I’ve been making my way through Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood over the last week or so. It took a bit, as many books do I’m realizing, to really get into the story, but once I did I absolutely loved it. Grace, the main character of the book, is based on a real person who was an infamous murderess in 1840s Toronto. Atwood based her character on the real Grace Marks, but there wasn’t a lot to go on so she invented much of the novel.
Grace is being interviewed and telling her story, many years after being put in prison, to a doctor, who is interested in lunacy, and trying to figure out if Grace truly murdered the people in question or not. I use the words of the time here, because to be quite honest they are the best words to describe what is happening, it is a novel of the Victorian era.
I came to really love the Grace character and to be intrigued by and never really figure out the character of the doctor, Simon Jordan. Grace is surrounded by women who usually are trying to eek out a life in situations that make that next to impossible. Many are abused, mistreated emotionally, and end up dead. But Grace keeps going through it all.
It is through the telling of Grace’s story that we see how she views life, how she views victimhood. She cuts right through the Victorian politeness, often only in her thoughts we read, so that we read and learn what she actually thinks.
It is remarkable, I have since thought, how once a man has a few coins, no matter how he came by them, he thinks right away that he is entitled to them, and to whatever they can buy, and fancies himself cock of the walk. (p. 337)
The truth is that very few understand the truth about forgiveness. It is not the culprits who need to be forgiven; rather it is the victims, because they are the ones who cause all the trouble. If they were only less weak and careless, and more foresightful, and if they would keep from blundering into difficulties, think of all the sorrow in the world that would be spared. (p. 457)