Alias Grace is based upon the famous murders of Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper/lover Nancy Montgomery in Canada in 1843. The story was sensationalised in the press as two other servants in the household were convicted of their killing – James McDermott and Grace Marks, the latter of whom is the focus of this story.
Atwood invents a psychologist, Simon Jordan, who goes to speak to Marks to get the truth of her story – were she and Kinnear lovers as well? Did she seduce James McDermott and promise him her love if he killed Nancy to get her out of the way?
Its a delicious tale, that is never truly resolved. Although Grace tells Dr Jordan her “story” she also makes numerous comments to the reader about actually telling a story. She needs to make it interesting. And Jordan is aware that she is hiding something… but what? And why? She is already serving life in prison, what does she have to gain from hiding the truth? All this is clouded by the fact that Jordan is gradually falling in love with her… and so many men in her history have. But what was she capable of doing with that love? And did she ever really feel any herself?
You may never know the answer, but you will enjoy the journey.