Alias Grace is based on the 1843 double murder of a land owner in Ontario and his housekeeper/lover. The hired man, who was hanged for the murder, said that the 16 year-old servant girl Grace made him - and helped him - kill the housekeeper. Whether Grace and the hired man were lovers who ran away together, or whether he forced her to go with him at gunpoint, is something that will keep readers turning the pages.
Being the work of Margaret Atwood, the book is of course much more than an account of a murder. Alias Grace was her first work of historical fiction, and it put her on the Booker Prize short list for the third time (she eventually won for The Blind Assassin). This is one of my favorite passages - Grace is speaking:
I never do such things, however. I only consider them. If I did them, they would be sure I had gone mad again. Gone mad is what they say, and sometimes Run mad, as if mad is a direction, like west; as if mad is a different house you could step into, or a separate country entirely. But when you go mad you don't go any other place, you stay where you are. And somebody else comes in.
Margaret Atwood's Letter to the Reader
Random House interview with Margaret Atwood
Salon interview with Margaret Atwood: "Blood and Laundry"
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