Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
This book was a gift from my brother’s wife (holy crap, my brother’s married!) for my last birthday. Admittedly, we use gift lists in my family – but Shannon is also a fan of Margaret Atwood so this was a lovely personal gift. I really like Margaret Atwood, but I sometimes feel that I started by reading her best novel and have been going down the list from there.
While the title character is telling a story that draws in her listener inch by inch as she slowly lets out her yarn, Atwood is doing the same thing with her readers. The narrative jumps between characters and between time frames as Atwood keeps us holding on, waiting for the tangled climax. A climax comes only for Grace; the stories of all the other main characters are ended with an uncomfortable jolt. The unexpected jump into Victorian rape fantasies is a bit jarring as well.
Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer, the wealthy Thomas Kinnear, and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery. Years later, Dr. Simon Jordan – an up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness – listens to Grace’s story, from her family’s difficult passage from Ireland to Canada, to her time as a maid in Thomas Kinnear’s household. As Grace relives her past, Dr. Jordan draws her closer to a dark maze of relationships and her lost memories of the day her life was shattered.