Monday, October 14, 2013

Alias Grace: A Novel

1996, 1997 G.K. Hall large-print edition
Margaret Atwood
Alias Grace: A Novel
Original and purchase price unknown
Hardcover with wrinkled pages

Even for Atwood, this is a strange novel.  Not so much because it's based on a real-life murder case, but because one, Atwood doesn't take sides (you'll have no more clue of Grace's guilt and/or innocence by the end than at the beginning), and two, the really disturbing thoughts and behavior belong to the men, in particular Dr. Simon Jordan.  I think Atwood is making a point about how men (some men? all? in the Victorian period? now?) view women, wanting them to be both virgins and whores, victims and villainesses.  But, as in her other books, The Handmaid's Tale (1985) in particular, women seem to collaborate in their own oppression, and exploit it for its own ends.

I would've given the book a C+, but I got a kick out of Simon's mother.  She's like a Thackeray character crossed with an Austen character, with maybe a dash of Wilde, all her letters harping on the same themes: the need for Simon to settle down with her friend's daughter, and the wisdom of investing in sewing machines.  (The book is mostly set in 1859.)  She's not only right, but she's funny.  I kept wanting to read a book about her instead.  Too bad Atwood seems to have mostly abandoned the farce of The Edible Woman (1969) and Lady Oracle (1976).  This is the last of her books I own, but none of her later works sound like they'd be that amusing.

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