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Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood is the stunning fictionalized account of the real-life 1843 double murder of Thomas Kinnear and his mistress, Nancy Montgomery. Accused in the murders are two of Kinnear’s servants, James McDermott, a stable hand, and sixteen year old Grace Marks, a maid.
Margaret Atwood explores Victorian-era society, classes differences, attitudes toward women, mental health, and the spiritualist movement in this intriguing novel. There was much controversy and debate over the guilt or innocence of Grace Marks during the trial and after. Ms. Atwood’s novel continues the debate.

From the Publisher

In Alias Grace, bestselling author Margaret Atwood has written her most captivating, disturbing, and ultimately satisfying work since The Handmaid’s Tale. She takes us back in time and into the life of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the nineteenth century.

Read more . . .

Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and Nancy Montgomery, his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders.

Dr. Simon Jordan, an up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness, is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story while bringing her closer and closer to the day she cannot remember. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories? Is Grace a female fiend? A bloodthirsty femme fatale? Or is she the victim of circumstances?

Anchor Random House

Book Club Party Ideas for Alias Grace


Decorate your 19th century table with a Heritage Lace Victorian Rose Tablecloth, a Victorian Candelabra, and a pretty vintage-looking vase filled with fresh flowers.


Grace took comfort in church hymns such as Abide With Me, Holy, Holy, Holy, and Rock of Ages.  Victorian Hymns by Craig Duncan is filled with the traditional hymns sung for over a hundred years.

Songs of the Isles-Ireland by John McDermott includes Rose of Tralee, Mary’s favorite song.

Book Club Menu for Alias Grace

Since the scenes in which food makes an appearance in Alias Grace aren’t what I consider appetizing or particularly festive, I decided to take my inspiration from the book’s setting: The Province of Upper Canada, present-day Southern Ontario.

Soft and Airy Classic Dinner Rolls


Ontario Parmesan Spinach Salad and Grilled Asparagus


Canadian Maple Syrup Chicken and Root Mash

Buttery Mini Tarts

Canadian Whisky Slush


Book Club Resources for Alias Grace

Ratings at the time this post was published

Goodreads: 3.96 stars (52,696 ratings)
Amazon: 4.3 stars (303 ratings)
LibraryThing:  3.93 stars (2,293 ratings)
My Rating: 4 stars Margaret Atwood is one of my all time favorite authors.  Atwood creates a dark and gloomy atmospheric novel.


  • Alias Grace has the physical heft and weighty authority of a 19th-century novel. In its scope, its moral seriousness, its paradoxically ponderous and engrossing narrative, the book evokes the high Victorian mode, spiced with the spooky plot twists and playfully devious teases of the equally high Gothic — the literary styles of the period in which the book is set. —Francine Prose, New York Times
  • I was blown away with the integrity of the context. This book could have been written in the time that it is set. It didn’t give a hint of modernity. There were no judgements based on the morals of the 20th or 21st centuries. That is not an easy thing to pull off. Atwood, I am a fan.–Educating Petunia Blogspot
  • In Alias Grace, Atwood considers all sorts and conditions of women: mothers, daughters, wives, lovers, aunts, deserted women, abused women, women dying and dead because of frequent childbirth or botched abortions, women in love, those who are romantic and idealistic and those who are pragmatic to the point of being cynical, old women, young women and girls. Atwood stresses the vulnerability of Victorian women, the way in which they were trapped, very often because of their compassion for children and because of male domination and lack of economic opportunity and equality. We are also shown the hopelessly split attitudes men then held towards women, and their marked lack of understanding of them.–Gillian Bouras, Council of Adult Education at
  • Atwood goes deeper into her characters than most writers would feel comfortable. She allows us to scrutinize their dreams, hopes, fears, experiences and expectations, yet still retains ambiguity to make the reader question if what they are reading is the truth. Every character is flawed. Every character is human. —Shamo9, Edinburgh, United Kingdom,

Discussion Questions for Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

  • Discuss the quilting theme. Why did Margaret Atwood use the quilt motif? What was she trying to reveal?
  • Did the attitudes toward women in the nineteenth century affect the outcome of the trial?
  • Discuss the class differences in Victorian society.
  • Why is the book titled “Alias Grace”
  • Is Grace guilty or innocent? Is she possessed, mad, an unwitting accomplice, or a cunning murderess?

Grace Marks and James McDermott

Alias Grace at favorite booksellers

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Squares from some of my heirloom quilts

Quilt-Square-2-175x116 Quilt-Square-11-300x199
Quilt-Square-31-300x199 Quilt-Square-41-150x150

The Author

Margaret Atwood’s official website

Biography from

Margaret Atwood was born in Ottawa, Ontario, in 1939. She is the daughter of a forest entomologist, and spent part of her early years in the bush of North Quebec. She moved, at the age of seven, to Toronto. She studied at the University of Toronto, then took her masters degree at Radcliffe College, Massachusetts, in 1962.

Margaret Atwood is Canada’s most eminent novelist and poet, and also writes short stories, critical studies, screenplays, radio scripts and books for children, her works having been translated into over 30 languages. Click here to continue …

Awards for Margaret Atwood and Alias Grace

  • Canadian Giller Prize
  • Shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
  • Premio Mondello
  • Salon Magazine’s best fiction of 1997
  • Norwegian Order of Literary Merit
  • Canadian Booksellers Association’s Author of the Year award

Other Works by Margaret Atwood

The Robber Bride

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