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Peter the flautist

Dark Puss liked this book a great deal. The writing is almost uniformly excellent, the characters are strong and believable and the sense of place and time is convincing. I thought the sexual tension between Dr Jordan and Grace was well handled and plausible. Perhaps curiously I wasn't really concerned with the "did she or didn't she" aspect of this novel, which interested me far less than the inter-personal relationships and the subjugated position of almost all the women in the story and how the female characters dealt with this.

Two things slightly let down the book, one I thought it was a lttle too long and secondly I was not really convinced by the affair that Dr Jordan had with his Landlady Rachel. I felt that this was used as a slightly clumsy device in order to provide a reason for Dr Jordan's abrupt departure.

I am very glad to have read this book, I thoroughly enjoyed it and (sorry Cornflower!) it was for me head and shoulders above "All Passion Spent".


I shouldn't really be contributing, as I have not managed to re-read this -- I mooched a copy which never arrived. But as I did read it when it first came out, here is my twopennyworth -- I liked it enormously. I used to be a huge fan of Atwood in the 1970s and early 80s but went off her for a while -- perhaps I was glutted. Anyway this one really restored my high opinion of her, and I found it fascinating, intriguing and beautifully written. I hope you will read more of her novels, Karen -- it will be interesting to see which you enjoy. I shall definitely re-read if it ever arrives.


When I first read Alias Grace, I wasn't expecting very much. Having read several of Atwood's other writings, I had to admit, I was not a fan. Although still not completely won over by Atwood, I do love Alias Grace. I found the characters to be completely believable, and for me, that above all, in any book, is what is most important for me, I have to believe in the characters.

I am very glad that the readers of the Cornflower International Book Club enjoyed this book, as much as I did.


I also have to admit to not re-reading this. I have read it twice, though. It is one of the first (if not the first) Atwood books I read and I liked it so much I recommended it to my bookclub and we read it a few years ago. It is one of my favorite novels by Atwood, and the one I think most accessible for people new to her work. I just love her writing. It feels so crafted to me, so well-planned. Karen, you mentioned how things are revealed 'as if by accident' - I love that about her. I also hope that you will read more of Atwood's novels and let us know what you think. May I suggest The Blind Assassin?


This is one Margaret Atwood I haven't read. I love her early books, particularly The Edible Woman. Might just have to get a copy of this one to read

 Barbara MacLeod

This is a highly acclaimed writer that I tried to read once and failed. So I tried again, here, in earnest. I got on quite well until the Dr Jordan and Landlady affair and it went downhill from there.

I feel the book is what it is: an author writing in the late 20th century about an event in the mid 19th century. There is a great deal of detail included in order to help with the setting, period, but, to me, it was overdone; her voice got in the way e.g. when Simon is writing a letter to an old friend from his medical student days he says "when we were in London". To me, this is the author speaking; the recipient of the letter would know that. It also had the effect of making the story overly long.

I could not engage with the story except when Grace's story unfolded. What I look for in a book is to lose myself; time passes unnoticed, I am taken out of myself. That is the essence of the pleasure of reading. Sadly, it just didn't happen!


Ah, the needlework content. I was lucky enough to be one of a small group of reasearch students who actually got discuss this book with Margaret Atwood herself. I wanted to ask her about the patchwork, whether she was linking Grace's sewing to a tradition of needlework among women who were disenfranchised, as it is something that features in the work of African American writers (Alice Walker mentions the Sister's Choice pattern in The Colour Purple and Toni Morrison's Beloved is full of literal and metaphorical patchwork). And also whether she was deliberately invoking the feminist literary criticism of Elaine Showalter, whose "Sister's Choice: Tradition and Change in American Writing" draws heavily on quilting and quilting as analogy. Was Atwood offering a Candian riposte?
But we were asked to log our questions with the chairman before Margaret Atwood arrived, and a much bolder student said she was going to ask about patchwork. Which she did: "are all the chapter names the names of quilt patterns?" Answer: "Yes". End of patchwork discussion. Sigh! Nevertheless,it was still a fascinating event. Anyone else care to comment on the patchwork?

