Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Book 29: Finished.

I loved Alias Grace. I mean, I loved the writing, the characters, the story, the situations that Atwood created. It was beautiful. I especially loved that she developed all of this from a murder that occurred in the 1840s.

The material surrounding the actual murders is included in pieces throughout the novel. Atwood adds snippets of trial transcripts, as well as Grace's confession to add depth to the story she weaves. Every time I finished a section and came to one of those pages with real material, I had to remind myself that this actually happened. Atwood made me forget with the beauty of the tale.

But where she wins is the character of Grace. Rather than focus solely on the murder and devote most of the writing on the actual event, she alludes to it. Grace is recounting her story to Dr. Jordan throughout all of the novel. She takes it so slowly, and develops every detail that the murder seems secondary. When it finally does happen, it is over and done with and hard to accept. It is hard to connect the sweet Grace telling her story to a hardened murderer who has spent 20 years in prison.

That is the skill of Atwood's writing. She made me forget that I am not supposed to like Grace. Grace is not a person I should be feeling sympathy for if she did, in fact, murder her master and the housekeeper. But I did feel for her, and I felt for her so deeply that I desperately wanted a different ending. It was hard to know that even while I felt I knew her, as Dr. Jordan thought he did, she was still a convicted murderer.

That is great skill.

I also want to touch on the side story of Dr. Jordan. The perspective switches from Grace to Dr. Jordan and to letters written between characters. While I saw some critiques online about the side-story of Dr. Jordan and his landlord, I loved it. Essentially, Atwood sets up a similar scenario for Dr. Jordan as to what happened to Grace before the murders. I loved that she did that, to make Jordan and the reader question what they would do in that situation.

So yes, Atwood is a greatly skilled writer.

I loved this novel. It was truly excellent and beautiful. It makes me want to dive into the rest of Atwood's work so I can soak up her genius, but that will have to wait for another time.


  1. It makes to so happy to read your review, because I loved this book as much as you. I am always happy to meet other Atwood lovers, as she is truly one of my favourite authors. No one can create characters and a mood and a story like Margaret Atwood can.
    It has been awhile since I read this one of hers, but I might have to re-read it. Although I have 'Surfacing' at home by Margaret Atwood that I still haven't read yet.

    I agree with you that the way Atwood created Grace was special. You couldn't help but feel for her and her situation. Its a useful reminder that good people can do bad things, something I am reminded of in my daily work and I think that other people need to remember too.

  2. This was an unexpected hit with my book club in Feb. We were all blown away by Atwood's skill in creating a realistic 19th century woman's voice, and with the way she slowly brought the story and the characters to life. I'm definitely in the Atwood camp now!

  3. I LOVED this book too! Read it when it first came out in hardcover. I was working at the bookstore and I put it on Staff Recommends and moved a lot of copies. Then last year I convinced my book club to read it so I actually reread it (which I almost never do with adult books these days unless it's a book club book and it's been 10 years since I read it.) It was just as good as I remembered! And Becky, Surfacing is really good. That's the first Atwood that I read, in college. I need to read another of hers.