When the bold writing on the cover exclaims ‘winner of the man booker prize’ there is a certain amount of expectation in opening a book. This was the case with Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, a book which I have seen on Waterstone’s shelves and tables constantly for nearly 15 years. However, with high expectations there can also come disappointment and I’m afraid I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had hoped.
Having the narrative in the first person is one of the most common styles in historical fiction worked very well in this context. I felt that the letters were a good device and helped to break up the story and show different sides to some of the minor characters in particular.
In terms of plot the premise is good but it took me a while to get into it and I didn’t like the way it jumped back and forth between the past and the present. This settled down about half way through when the recollections fitted more solidly into the narrative of Grace’s interviews with the doctor.The encounter between the doctor and his landlady is seedy and gratuitous and I didn’t think it added anything. The ending was also a bit of a disappointment as the whole story is focused on whether Grace committed murder or was merely an accessory. The book just ended on a damp and unremarkable note.
It is clear therefore that just because a book wins awards it does not make it a good read for everyone. I was disappointed but others have evidently not been and my one lone voice and negative review contrasts with the many who have given Alias Grace overwhelmingly positive praise.