Alias Grace

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Thoughts Before Reading:

I actually read this for a history class…

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I know, sweet right! It was a history of the novel class so we read novels and historical fiction novels throughout time.

So here I am posting my review from the class.

One of most fascinating and perplexing parts of Alias Grace is the way in which the author, Margaret Atwood, chooses to narrate the story. She scripts her tale in many different ways so we are given a multitude of views on the subject of whether Grace Marks is a murderess. Along with these assorted depictions, the way in which Grace expresses her story is also mind-bending.

Alias Grace is written in two narratives; first there is Grace revealing her actions in first person and second Dr. Simon Jordan who is told in third person. Along with these we are given letters from people involved in the case of petitioning for a pardon; the Reverend Enoch Verringer, trying to help Grace win her freedom, and Dr. Samuel Bannerling, trying to keep her in.

While the letters evoke the sensibilities of what people would have felt at the time, Dr. Jordan fulfills the reader’s point of view. As he eagerly attempts to get Grace to speak on what happened that night, and to shed more light on the events and characters, the reader hungrily awaits with him. For those who have not grown up in Canada and had never heard of the story before, they can hardly wait for Grace to tell her tale. Dr. Jordan also invokes the doubts and concerns the reader has about Grace, as they too wonder if she is telling the truth or “spinning a yarn”. His view told in third person, only reinforces the idea of his voyeurism into Grace’s life, and our, the reader’s, voyeurism into theirs.

Grace however, has the most interesting narrative style of all. We are told her story from her lips, but yet at the same time we are struck with the idea of not knowing everything about her. In most stories told in first person, one really learns who the character is; how they feel on subjects, are privy to their emotions, can see their deepest desires, and can easily comprehend whether the character is lying or telling the truth. However, in this case we never fully know who Grace is. She tells us many things about herself, but always remains cool and collected, never fully opening up.

In fact one never knows if what Grace tells the doctor or tells herself is fact or fiction. Grace states in the beginning how she learned to act in the way her keepers wanted her to, and that she knew how to give people the things they wanted to hear, (for example making up the dream for Dr. Jordan). That leaves us with the ever-looming question of “what really happened?”. Even when Grace relates the night of the murder, Atwood chose to have it told in Dr. Jordan’s third person view to continue to keep us in the dark. When Grace goes under a trance and manifests as “Mary Whitney” we are also shown that in the third person, and never told how much of the hypnotism was acting and how much real. Did Jeremiah tell her to act as if she was possessed by Mary’s spirit? Or did she come up with the idea of using Mary as her “Mrs. Bates”?

Besides the trouble of trying to shift around to seek the truth, Atwood chose to have Grace’s point of view written without correct punctuation, therefore causing us to never know what is actually spoken aloud and what only reverberates through her head. Did she tell Dr. Jordan everything she tells the reader she tells him, or is she lying to herself and the viewer? Interestingly enough, it almost seems as if Atwood made Grace aware of the reader’s presence, toying with telling us what she wants to, but still always guarded from revealing the whole truth.

Hmm…

This book was a highly entertaining psychological thriller, who’s narrations play within your mind as to what is truth and what are lies, along with what is insanity and what is lucidity; leaving the readers with a sense of never being able to have their questions answered. Atwood trifles with the reader’s mind, giving them breadcrumbs and a trail to follow to find the truth, but in the end leaving one as mixed up as ever as to what really transpired.

For more historical fiction mysteries, go to The Falling Machine

For more mysteries based on a real person, go to The Hyde Park Murder

For more books from my history class, go to High Road to the Stake: A Tale of Witchcraft

For more not in a series mysteries, go to The Andromeda Strain

For more book reviews, go to Midnight in Austenland

The Hyde Park Murder

Happy 4th of July Everyone!

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Typically I post a recipe, but as I stumbled upon a book that not only takes place on the 4th of July but features a president, I thought I would post on this instead.

