Alias Grace Review

Publication Date : September 1996

Alias Grace is a work of fiction wreathed around real events. The center figure of the story, Grace Marks, was an infamous 16 year old Canadian maid who was convicted for murdering both her master, Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery. Grace Marks was on her run with her fellow-servant, James McDermott to the United States when they were arrested not long after the murders. Only the Kinnear case was tried, and both Grace and James were found guilty, and were sentenced to hang. However, only James’ execution went through. To her lawyer’s credit, Grace slipped from the lynch, was instead to continue her life sentence in prison. 


First time reading the synopsis, I foolishly thought that the book was gonna be all in mysterious crime vibe.  But then again, that just shows how unfamiliar I am with Atwood’s works. There’s nothing unpredictable in the secrets of the murder, being that’s not really the point. The main spectacle in Alias Grace does not lie on either the ingenuity of its plot or any brilliant twist that it hides. After all, the lynchpin of Alias Grace is nothing other than Atwood’s penning flair, which I honestly think, is quite typical of her. Alias Grace is merely one true testament to that quality.

Alias Grace narrates an intriguing psychological investigation. The story will be opened by dr. Simon Jordan who’s in desperate needs of a breakthrough in his career as a man of human psyche. By the time he’s interested in Grace Marks’ case, Grace has already been 16 years into her life sentence. At this point, she’s earned a privilege to work at a Governor’s house during daytime, to sew and sometimes to clean. The house is also the same space in which, dr. Jordan will have his afternoon sessions with Grace. Not to decide if she’s guilty of murders that she’s been sentenced for, but rather, to decide if she’s sane at all. Interlaced in those sessions, Grace is telling her side of story of the murders right from the start.   

Frankly speaking, I wasn’t keen on reading another book by Atwood to begin with. After all, Handmaid’d Tale, probably the most famous piece of Atwood’s, didn’t quite fit my reading palate. Though I thought Handmaid’s Tale’s premise was brilliant, I thoroughly believed I hated the storytelling style. So it struck me weird when the exact same writing style appeared in Alias Grace, I enjoyed it perfect. The whole process of Grace recounting back her own story resembles height of similarity to Offred’s mental narration, but in Alias Grace’s case, I thought it was exquisitely atmospheric, and at some points it even felt romantic. 

It’s only a generous bonus that the novel is also provocatively contemplative in its essence. It holds a handful of disputable notion against serious challenges, the biggest highpoint being the truth of religion. I swear, the things that the book mentions, or throws at you, will genuinely tickle the philosophical beast in you. 

Because Divine Grace was a mystery, and the recipients of it were known to God alone; and althought Scripture said that by their fruits you would know them, the fruits meants were spiritual fuits, and not visible to any but God alone; and although we must and should pray for Divine Grace, we should not be so puffed up with vanity as to believe that our prayers might have any effect, because man proposes but God disposes, and it was not up to our puny sinful and mortal souls to determine the course of events.

I said to myself that if you could not get Divine Grace by praying for it, or any other way, or ever know if you had it or not, then you might as well forget about the whole matter, and go about your own business, because whether you would be damned or saved was no concern of yours. There is no use crying over spilt milk if you don’t know whether the milk is spilt or not, and if God alone knew, then Gol alone could tidy it up if necessary.

Alias Grace, pp. 293-294

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