Review: Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood

Review: Alias Grace, Margaret AtwoodAlias Grace by Margaret Atwood
Published by Doubleday Nan A. Talese ISBN: 0385475713
on November 2, 2017
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 468
Format: Audio
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
five-stars

From the number one New York Times best-selling author of The Handmaid's Tale

Soon to be a Netflix Original series, Alias Grace takes listeners into the life of one of the most notorious women of the 19th century.

It's 1843, and Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer and 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.

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?

Captivating and disturbing, Alias Grace showcases best-selling, Booker Prize-winning author Margaret Atwood at the peak of her powers.

The miniseries Alias Grace is a Halfire Entertainment Production made for CBC and Netflix.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but my husband and I like to listen to audiobooks while we cook dinner, and I have picked most of them. We made a deal that I would pick one more, and I was supposed to surprise him and pick whatever I wanted, and then it would be his turn. We had tried to listen to Lincoln in the Bardo, but I just couldn’t follow the story in audio. That was the last book my husband picked, I think. I thought long and hard about which book to pick. I almost picked The Handmaid’s Tale because I don’t think he’s read it, but I have read it, and I had wanted to read Alias Grace. I thought maybe my husband would like it because it is based on a true crime story, and he is something of a true crime aficionado.

Both of us liked the novel quite a lot. I think we are planning to watch the Netflix series, too. My husband remarked several times about what an excellent writer Margaret Atwood is. I am not sure if we were meant to think about Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, which was also based on a true crime. To my way of thinking, Alias Grace has more than a healthy dose of Naturalism as well. It explores themes of mental health, treatment of women, sexuality, and gender as well as social issues involving Irish immigrants. Grace emerges as a sympathetic character, but at the same time, it’s difficult to know who she really is, especially by the end. Atwood weaves the narrative together well through the frame device of Dr. Simon Jordan, an American interested in mental health issues, who visits Grace to learn more about her story and the infamous murders that resulted in her imprisonment as a teenage girl.

Sarah Gadon plays Grace Marks in the Netflix adaptation of the novel, and she does a worthy job with the narration of this novel as well. This one is definitely worth a listen.

five-stars

Sunday Post #20: Summertime

Sunday PostLooks like summer is starting pretty much all over (at least in the northern hemisphere). I’m beginning to see vacation pics on Facebook, and I’ve been eying my TBR pile, looking for good summertime reads.

I have a bit of a busy summer ahead. I am going to at least four teaching workshops. If anyone tries to tell you teachers don’t work during the summer, don’t you believe it. In addition, I have a new course to plan.

This week, I finished two books. The first I’ve already reviewed: The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. The second I have not yet reviewed, but will review and post about tomorrow (so good that it really needs its own post rather than a review rolled into the Sunday Post): We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Both were audio books.

I am still finishing up Walden, though my other books are on a bit of a hiatus, with the exception of I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira. I don’t know if other readers do this or not, but I have to have at least one paper book, one e-book, and one audio book going at all times. The paper books I can read in the tub without fear of destroying an expensive device. The e-books I can read pretty much everywhere, including in bed with the lights off, so I don’t disturb my husband. The audio books I can listen to while I do housework or make soap.

I love to read books set in my adopted home state of Massachusetts, so that was one reason why I liked We Were Liars so much, and I admit, seeing Massachusetts as a setting will push a book higher on my list. Here is a partial list of some of my favorite Massachusetts reads.

           

Some I’m looking forward to diving into or finishing:

    

I wonder if other readers are like me and like to read about places they have lived. I also certainly read a lot of books set elsewhere, too.

I added some books to my TBR list this week:

 

I know what you’re thinking: some variation of either “why haven’t you read The Things They Carried?” or “why wasn’t it already on your list”? It sort of was on my list, to address the second question, but now an oversight is corrected in that it’s on my Goodreads to-read list. As to the first question, yeah, I know.

Not at all a bad reading week, and I’m looking forward to more time (I hope) to read this summer. What about you? Have any recommendations or books you’re anxious to read?

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things we have received. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme.

Young Woman Reading by Hermann Jean Joseph Richir

Saturday Reads: February 4, 2012

Young Woman Reading by Hermann Jean Joseph RichirI am a true converted fan of Ree Drummond’s [amazon_link id=”0061658197″ target=”_blank” ]Pioneer Woman[/amazon_link] cookbooks (the [amazon_link id=”0061997188″ target=”_blank” ]new one[/amazon_link] is due out soon) and cooking blog. Part of the artistry of her blog is her ability to take excellent photographs of her cooking. I have been pinning so many of her recipes to my Recipes board on Pinterest. I just love Pinterest.

The New York Times has more Downton Abbey reads (yet another reference to the new book about [amazon_link id=”0770435629″ target=”_blank” ]Lady Almina[/amazon_link]).

Paulo Coelho is encouraging folks to pirate his books, arguing he actually sells more books when they do.