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The Hyde Park Murder (Eleanor Roosevelt Investigates #2) by Elliot Roosevelt

Neighbor Adriana van der Meer comes to Eleanor Roosevelt for help. She was engaged to Bob Hannah, but her parents no longer want her to see him. His father, Alfred Doolittle Hannah, has just been accused of a multi-million dollar stock swindle.

But before the case can go to court, Bob’s father dies by suicide.

Not only are the upcoming nuptials on hold, but Bob is convinced that not only did his father not participate in the scam, but that he did not die by suicide but:

Bob sets out to investigate, going undercover as a lowly employee in his father’s former company. He also gets assistance from a call girl, Miss Moira Lasky.

On the case!

Eleanor decides to assist, bringing in the Securities and Exchange Commissioner, Joseph P. Kennedy, Mayor Fiorella La Guardia, Supreme Justice Brandies, and congressman Sam Rayburn.

It turns out that what they stumbled on is more than just a con, but masking who is really behind it all; the growing German Nazi Party.

Seriously?

Will they be able to stop them before they take America’s money to fund their war?

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Thoughts After Reading:

It was okay.

I didn’t think it was as bad as the first one, but it was pretty boring and bland.

They go on and on about stock information I really did not care to know about.

 The only interesting character was Moira but she wasn’t in the book enough.

So pretty much:

For more Eleanor Investigates, go to Murder and the First Lady

For more 4th of July posts, go to Happy 4th of July Triple Berry Salad

For more holiday posts, go to Crazy Cantina Chili

For more books based on real people, go to The Alchemy of Murder

For more on mysteries with embezzlement, go to Murder Well Done

God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her
Thru the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam
God bless America, My home sweet home.

Happy 4th of July!

Murder and the First Lady

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Murder and the First Lady (Eleanor Roosevelt Investigates #1) by Elliot Roosevelt

When one of Mrs. Roosevelt’s employees is suspected of murdering her boyfriend, Mrs. Roosevelt decides to investigate in order to clear her aide’s name.

The murdered boyfriend is the son of a congressman and he does not care for the First Lady’s involvement, especially as she starts to unearth some unsavory things about his son.

Mrs. Roosevelt will not give up, going from gambling dens to brothels in order to find the truth.

Thoughts After Reading:

I hated it.

It was so dumb. How could the President’s wife go undercover as a prostitute and no one notice?

Yeah, thought this was dumb and boring. Definitely a skip.

For more mysteries based on real people, go to The Alchemy of Murder

For more historical fiction, go to A Duty to the Dead

For more on going undercover as a prostitute, go to A Most Peculiar Circumstance

For more mystery reviews, go to The Sign of the Four

The Alchemy of Murder

The Alchemy of Murder

The Alchemy of Murder (Nellie Bly #1) by Carol McCleary

So this is a historical fiction mystery, with the main character being based on the real life reporter Nellie Bly.

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The year is 1889. The place, Paris France;  the capital of Europe. Paris is hosting the World’s Fair, having unveiled the Eiffel Tower, (at the time thought ugly but then became a permanent part of the skyline and one of the biggest tourist destinations.)

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But while people are celebrating man’s accomplishments, a serial killer stalks the area and a plague is striking Parisians by the thousands.

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Nellie Bly is convinced that both the killings and the epidemic are connected. She travels down to Paris to hunt this killer, “The Alchemist” as she calls him.

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Along her search, she enlists the help of Jules Verne, Oscar Wilde, and Louis Pasteur.

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Thoughts after Reading:

I bought this book a couple of years ago as the synopsis intrigued me. Historical fiction, mystery, some of my favorite literary writers. I thought it would be like Oscar Wilde and a Game Called Murder: A Mystery, but this book was horrible.

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I know it is supposed to be in the Victorian era, but having your main character be cold and emotionless isn’t endearing to the reader. It was horrible to get into and boring. I need my character to have character.

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Not only was Nelly bland, but she seemed so out of tune with her time period, not that she was from the future or past, but just as if she didn’t belong.

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For me it fell flat.

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For more historical fiction mysteries, go to The Harlot’s Tale

For more books featuring investigative reporters, go to A Change of Fortune