Alias Grace by Margaret Attwood

Everyone’s talking about the serialised version of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – everyone but me actually, as we had trouble streaming from SBS on demand, so I’ll just have to patiently wait for my hold on the library copy to arrive. We also have the 1990 film adaptation on the catalogue, starring Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall, but I’m hearing rave reviews about the new series.

I read the book many years ago (it was published in 1986) and although I enjoyed it, it was never my favourite Margaret Atwood title. I really think this work was “ahead of it’s time” and we weren’t ready to embrace a dystopian feminist theme in 1986.

I really enjoyed some of Attwood’s other works, Cat’s Eye and The Blind Assassin, but I think my all-time favourite is Alias Grace. This Gothic whodunit is  based on the true  story of Grace Marks, who was convicted in Canada in 1843, perhaps wrongly, for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper and lover  Nancy Montgomery.

While the facts of the case appear irrefutable Grace claims to have no memory of the murders.

The narrative begins a decade after she is convicted and opinion is still strongly divided as to whether Grace is innocent, a victim of circumstance, evil, or insane. Dr Simon Jordan is engaged to help unlock Grace’s memory to prove her innocence. Multiple personalities, dissociation and repressed memories unlocked through hypnotism  featured strongly in  19th century psychology and are explored through this narrative.

Grace herself makes a convincing case for her innocence as she unfolds her compelling story to Dr Jordan in vivid detail. I remember being riveted by the story when I first read it, and have just started re-reading it on audio book and it’s just as good the second time round! Grace tells a very convincing tale while she seduces and convinces Dr Jordan, and the reader, of  her innocence.

What triggered me into re-reading this book was hearing that this also is being released as a series in 2017, and from the previews it looks amazing. Seems Margaret Atwood is having a well deserved resurgence!