Read of the month: Alias Grace by Margret Atwood

Books, to me, are an essential part of travel. While I love travelling, the actual travelling part itself can be tedious and books are a great way of keeping yourself and your mind active at these times.

This is a new section that I’ve been thinking of adding to the blog for a while now. It’s almost like a way of making use of what I have learned during my English Literature degree, but it is mainly because I love books and I’m not used to reading them and not writing anything straight after! Books being one of my travel essentials, this is also a good place for others to share their own experiences.

Even though there has been little in the way of travel excitement for me this month, I still have a half an hour commute to work on the train, each way, five days of the week. This is the perfect time to be reading as not only is it spare time, it also makes my early commute that little bit easier.

Alias Grace by Margret Atwood

Many of you will know Margret Atwood from her award winning novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. Recently made into a television series, the novel brought Atwood’s work right into the main stream and the same could be said about this text. Having read (and watched) The Handmaid’s Tale at college I was keen to get stuck into Atwood’s dark worlds once again.

I have really read nothing like Alias Grace before. Described by Prose in the New York Times as a “paradoxically ponderous and engrossing narrative”, Atwood’s 9th novel is gritty and relentless. The narrative draws from the story of a real double murderess of 1840’s, Grace Marks. To this day, her guilt and part in these murders remains undecided and the conflicting testimonies from other characters bring more questions than answers. In the text, the innocence of Grace is continuously up for question by many other characters, as well as Grace herself, and has left my head swimming too.

While challenging, this left me wanting more and I was completely engrossed in the narrative.What I really loved about this novel, however, was it’s ability to question my own perceptions of narrative voice and the honesty of narration and character. In short, I really could not decide who to trust and who to not. In true Atwood style, the characters in the novel are very human, each having good and bad sides and their thoughts and emotions highly complex and fleshed out. The mixing of narration between characters, particularly between Grace and Dr. Jordan, also adds to this complexity and the concepts of mistrust and unknowing that run throughout.


Shot from the recently released Netflix adaption.

I did though have one issue with the text, and this was the ending. While I will not spoil the text for those of you who are thinking to read it yourselves, I must add that I found it rather neat. This may simply be my own preference, but I feel like there was a lot of opportunities for development here that were simply missed.

However, this does not deter from the overall mastery of Atwood’s work. I could barely put the book down and I was soon on Netflix looking for the adaptation to get another fix of the drama once I had finished it. I would really recommend this book to anyone interested in an exciting challenge; it really is nothing like you’ve read before and if you loved The Handmaid’s Tale get ready to fall in love again.

You can buy the text from Amazon or on Kindle here.

Image from the cover.

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