Alias grace, p.1
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       Alias Grace, p.1

           Margaret Atwood
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Alias Grace


  Alias Grace

  "[Atwood's] best novel yet, a great book of such wit, wisdom and dazzling storytelling that it leaves me in no doubt that Atwood is the most outstanding novelist currently writing in English."

  - Sydney Morning Herald

  "Atwood's humor has never been slyer, her command of complex material more adept, her eroticism franker.... A stupendous performance...."

  - Booklist

  "[Atwood] has surpassed herself, writing with a glittering, singing intensity...."

  - New York Review of Books

  "Stunning ..."

  - Calgary Herald

  "A rare and splendid novel that pulls you in and won't let go...."

  - Washington Post Book World

  "Seductive, beautifully articulated ... Brilliantly conceived and executed ..."

  - San Francisco Chronicle

  "Astonishing ..."

  - Financial Post

  "A major achievement ..."

  - Irish Times

  "An absorbing and brilliantly told story."

  - Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Atwood's imaginative control of her period flows, irresistible and superb.... [She] has pushed the art to its extremes and the result is devastating. This, surely, is as far as a novel can go."

  - Independent on Sunday



  The Edible Woman (1969)

  Surfacing (1972)

  Lady Oracle (1976)

  Dancing Girls (1977)

  Life Before Man (1979)

  Bodily Harm (1981)

  Murder in the Dark (1983)

  Bluebeard's Egg (1983)

  The Handmaid's Tale (1985)

  Cat's Eye (1988)

  Wilderness Tips (1991)

  Good Bones (1992)

  The Robber Bride (1993)

  Alias Grace (1996)

  The Blind Assassin (2000)

  Good Bones and Simple Murders (2001)

  Oryx and Crake (2003)

  The Penelopiad (2005)

  The Tent (2006)

  Moral Disorder (2006)

  The Year of the Flood (2009)


  Up in the Tree (1978)

  Anna's Pet (with Joyce Barkhouse) (1980)

  For the Birds (1990)

  Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (1995)

  Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes (2003)

  Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda (2004)


  Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature (1972)

  Days of the Rebels 1815-1840 (1977)

  Second Words (1982)

  Strange Things: The Malevolent North in Canadian Literature (1996)

  Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing (2002)

  Moving Targets: Writing with Intent, 1982-2004 (2004)

  Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth (2008)


  Double Persephone (1961)

  The Circle Game (1966)

  The Animals in That Country (1968)

  The Journals of Susanna Moodie (1970)

  Procedures for Underground (1970)

  Power Politics (1971)

  You Are Happy (1974)

  Selected Poems (1976)

  Two-Headed Poems (1978)

  True Stories (1981)

  Interlunar (1984)

  Selected Poems II: Poems Selected and New 1976-1986 (1986)

  Morning in the Burned House (1995)

  The Door (2007)

  Copyright (c) 1996 by O.W. Toad Ltd.

  First cloth edition published in Canada by McClelland & Stewart in 1996

  Emblem edition published in 1999

  This Emblem edition published in 2010

  Emblem is an imprint of McClelland & Stewart Ltd.

  Emblem and colophon are registered trademarks of McClelland & Stewart Ltd.

  All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the publisher - or, in case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a licence from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency - is an infringement of the copyright law.

  Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

  Atwood, Margaret, 1939-

  Alias Grace / Margaret Atwood.

  eISBN: 978-1-55199486-4

  1. Marks, Grace, b. 1827 - Fiction. I. Title.

  PS8501.T86A77 2010 C813.'54 C2010-902596-2

  We acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program and that of the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Media Development Corporation's Ontario Book Initiative. We further acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for our publishing program.

  The drawing on this page is reproduced from The Trials of James McDermott and Grace Marks ...for the murder of Thomas Kinnear.... Toronto, 1843 (Courtesy, Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library).

  The excerpt on this page is from "The Poems of Our Climate" by Wallace Stevens from The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens. Copyright (c) 1942 by Wallace Stevens and renewed 1970 by Holly Stevens. Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf Inc.

  McClelland & Stewart Ltd.

  75 Sherbourne Street

  Toronto, Ontario

  M5A 2P9


  For Graeme and Jess

  Whatever may have happened through these years, God knows I speak truth, saying that you lie.

  - William Morris,

  "The Defence of Guenevere."

  I have no Tribunal.

  - Emily Dickinson,


  I cannot tell you what the light is, but I can tell you what it is not.... What is the motive of the light? What is the light?

