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

High Road to the Stake: A Tale of Witchcraft

High Road to the Stake: A Tale of Witchcraft

Highroad to the Stake: A Tale of Witchcraft by Michael Kunze

Thoughts Before Reading:

I had to read this for my class on Early Modern Europe, but didn’t.

I know. Since I couldn’t return it I decided to just hold on to it and read it later.

Plot Synopsis:

This book is the account of the Pappenheimers family. This unit of five-father Paulus; mother Anna; sons Jacob (sometimes called Michel), Gumpprecht, and Hoel (sometimes called Hansel). They were a lower class family that moved around like gypsies.

An arrested thief named them as his conspirators in murdering pregnant women and called them witches. They were arrested and taken to Munich.

There they were tortured and accused of committing over hundreds of thefts and murders, basically any unsolved crime.

Michael Kunze gives a deatailed account of life in the 17th century, and a detailed account of the horror of the witch hunts and trials.

Thoughts After Reading:

I have tried to read this book five times and barely make it out of the first few chapters.

Ugh

It is so dense and I just can’t connect to the work. I’m not sure if it is his style or maybe the translation, but after the fifth time trying to read it; I just kissed it goodbye.

For more nonfiction, go to The Girl in Alfred Hitchcock’s Shower

For more books featuring witches, go to The Witch Hunter’s Tale

For more books I read for class, go to The Midwife’s Tale

For more book reviews, go to Beyond the Grave: A Choose Your Own Ending Mystery Adventure

The Midwife’s Tale

midwife'stale

The Midwife’s Tale (A Midwife Mystery #1) by Sam Thomas

Thoughts Before Reading:

I actually read this for a history class…

YayHappy-Success-GIF

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

ReadTimeandPlaceforBooksMyhandnow

It was a fantastic class. Anyways, the professor knew the author of this book, so not only did we get to read a mystery, my favorite, but we were able to skype him and ask him questions about the book and make suggestions. Such as two characters getting together.

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Book Synopsis:

Lady Bridget Hodgson, lives in 17th century. She married her true love, but when he died; she remarried a wealthy man, got a title, and also an okay marriage as her husband believed himself to be smarter than he is.

Icannotstandmorons_Laura

She has had a lot of tragedy in her life as her son was a stillborn baby, her daughter became ill and died; and her husband followed them.

poutsad

When she lost her daughter, her mother-in-law taught her midwifery; something she continues to do as a widow; earning additional money, respect, and power in her city of York.

Lordoftherings LifeisGood

So currently in time the country is facing a Civil War between Parliament and the King. York is in the middle of it all, with Parliament laying siege to the city.

Stop this stupid love triangle!

However, a young maid, Martha, has managed to slip through the lines. She has come from Lady Bridget’s deceased cousin to see about a job. Lady Bridget hires her and finds her to be extremely gifted in dealing with purchases from stalls to assisting her clients giving birth.

fantastic

However, Lady Bridget’s life changes when two mysteries are thrust upon her. The first being the killing of a young baby. Lady Bridget setting out to discover which mother or father did the dead.

justice

And the more shocking crime, her friend Esther Cooper has been arrested for the murder of her husband.

thenannygasp

Lady Bridget is shocked that they would ever think the demure Esther capable of killing. She sets off to prove her innocence, aided by Martha who contain skills needed in this service that go beyond simple maidly duties.

suspicious Hmm

As they set out for the truth they find themselves setting out on a path riddled with danger: from soldiers, the Parliament’s artillery, a villain from Martha’s past, Lady Bridget’s nemesis, etc.

urkelgif interesting hmm

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Thoughts After Reading:

Lately there has been an increase in historical fiction mysteries, especially those in which the main character accidentally finds themselves involved a case and uses their amateur sleuthing skills to solve the puzzle that was presented to them. Unlike many authors who’s reasoning’s for how their character manages to maneuver through all parts of society, Sam Thomas is able to realistically portray his character as a successful private investigator through the combination of her station and employment.

gotthis

As Lady Bridget Hodgson is a member of nobility, it gives her certain protections that others would not have; namely it is harder to kill her, she has to be treated with respect by those below her (and on the same plane), she cannot be as easily ignored or thrust aside, etc. These benefits enable her to not only approach those in the upper class regarding her investigation, but also protect her when she ventures into the lower regions.

You_know_thats_right

Her midwifery duties also give her credibility as an investigator as she is able to question and gossip with women of all classes; which all her to be privy to all types of scandalous (and helpful) information that would not be shared with just anyone. Information gathered this way creates a realistic pathway for the author to express key clues without having his main character appear too all knowing or unbelievable. This occupation also grants Lady Hodgson the talent to read people; therefore being a more effective detective as her midwifery enables her to distinguish a lie from the truth.

“Esther was telling the truth.’

‘How do you know?’

‘Unmarried mothers will often lie to me about the father of their bastards, so I know a lie when I hear one.” pg. 96

youcan'thandlethiscarygranttocatchathief

Being a midwife does not only grant her many friends, but also give her the leverage she needs to blackmail people into granting her requests. Her knowledge of extra-marital affairs, allows her to get her way.

don'tmesswithme

However, even though these qualities allow Lady Hodgson to be able to be an extremely effective detective; Thomas does not gloss over the fact that being a woman in 17th Century England, even a noblewoman, does have limitations. As most women were not educated the same way as men; Thomas uses Lady Hodgson’s first marriage as way that she could be able to live on her own and take care of her accounts. Her first husband had taught her how to run the land and how to treat the tenants; allowing her to be able to understand and know how to take care of his and her second’s husband’s land after they both pass on. However, she is still treated with disdain by many because she is a woman trying to do more than her sex allows. This opinion is expressed by many characters throughout the novel; all seeing her as weak, fragile, simple, or meddlesome.

Sorry but I don't think so.

Sorry but I don’t think so.

The mystery was also extremely well written as it has quite a few twists and turns, leading you on onto you come to the conclusion.

fantastic

The characters were all written extremely well that are all enjoyable; whether you love them or love to hate them.

this is going to be good

I loved it and give it five out of five stars!

Read it today!

Read it today!

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For more historical fiction, go to A Change of Fortune

For more murdered husbands, go to A is for Alibi