William Boyd’s article on Vienna at the turn of the 20th century was fascinating reading.

Julian Barnes wrote a short story “The Defence of the Book,” and The Guardian offers a taste.

Sam Jordison argues that if you’re going to read [amazon_link id=”1843548534″ target=”_blank” ]Bleak House[/amazon_link], need to go about it in the right way.

James Lasdun has a good review of Nathan Englander’s new short story collection [amazon_link id=”0307958701″ target=”_blank” ]What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank[/amazon_link].

Flavorwire has a list of 10 Great Science Fiction Books for Girls (driven, of course, by the 50th anniversary of [amazon_link id=”0374386161″ target=”_blank” ]A Wrinkle in Time[/amazon_link]). My favorite on the list is [amazon_link id=”038549081X” target=”_blank” ]The Handmaid’s Tale[/amazon_link], but I have to admit the list skews older than I thought it would when I followed the link. I think girls might like André Norton’s [amazon_link id=”0216901693″ target=”_blank” ]Outside[/amazon_link] (out of print, but easy to find second hand), or Lois Lowry’s [amazon_link id=”0547424779″ target=”_blank” ]The Giver[/amazon_link] (though it has a male protagonist).

[amazon_link id=”0670030589″ target=”_blank” ]One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest[/amazon_link] is 50, too. Flavorwire has a gallery of book covers. My favorite is either the Penguin classics cartoon cover or the one with all the pills.

Feast your eyes on these gorgeous bookstores.

I loved this post in Better Living Through Beowulf about turning to Austen when you’ve been jilted by your fiancé.

Young Woman Reading by Hermann Jean Joseph Richir

Saturday Reads: January 21, 2012

Young Woman Reading by Hermann Jean Joseph RichirSaturday Reads is a weekly feature sharing bookish links from news, blogs, and Twitter that made up my Saturday reading.

I spent a lot of time at my two favorite newspapers’ book sections on my iPhone this morning. The Guardian has a great article by Margaret Atwood reflecting on [amazon_link id=”038549081X” target=”_blank” ]The Handmaid’s Tale[/amazon_link] some 26 years after it was published. A commenter quoted Rick Santorum, underscoring just why Atwood’s book is as important as ever. Here’s my review of The Handmaid’s Tale from my archives, if you’re interested.

The New York Times has a great review of [amazon_link id=”0062064223″ target=”_blank” ]The Flight of Gemma Hardy[/amazon_link], which I will soon be reading for TLC Book Tours (very excited!).

New Books

The publishers also sent me a pretty copy of [amazon_link id=”B004CFA9Y6″ target=”_blank” ]Jane Eyre[/amazon_link], which Margot Livesy’s book is based on. I can’t wait to reread that one. It’s got deckle-edged pages and the paper cover is textured. I am very much in favor of this new trend in making classics look cool with bold, creative covers. As much as I love old paintings, I think they’re becoming a little played as book covers (she said, knowing she used one on the cover of her own book—in my defense, I don’t have the budget to pay a graphic artist to design one). I think winter is a good time to read gothic classics.

The New York Times also has good reviews of new nonfiction, including Ian Donaldson’s new biography [amazon_link id=”0198129769″ target=”_blank” ]Ben Jonson: A Life[/amazon_link], John Matteson’s new biography [amazon_link id=”0393068056″ target=”_blank” ]The Lives of Margaret Fuller[/amazon_link], and Richard W. Bailey‘s new book [amazon_link id=”019517934X” target=”_blank” ]Speaking American[/amazon_link].

I also really liked this feature on Edith Wharton as New York will celebrate her 150th birthday on Tuesday. Nice link to [amazon_link id=”B005Q1W10A” target=”_blank” ]Downton Abbey[/amazon_link] and discussion of Wharton’s own novel [amazon_link id=”0140232028″ target=”_blank” ]The Buccaneers[/amazon_link].

Of course, Charles Dickens also celebrates a big (200th) birthday this year, and The New York Times has a fun feature on Dickens. Favorite quote? “The fact is that Charles Dickens was as Dickensian as the most outrageous of his characters, and he was happy to think so, too.”

I’m think anyone interested in New York might find the new book [amazon_link id=”067964332X” target=”_blank” ]New York Diaries: 1609-2000[/amazon_link] intriguing. It sounds like the book has a variety of entries, from the “famous, the infamous, and the unknown in New York.” The Times reviewed this one, too, of course.

Flavorwire had some interesting posts, too. I particularly enjoyed “The Fascinating Inspirations Behind Beloved Children’s Books” and “10 Cult Literary Traditions for Truly Die-Hard Fans.”

Finally, I enjoyed this reflection on A Wrinkle in Time at Forever Young Adult. [amazon_link id=”0312367546″ target=”_blank” ]A Wrinkle in Time[/amazon_link] will be 50 this year. Can you believe it?