. It's nearly 500 pages of arriving at the conclusion that no one knows what happened. Would have been a better ending if it had a solution - even a fictional one.

Still, I can't help but love Atwood's writing even when I have no idea what she's going on about :)

message 4: by Catie (new) - added it

Catie Great review, Tatiana. I have had this on my to-read for eons (not to mention, my actual bookshelf). Maybe someday...

Regina Oh I loved the ending. I felt like Atwood was true to the story and let us speculate, she painted the story and we can go from there. I thought the character development was beautiful, I remember reading this when I was living alone in Italy and being scared/spooked. Sorry you were let down!

Tatiana Emily wrote: "Yeah, I know what you mean. It's nearly 500 pages of arriving at the conclusion that no one knows what happened. Would have been a better ending if it had a solution - even a fictional one.


I absolutely love how Atwood writes, regardless of if I like a book of hers as a whole or not.

Erika Nerdypants This is probably my all time favourite book. I love most of Atwoods work, but this book was amazing. I like how Grace is both good and evil, I couldn't help but like her despite the very real possibility that she was a murderess. I often see this book in used bookstores, and wish I hadn't read it yet, so I could have the pleasure all over again.

Regina Erika it is one of my favorites too, although I read it a very long time ago. Atwood is brilliant at walking that fine line. I agree Tatiana, whatever Atwood throws up on a page is enjoyable to read even if the final product isn't what you were wanting.

Tatiana I loved Oryx and Crake and The Handmaid's Tale, but The Blind Assassin is by far my fave. It affected me the most.

Regina That is interesting. I read the Blind Assassin and I know I liked it, but I cannot remember much about it. I do remember thinking it was brilliant the way she wove a novel inside a novel. I read it about 7 or 8 years ago, maybe it is time for a re-read. I have often thought about re-reading Alias Grace, but I remember thinking the beginning part was emotionally painful to read and I don't want to go through that again.

Justina I enjoyed the ending! I think Atwood was trying to the convey the sense of never ending mystery and speculation that was felt even back then. No one knew if Grace truly committed the act, or if she was wrongly accused. By Atwood leaving you to speculate yourself at the end of the novel, you are left feeling as if you were one back in the 1850's.

Regina Justina I think that makes sense. I absolutely loved this novel. Although I read it 14 years ago, I still remember it distinctly.

Elyse T. If you think back of the quilting patchwork that Grace describes and works on, you come to see that just as recycled materials are unified to complete a greater picture by a designer, the sense of understanding 'what happened' is the work of collecting bits and pieces, those as well, organized by a particular designer. The point you didn't get is that what is know as 'truth' depends on how one chooses to reconstruct the story, each reader will make his own opinion.
If Atwood had simply told you whether Grace was guilty or not, the beautifully built (over the 500 pages) metaphor would have been for nothing.

Marcia I love Grace herself as an unreliable narrator. You never know if she's recounting the truth or what she thinks we want to hear.

Alisa I think this is a book that requires more than one reading.

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