FuschiaReads.

....and sometimes watches.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Alias Grace


Margaret Atwood Virago Books 1996 PB 545pp

“Out of the gravel there are peonies growing”

I finished this book a couple of days ago and continue in two minds about this “extraordinarily potent tale of sexuality, cruelty and mystery”.
This is the first book by Margaret Atwood that I have read, having been so disturbed by the movie version of ‘The Handmaidens Tale’ all those years ago. I do not dispute that she writes well, but I hesitate to say that she writes what I want to read.

True Crime History – icky double murder in the mid 1850’s Canada. Young Grace Marks and surly James McDermott tried, found guilty and James swings for his crimes. Pretty little Grace spends 30 years in the gaol before being released and disappearing off the face of recorded history. There is so little known about this pair and their story that is could easily be construed as a authorial blank canvas. The voice of the author is heard strongly and the constant stories of abuse and mistrust and betrayal of women and children at the hands of men seem to be the point for the whole book rather than an examination of politics or the judicial system or an interesting story about a young girl or any of the many spins that could be been taken.

‘Alias Grace’ tells the imagined story of Grace’s life, from poverty in Ireland to Domestic Servant in Canada. The crime is recounted towards the end in flashback. Then there is a happy ending. Miss Atwood does write well – I was quite disturbed by this book - I would read it for a while and then lie there thinking ‘Are all my relationships based on greed and selfishness and weird sexual intrigue? Is there nothing honest and kind and true about any of the people that I know? Are my children doomed to unhappiness and loneliness and cruel manipulation?’

While there is not a female character in this book that you would happily invite for cake and gossip, I would not hesitate – even for a second – to send every single man in a rocket ship straight into the sun. No-one could ever accuse me of not being a card-carrying Feminist and supporter of Girls Who Write, but I do not see that all the men in such a genre have to be so very very very awful. It reads to me like whatever the girl equivalant of Misogyny is and is equally as distasteful.
The happy ending just feels tacked on and there really is no resolution of the ‘mystery’.

Back to St Vinnies for you, my dear

Comments:

I'm re-reading Oryx & Crake at the moment, and like it a lot more than AG. If you like SciFi, try that one. It's along the same vein as Handmaid's Tale but less focussed on women.

Also try reading the Handmaid's Tale, which is a much better experience than that horrid movie.

# posted by Blogger Ampersand Duck : 1:31 PM  

I remember liking this book a lot when I read it, but you're right: a lot of what she writes is disturbing on a lot of levels... Did you like "The Blind Assasin"?

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