A book that I have just gotten my teeth out of is Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace. This is an author that you just can't take lightly, and chances are you will either love her works or hate them. I hated her Bodily Harm, but loved Blind Assasin.
Alias Grace recreates the story of Grace Marks, a house-maid who was accused of murder in the 19th century along with an accomplice. The base story is true though the author has invented details which weren't available to her during research. The intriguing part of the story is the question of Grace's innocence or guilt, and public opinion in her day was very much in favor of the latter.
The book employs Atwood's preferred means of newspaper reports and letters, besides the first person, for narration. This gives a touching personal feel to the story-telling by Grace, and the imagery is, as usual, haunting and very vivid. An interesting approach is the use of dreams to convey hidden meanings and add texture to the already intense and engrossing story.
There is also a fascinating foray into the approach towards psychiatric ailments in those days, Grace being confined to an asylum for some time. The young Dr. Simon Jordan is attempting to analyse her psyche and see if he can draw fresh conclusions about her sanity or lack thereof; much of the book is the story told him by Grace towards this end.
The characters of Mary Whitney, who leaves you wondering even after the story ends, and Rachel Humphreys the landlady touched me in particular, maybe they are such an indictment of the position women found themselves in those days; however, also because that position is not terribly different from today, a good 150 years later.
Margaret Atwood is at her best in this book. Cerebral, but with the intensity and imagination that has to be read to be experienced. The humor is mordant, wherever present. Alias Grace is, overall, a fine snapshot of the 19th century in one way, but also because of the compelling story, an engrossing read even in this day and age.