Saturday, June 15, 2013

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood 
(Bloomsbury, 1996) 
Format: ebook via library 

From Goodreads: "In 1843, a 16-year-old Canadian housemaid named Grace Marks was tried for the murder of her employer and his mistress. The sensationalistic trial made headlines throughout the world, and the jury delivered a guilty verdict. Yet opinion remained fiercely divided about Marks--was she a spurned woman who had taken out her rage on two innocent victims, or was she an unwilling victim herself, caught up in a crime she was too young to understand? Such doubts persuaded the judges to commute her sentence to life imprisonment, and Marks spent the next 30 years in an assortment of jails and asylums, where she was often exhibited as a star attraction. In Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood reconstructs Marks's story in fictional form. Her portraits of 19th-century prison and asylum life are chilling in their detail. The author also introduces Dr. Simon Jordan, who listens to the prisoner's tale with a mixture of sympathy and disbelief. In his effort to uncover the truth, Jordan uses the tools of the then rudimentary science of psychology. But the last word belongs to the book's narrator--Grace herself."

I read this for one of my Goodreads groups (The Rooster! - feel free to join us, I totally have the power to approve member requests, because I am THAT COOL.) It's been ages since I read Atwood, I don't know why. Blame the kids. Or something. 

Here's the thing: "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."

I MEAN, RIGHT? Because Grace has told and retold her story - to herself, to the police, the lawyers, doctors, the constant barrage of voyeurs who want to be able to say they saw the celebrated murderess in person. And her story is contradicted by the witnesses and the man who shot their boss and journalists who want their stories to be as lurid and sensational as possible. And everyone who asks for her story has a different agenda. The question is this: does Grace tailor each retelling of the events of that day to manipulate her listener for her own purposes, or is she as simple and innocent as some claim? Or is she guilty, conniving, a mastermind? Personally, I think the years and years of being watched through a cage turned her into the woman who sat so cooly through the interviews with Dr. Jordan, unfurling her story in a way calculated to keep him engaged. And in the end - well, I can't tell you, but brace yourself, because just as you think you have a handle on her, Grace will deliver a one-two punch to your gut. The dark roaring continues.

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