In Search of Alias Grace


39 pages
ISBN 0-7766-0449-X
DDC C813'.54




Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is the trade, scholarly, and reference editor of the
Canadian Book Review Annual.


In Search of Alias Grace is the text of the third annual Charles R.
Bronfman Lecture, delivered by Margaret Atwood at the University of
Ottawa on November 21, 1996.

Atwood’s 1996 novel Alias Grace was a compelling recreation of the
life and times of Grace Marks, a domestic servant who was sentenced to
life imprisonment for her role in the murders of her employer and his
mistress in 1843. In the latter stages of her talk, Atwood discusses how
the novel’s creation was affected by the contradictions, gaps,
distortions, and ambiguities that emerged from her research of the case.

A greater portion of the lecture is given over to explanations of the
recent flowering of historical fiction in Canada, and to a discussion of
how the genre is shaped by contemporary beliefs and anxieties. The trust
in the “integrity of memory” that informed the historical novel in
the 19th century has given way in this century to an “uneasiness about
the trustworthiness of

memory, the reliability of story, and the continuity of time.” This
uneasiness is very much in evidence in Alias Grace, which forcefully
conveys the message that “truth is sometimes unknowable.”

Admirers of Alias Grace and students of historical fiction are an
obvious audience for this cogent and graceful disquisition.


Atwood, Margaret., “In Search of Alias Grace,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,