Mr Cornflower

This was a really engrossing and evocative read. I do agree with Cornflower about the implausibility of McDermott's motivation, the way Atwood describes him he's a roistering bully but not - in the absence of a greater provocation than she provides - a calculating murderer. However this is a minor flaw in what overall I found a powerful narrative.

adele geras

I'm amused by the account of the patchwork discussion with MA!! That sounds exactly like her, from what I've heard.
I loved this book when it first came out and read it twice. This time, I, also, only mooched, but I do remember it well enough to say: I think the patchwork is such a useful metaphor for all sorts of things that many writers find it tempting to use in the organization of a novel. I agree about the 'thriller' element and there not being enough motivation for murder etc
But it's such a wide-ranging, clever and well-structured book that takes in SO MUCH, both of the known facts and Atwood's invention, that I am a real fan. Oddly, I'm not sure it matters whether Grace is guilty or not. I tend to think she was...or maybe not!
But there are other Atwoods I prefer. Cat's Eye is absolutely brilliant about friendship/nastiness between small girls; The Robber Bride (my favourite Atwood) is a fascinating take on fairytales and also a version of those blockbuster novels about 'three women'. Really superb. I also loved 'The Blind Assassin' but could not make head nor tale of 'Oryx and Crake'
And of course there's the 'Handmaid's Tale' which is a classic. Lots for you to choose from there, Cornflower! You will have fun.


I read this book just over a year ago and like others who have commented I didn't re-read it. I think it's one of the best of Atwood's books that I've read, partly because all the way through I couldn't make my mind up whether or not Grace was guilty and at the end I was still unsure, although I tended towards thinking she was. A strong novel which kept my interest throughout. Cat's Eye was the first one I read and like Adele I think it is brilliant,but maybe The Blind Assassin is my favourite.


I read this book so long ago I will not be able to comment on it lucidly. however, it is not my favorite Atwood book. I have read all of them, and my favorite are in this order: The Robber Bride, Cat's Eye, and Oryx and Crake. Actually, the later is much like The Handmaid's Tale, rather too much sci-fi for my liking. She is a marvelous writer, and I'm glad you enjoyed her.

By the way, I'm here via the lovely Becca (and Bella) and I find we have much in common with our fondness for things in life.

Angela Young

I'm late to post about ALIAS GRACE because I've been away ... apologies.

I felt that although the story of Grace Marks is an extraordinary one, she never truly lived on the page because it wasn't until page 342 that her narrative was dramatised, and even then she reports her emotions (page 516, 'The emotions I experienced were strong and painful') they weren't dramatised. This telling not showing - Grace telling Dr Jordan what happened to her - had the effect of keeping me at a distance from her, just as she is already some distance from what she did, or didn't, do. So, sadly, I didn't mind whether she was guilty or innocent, pardoned or not pardoned. Also I truly wondered about Dr Jordan's seduction by Mrs Humphrey ... was he overloaded with laudanum? Was he sleepwalking? Either way, surely no human being can end up in another's bed without knowing how he did so, or working it out later? It seemed an implausible plot device to me, so that he would eventually have to leave abruptly.

I love novels that pull me in and won't let me go, but this one never got hold of me in the first place which is a pity, because the story could have got me by the throat if it had been written with less detachment.


A late comment from me, too. I have difficulty with Atwood, often finding her characters unengaging, though her writing never fails to impress me. I don't like any of the people in Alias Grace enough to find it an easy read, and Grace's slyness makes me queasy, so I didn't really enjoy it. But I can pick the book up and find literary merit in almost any short passage, Atwood is so good at the craft of writing. Like Adele my favourite is The Robber Bride, and I'm about to recommence my battle with Oryx and Crake. She's a superb writer, I wish I liked her more.


I found this book at a sale for fifty cents, and knowing the author and liking her, I bought it. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I liked the fact that I couldn't make up my mind if I was indeed for or against her! I've read it twice now - it intrigues me!

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Please note

  • Sidebar book cover thumbnail pictures are affiliate links to Amazon, and the storefront links to Blackwell's and The Book Depository are also affiliated; should you purchase a book directly through those links, I will receive a small commission. Older posts may also contain affiliate links to one of those bookshops. I am not paid to produce content and all opinions are my own.


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