  - Eugene Marais,

  The Soul of the White Ant.



  Other Books by This Author

  Title Page



  I. Jagged Edge Chapter 1

  II. Rocky Road Chapter 2

  III. Puss in the Corner Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  IV. Young Man's Fancy Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  V. Broken Dishes Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  VI. Secret Drawer Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  VII. Snake Fence Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  VIII. Fox and Geese Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  IX. Hearts and Gizzards Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  X. Lady of the Lake Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  XI. Falling Timbers Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  XII. Solomon's Temple Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  XIII. Pandora's Box Chapter 48

  Chapter 49
  XIV. The Letter X Chapter 50

  XV. The Tree of Paradise Chapter 51

  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53

  Author's Afterword


  About the Author



  At the time of my visit, there were only forty women in the Penitentiary. This speaks much for the superior moral training of the feebler sex. My chief object in visiting their department was to look at the celebrated murderess, Grace Marks, of whom I had heard a great deal, not only from the public papers, but from the gentleman who defended her upon her trial, and whose able pleading saved her from the gallows, on which her wretched accomplice closed his guilty career.

  - Susanna Moodie,

  Life in the Clearings, 1853.

  Come, see

  real flowers

  of this painful world.

  - Basho.


  Out of the gravel there are peonies growing. They come up through the loose grey pebbles, their buds testing the air like snails' eyes, then swelling and opening, huge dark-red flowers all shining and glossy like satin. Then they burst and fall to the ground.

  In the one instant before they come apart they are like the peonies in the front garden at Mr. Kinnear's, that first day, only those were white. Nancy was cutting them. She wore a pale dress with pink rosebuds and a triple-flounced skirt, and a straw bonnet that hid her face. She carried a flat basket, to put the flowers in; she bent from the hips like a lady, holding her waist straight. When she heard us and turned to look, she put her hand up to her throat as if startled.

  I tuck my head down while I walk, keeping step with the rest, eyes lowered, silently two by two around the yard, inside the square made by the high stone walls. My hands are clasped in front of me; they're chapped, the knuckles reddened. I can't remember a time when they were not like that. The toes of my shoes go in and out under the hem of my skirt, blue and white, blue and white, crunching on the pathway. These shoes fit me better than any I've ever had before.

  It's 1851. I'll be twenty-four years old next birthday. I've been shut up in here since the age of sixteen. I am a model prisoner, and give no trouble. That's what the Governor's wife says, I have overheard her saying it. I'm skilled at overhearing. If I am good enough and quiet enough, perhaps after all they will let me go; but it's not easy being quiet and good, it's like hanging on to the edge of a bridge when you've already fallen over; you don't seem to be moving, just dangling there, and yet it is taking all your strength.

  I watch the peonies out of the corners of my eyes. I know they shouldn't be here: it's April, and peonies don't bloom in April. There are three more now, right in front of me, growing out of the path itself. Furtively I reach out my hand to touch one. It has a dry feel, and I realize it's made of cloth.

  Then up ahead I see Nancy, on her knees, with her hair fallen over and the blood running down into her eyes. Around her neck is a white cotton kerchief printed with blue flowers, love-in-a-mist, it's mine. She's lifting up her face, she's holding out her hands to me for mercy; in her ears are the little gold earrings I used to envy, but I no longer begrudge them, Nancy can keep them, because this time it will all be different, this time I will run to help, I will lift her up and wipe away the blood with my skirt, I will tear a bandage from my petticoat and none of it will have happened. Mr. Kinnear will come home in the afternoon, he will ride up the driveway and McDermott will take the horse, and Mr. Kinnear will go into the parlour and I will make him some coffee, and Nancy will take it in to him on a tray the way she likes to do, and he will say What good coffee; and at night the fireflies will come out in the orchard, and there will be music, by lamplight. Jamie Walsh. The boy with the flute.

  I am almost up to Nancy, to where she's kneeling. But I do not break step, I do not run, I keep on walking two by two; and then Nancy smiles, only the mouth, her eyes are hidden by the blood and hair, and then she scatters into patches of colour, a drift of red cloth petals across the stones.

  I put my hands over my eyes because it's dark suddenly, and a man is standing there with a candle, blocking the stairs that go up; and the cellar walls are all around me, and I know I will never get out.

  This is what I told Dr. Jordan, when we came to that part of the story.



