Tuesday, May 03, 2011

One for the flight bag

I finished reading Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace just before the busyness of Holy Week began, and now wish I'd saved it for a holiday. Based on a true story, this book has all the ingredients that make for a joyful picking-up of the thread every time the reader has a moment, making for yet another bereavement when I finished it.

Grace is in a penitentiary in Canada. She is a notorious murderess - or is she? Her story is told partly in her own words, as well as through the third person experiences of Dr Jordan, who is allowed to interview her in an attempt to find out what exactly happened that dreadful day in 1840 when Nancy and Mr Kinnear were killed and Grace's mind went blank. Or did it?

And this is the interesting thing about the book. Despite learning of Grace's childhood in Ireland, the family's hellish journey to Canada, her becoming a servant and escaping her drunken father, despite a first-hand account of the day her employer and housekeeper died, I never felt sure of the extent of the narrator's guilt or innocence. Neither does Dr Jordan. The outcome is satisfying without being conclusive.

Atwood writes so wonderfully that I was immersed from the start. Brutality, cruelty, sexuality and murder are all dealt with in the same clear, consistent prose of what the Independent on Sunday called "a sensuous, perplexing book". If you haven't read it, take it in your flight bag.

1 comment:

  1. That's another one I already have on my 'to read' shelf. I think I need about a year to get through them all!