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Alias Grace
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December 2017: Social Issues > Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

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Tracy (tstan) | 1207 comments Grace Marks may or may not have been responsible for the murders of her boss and his housekeeper in 1843. The man who really did kill them said she egged him on. The public said she had to be guilty. Even her lawyer believed she did it, but he got her a life sentence instead of the gallows.

Grace was a real person, and the above is all true. But that’s where the novel takes off. And what a story! Everyone has an opinion about Grace, and every fad of the day: seances, dream interpretation, hypnotism, even spiritual possession are used on her. She is subjected to all the latest psychological research by a physician who hopes to make a breakthrough in science himself, and maybe help her be pardoned.

Along the way, Grace is subjected to rampant sexism: she was assumed to be the murderer’s and the boss’s paramour, propositioned by male prison guards and possibly raped by one of the physicians assigned to her in the asylum. She is also the adopted poster child of those who want prison reform, who bring her to the prison governor’s home to mend and sew, but don’t trust her with the scissors.

Was Grace guilty? Or was she afraid for her life because she was a witness, and went along for the ride? There is so much in this book, and such a great story, in the exciting era of budding industry and medical advances, with Atwood’s deft characterization of an unreliable narrator...just amazing.

I felt this was a social issue Because of the strong push by many people in this book for prison reform. From religious leaders to society ladies, and even the warden’s wife, there was a push for reforms in treatment of prisoners and in sentencing. The hope for Grace’s pardon, and the insistence that she was a victim of circumstance by these folks was the background of the book. Atwood used her platform well- without statistics or preaching herself, she brought out issues that are still hot buttons today.


Anita Pomerantz | 6543 comments Apparently I read this one, but lost my review in the transfer from Shelfari. I'm laughing because your review made me want to read it A LOT, and then I realized I already had. My memory is not what it used to be. Thank goodness for the record here at Goodreads. Apparently you liked this one more than I did, but that is consistent with my general feelings about Atwood's writing . . .like it, don't love it.


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