Alias Grace is a novel that requires the reader to commit. Atwood leaves no stone unturned, as she imagines what her protagonist may or may not have done. A lot of the novel is concerned with the small moments of one woman's life, as she grows up, tries to care for her family, and learns her place as a servant in a rich household. Grace is a woman without agency; a woman whose life is controlled by her father, her boss, her jailers, the judge who presides over her case, and then by Doctor Jordan, a man who tries to discover if she is crazy or criminal. This book seems like an amalgamation of so many genres: it's a mystery, historical fiction, and an examination of what has changed and what remains the same when it comes to our expectations for women. Like all of Atwood's books that I have read, I'm sure that there are layers and layers to uncover for the book lover who embarks on a re-read.
By Margaret Atwood
Anchor October 1997
From my shelves
Sullivan excels at showing women in very different stages in their lives: Maggie is a bit reckless because she hasn't yet experienced consequences. Ann Marie bends over backwards to please the others in her life, neglecting her own happiness in the process. Alice has had decades of hiding her pain behind appearances, doing good deeds, and a good drink or five. She is finally at the point of not caring anymore what her children, grandchildren, or anyone else thinks of her.
I've seen several readers say that they were deceived by the cover and expected a fun, light beach read. Maine is certainly not that book. The anger has been simmering for years in the Kelleher household and each of the women do some really mean or stupid things during this story. This is not the book for you if you hope that everyone makes the logical choice or that every character will be likable. But our understanding of each woman builds as the author effortlessly dips into each woman's perspective of their past and their present and this story will certainly make you think about (or be thankful for) your own family.
By J. Courtney Sullivan
Knopf June 2011
From my shelves