In 1843, Grace Marks was tried for the murders of her employer Thomas Kinnear, and his mistress Nancy Montgomery. James McDermot, also a servant in the house at the time, was tried and hanged. Grace was sentanced to life in prison. Little is actually known about her life, and the two accused gave 5 different stories during the trial. Using material from the time - newspaper reports, observations, Doctor's letters etc, Margaret Atwood has pieced together a story. Where the events are unknown, she has used her imagination. The book is consequentally half way between history and fiction.
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The book follows Grace from the brutality of her childhood as an Irish immigrant to Canada, through her years as a servant, and the loss of a close friend. Her life in a mental insitution and in prison is dealt with in less detail, but there is enough to give a distinct impression. Grace's tale is cut with extracts from the life of a fictional Doctor involved with her case - the moral dilemas of his existence provide an intersting counterpoint to the main tale.
The review of this Book prepared by Bryn Pearson