  On Tuesday, about 10 minutes past 12 o'clock, at the new Gaol in this City, James McDermot, the murderer of Mr. Kinnear underwent the extreme sentence of the law. There was an immense concourse of men, women and children anxiously waiting to witness the last struggle of a sinful fellow-being. What kinds of feelings those women can possess who flocked from far and near through mud and rain to be present at the horrid spectacle, we cannot divine. We venture to say they were not very delicate or refined. The wretched criminal displayed the same coolness and intrepidity at the awful moment that has marked his conduct ever since his arrest.

  - Toronto Mirror,

  November 23rd, 1843.

  Offence Punishment

  Laughing and talking

  6 lashes; cat-o'-nine-tails

  Talking in wash-house

  6 lashes; rawhide

  Threatening to knock convict's brains out

  24 lashes; cat-o'-nine-tails

  Talking to Keepers on matters not related to their work

  6 lashes; cat-o'-nine-tails

  Finding fault with rations when required by guards to sit down

  6 lashes; rawhide, and bread and water

  Staring about and inattentive at breakfast table

  Bread and water

  Leaving work and going to privy when other convict there

  36 hours in dark cell, and bread and water

  - Punishment Book,

  Kingston Penitentiary, 1843.









  Grace Marks she was a serving maid,

  Her age was sixteen years,

  McDermott was the stable hand,

  They worked at Thomas Kinnear's.

  Now Thomas Kinnear was a gentleman,

  And a life of ease led he,

  And he did love his housekeeper,

  Called Nancy Montgomery.

  O Nancy dear, do not despair,

  To town I now must go,

  To bring some money home for you,

  From the Bank in Toronto.

  O Nancy's no well-born lady,

  O Nancy she is no queen,

  And yet she goes in satin and silk,

  The finest was ever seen.

  O Nancy's no well-born lady,

  Yet she treats me like a slave,

  She works me so hard from dawn to dark,

  She'll work me into my grave.

  Now Grace, she loved good Thomas Kinnear,

  McDermott he loved Grace,

  And 'twas these loves as I do tell

  That brought them to disgrace.

  O Grace, please be my own true love,

  O no it cannot be,

  Unless you kill for my dear sake,

  Nancy Montgomery.

  He struck a blow all with his axe,

  On the head of Nancy fair,

  He dragged her to the cellar door

  And threw her down the stairs.

  O spare my life McDermott,

  O spare my life, said she,

  O spare my life, Grace Marks she said,

  And I'll give you my dresses three.

  O 'tis not for my own sake,

  Nor yet my babe unborn,

  But for my true love, Thomas Kinnear,

  I'd live to see the morn.

  McDermott held her by the hair,

  And Grace Marks b
y the head,

  And these two monstrous criminals,

  They strangled her till dead.

  What have I done, my soul is lost,

  And for my life I fear!

  Then to save ourselves, when he returns,

  We must murder Thomas Kinnear.

  O no, O no, I beg not so,

  I plead for his life full sore!

  No he must die, for you have sworn

  You'd be my paramour.

  Now Thomas Kinnear came riding home,

  And on the kitchen floor

  McDermott shot him through the heart

  And he weltered in his gore.

  The peddler came up to the house,

  Will you buy a dress of me;

  O go away Mr. Peddler,

  I've dresses enough for three.

  The butcher came up to the house,

  He came there every week;

  O go away Mr. Butcher,

  We've got enough fresh meat!

  They robbed Kinnear of his silver,

  They robbed him of his gold,

  They stole his horse and wagon,

  And to Toronto they rode.

  All in the middle of the night,

  To Toronto they did flee,

  Then across the Lake to the United States,

  Thinking they would scape free.

  She took McDermott by the hand,

  As bold as bold could be,

  And stopped at the Lewiston Hotel,

  Under the name of Mary Whitney.

  The corpses were found in the cellar,

  Her face it was all black,

  And she was under the washtub,

  And he was laid out on his back.

  Then Bailiff Kingsmill in pursuit,

  A Charter he did take,

  Which sailed as fast as it could go

  To Lewiston, across the Lake.

  They had not been in bed six hours,

  Six hours or maybe more,

  When to the Lewiston Hotel he came,

  And knocked upon the door.

  O who is there, said Grace so fair,

  What business have you with me?

  O you have murdered good Thomas Kinnear,

  And Nancy Montgomery.

  Grace Marks she stood up in the dock,

  And she denied it all.

  I did not see her strangled,

  I did not hear him fall.

  He forced me to accompany him,

  He said if I did tell,

  That with one shot of his trusty gun,

  He'd send me straight to H_ll.

  McDermott stood up in the dock,

  I did not do it alone,

  But for the sake of her person fair,

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