Tuesday, January 08, 2008



Rating : 5.0/5
Number of Pages : 545
Reason for Reading : Book Awards Reading Challenge, I really like the author

Based on the true story of Grace Marks who was the most infamous woman in Canada in the 1840's. Her and James McDermott were accused of murdering their male employer Mr Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper cum mistress Nancy Montgomery who was pregnant at the time. McDermott was said to have killed Mr Kinnear with a shotgun after earlier in the day the two of them strangled Nancy. Possible reasons were that McDermott was in love with Grace and Grace was in love with Mr Kinnear.

The tale picks up with Grace in jail sometime after McDermott has been hanged for his crimes. Grace was due to be hanged as well, but the sentence was changed to life due to the efforts of her lawyer Kenneth MacKenzie. It is told alternatively through Grace herself and Dr Simon Jordan who specialises in mental issues (Grace spent some time in an asylum but it was unclear whether she was truely insane or faking it). Dr Jordan is a young man trying to open his own asylum and adopts Grace as his new project that will hopefully give him the exposure he requires to get funding. The interest in her is that it was never proven just what her involvement was in the murder of Nancy and Mr Kinnear, she claims to have had a blackout and not remember anything for a couple of hours during the time Nancy was killed.

I absolutely loved this book. Grace was such an interesting character, you were never sure how much of what she was telling Dr Jordan was the truth. Atwood gives the impression that she was guilty, but it is never said outright. There are some interesting side characters like Dr Jordan's landlady and his mother who towards the end manages to get her own way, she is a very formidable opponent! I also spent a lot of time wondering whether Grace's friend Mary Witney was ever real or was Grace's original name and who the "J" from the apple core divination was that Grace would marry. Highly recommended to all Atwood, fiction and crime fans.

8 comments:

nessie said...

Have you ever tried Alice Munroe? I love Atwood but Munroe's novel and short stories (the latter being something I ususally avoid) are spectacular. I recommend Lives of Girls and Women

Rhinoa said...

Thanks Nessie I haven't, but I keep hearing great things about her short stories. I doubt I will get a chance this year, but I will put her on my list for 2009.

heather (errantdreams) said...

Sounds lovely. I enjoy Atwood's ability to make unusual characters fascinating and involving.

Nymeth said...

This sounds really cool. I really need to read more Margaret Atwood this year.

Melody said...

Wow, this sounds great! I will add this to my wishlist. Thanks for the great review, Rhinoa!

Literary Feline said...

I will be reading my first Atwood book this year (Blind Assassin), but I do have this one on my TBR shelf as well (along with a few other of Atwood books). I guess I'm sure I'll like her. :-) This one does sound good. I look forward to reading it.

Nyssaneala said...

This is my favorite Atwood book, after the Handmaid's Tale. Glad you enjoyed it!

Joy said...

This really sounds good. Hmmm, I think I'll put it on my TBR list. Thanks! :)