Synopses & Reviews
In Alias Grace,
bestselling author Margaret Atwood has written her most captivating, disturbing, and ultimately satisfying work since The Handmaid's Tale.
She takes us back in time and into the life of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the nineteenth century.
Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and Nancy Montgomery, his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders.
Dr. Simon Jordan, an up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness, is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story while bringing her closer and closer to the day she cannot remember. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories? Is Grace a female fiend? A bloodthirsty femme fatale? Or is she the victim of circumstances?
About the Author
was born in Ottawa in 1939, and grew up in northern Quebec and Ontario, and later in Toronto. She has lived in numerous cities in Canada, the U.S., and Europe.
She is the author of more than forty books novels, short stories, poetry, literary criticism, social history, and books for children. Atwoods work is acclaimed internationally and has been published around the world. Her novels include The Handmaids Tale and Cats Eye both shortlisted for the Booker Prize; The Robber Bride, winner of the Trillium Book Award and a finalist for the Governor Generals Award; Alias Grace, winner of the prestigious Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy, and a finalist for the Governor Generals Award, the Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; The Blind Assassin, winner of the Booker Prize and a finalist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; and Oryx and Crake, a finalist for The Giller Prize, the Governor Generals Award, the Orange Prize, and the Man Booker Prize. Her most recent books of fiction are The Penelopiad, The Tent, and Moral Disorder. She is the recipient of numerous honours, such as The Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence in the U.K., the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature in the U.S., Le Chevalier dans lOrdre des Arts et des Lettres in France, and she was the first winner of the London Literary Prize. She has received honorary degrees from universities across Canada, and one from Oxford University in England.
Margaret Atwood lives in Toronto with novelist Graeme Gibson.
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
1. This novel is rooted in physical reality, on one hand, and floats free of it, on the other, as Atwood describes physical things in either organic, raw terms (the “tongue-coloured settee”) or with otherworldly, more ephemeral images (the laundry like “angels rejoicing, although without any heads”). How do such descriptions deepen and reinforce the themes in the novel?
2. The daily and seasonal rhythm of household work is described in detail. What role does this play in the novel in regard to its pace?
3. Atwood employs two main points of view and voices in the novel. Do you trust one more than the other? As the story progresses, does Graces voice (in dialogue) in Simons part of the story change? If so, how and why?
4. Graces and Simons stories are linked, and they have a kinship on surface and deeper levels. For instance, they both eavesdrop or spy as children, and later, each stays in a house that would have been better left sooner or not entered at all. Discuss other similarities or differences in the twinning of their stories and their psyches.
5. Atwood offers a vision of the dual nature of people, houses, appearances, and more. How does she make use of darkness and light, and to what purpose?
6. In a letter to his friend Dr. Edward Murchie, Simon Jordan writes, “Not to know -- to snatch at hints and portents, at intimations, at tantalizing whispers -- it is as bad as being haunted.” How are the characters in this story affected by the things they dont know?
7. How and why does Atwood conceal Graces innocence or guilt throughout the novel? At what points does one become clearer than the other and at what points does it become unclear?