Book Review: Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

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Fans of Jane Austen will enjoy this story of a notorious murderess. The story alternates between two main characters, the murderess Grace Marks and the doctor Simon Jordan. It is fiction based on a true story of earlier centuries, when America was just beginning and psychiatry had not quite been introduced.

Who exactly committed the ghastly crimes of double homicide? Was it gruff, rough and nasty ‘McDermott,’ alone, or did he have an accomplice? If he did have an accomplice, was it Grace Marks, or an unknown third party? Why exactly was the head of the house and his housekeeper killed?

For me, the letters near the beginning of the novel are the most difficult to get through, and the least interesting part of the novel. Like Jane Austen’s writing, there is a lot of description of common everyday things that lead to strange surprises in this historically-based whodunit.

Grace Marks is an interesting heroine. Her story, as she tells it, is simple, seems innocent, and a bit on the raunchy side with amusing colloquialisms. But was she capable of murder? What kind of influence was she under by McDermott, or was she under any influence at all?

Dr. Simon Jordan is at the other end of the spectrum. Dr. Jordan is a young man who bucks traditional roles to examine this criminal ‘lunatic.’ The question becomes however, who is sane, and who is not.

If you’re not a fan of heavy scene description, than this is either not the right book for you, or you should be warned in advance that a lot of skimming will be involved. However, this is a good book, and has an interesting storyline. Recommended for fans of Jane Austen or period literature.