[Book Talk] Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Book Details:

Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Read: November 2017

Synopsis:

It’s 1843, and Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer and his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders.

An up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story while bringing her closer and closer to the day she cannot remember. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories?

Captivating and disturbing, Alias Grace showcases best-selling, Booker Prize-winning author Margaret Atwood at the peak of her powers.

My Thoughts

I haven’t read a lot of Margaret Atwood, maybe 4 or 5 books now, but I am so interested to read more of her writing. Whenever I pick up one of her books, I just fall in love with her writing and I can see why she’s one of the top authors in Canada.

I picked up this book while getting a new copy of The Handmaid’s Tale. The series for The Handmaid’s Tale was to be coming out on CBC soon and I lent out my original copy of the book, so I wanted to get a new one. Next to it was Alias Grace so I thought I’d get that one, too, even if it looked like a chunker. Then the series came to CBC and I PVR’d the whole thing and still hadn’t read the book so when Tome Topple came around at the end of November, I just had to pick it up because I’m so bad at saying I’m going to read books before their movies or TV shows come out and then I don’t, and I miss out on both.

So I started Alias Grace and just as always, I remembered why I love Margaret Atwood’s writing. I feel like she could rewrite the phone book and I’d still want to read it because not a lot does happen in this book. The premise is about Grace Marks (a real life murderess who this book is fictionalized about) murdering her employer and his mistress, but a lot of this book deals with Grace’s life and how she came to work for this employer and then her thoughts on what happened. But it’s just so enjoyable and readable that I loved picking it up to read. It’s nearly 600 pages and it still flew by (well, it still took me at least 10 days or so to read) and I had to pick up a few more of Atwood’s books about midway through.

I think the thing I loved most about this book is that it was written about a real-life person and so when I finished it, I had to do more research on Grace Marks, which I love. It’s always great when a work of fiction opens up other avenues of reading and research. I also really enjoyed the historical part of this book, learning more about how women were treated back in this age, especially the hired help. I think the only thing I wished was to learn more of what happened to Grace’s family since she leaves them early in her story and we don’t hear anything about them after that.

It was great that this book made me so much more interested in reading more Margaret Atwood. I love that she has so many books available and I look forward to working my way through them in 2018.

 

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[Book Talk] All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan

Book Details:

Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Read: November 2017

Synopsis:

‘Martin Toppy is the son of a famous Traveller and the father of my unborn child. He’s seventeen, I’m thirty-three. I was his teacher. I’d have killed myself by now if I was brave enough. I don’t think it would hurt the baby. His little heart would stop with mine. He wouldn’t feel himself leaving one world of darkness for another, his spirit untangling itself from me.’

Melody Shee is alone and in trouble. Her husband doesn’t take her news too well. She doesn’t want to tell her father yet because he’s a good man and this could break him. She’s trying to stay in the moment, but the future is looming – larger by the day – while the past won’t let her go. What she did to Breedie Flynn all those years ago still haunts her.

It’s a good thing that she meets Mary Crothery when she does. Mary is a young Traveller woman, and she knows more about Melody than she lets on. She might just save Melody’s life.

Donal Ryan’s new novel is breathtaking, vivid, moving and redemptive.

My Thoughts

I have had this book on my wishlist for quite some time after seeing so many positive reviews about it. Now that I’ve read it, I’m kind of glad that I got it from the library because while it might have packed a punch for others and could be on other readers’ top of 2017 reading lists, it was just an okay read for me.

But let’s start with the positive. I absolutely adored Donal Ryan’s writing in this book. His prose were just so beautiful and even though I didn’t connect with the story, I loved reading it and it made me want to read his earlier books. I also enjoyed how this book was broken up into chapters, with the first chapter being called ‘Week Fourteen’ – the fourteenth week of Melody’s pregnancy – and going week by week after that. I also liked that it was almost stream of consciousness writing, and I enjoyed the lack of quotation marks because it just let the story flow so nicely. It was also a novella, just over 200 pages, and a quick read, easily read if you have an afternoon, or easily read over a couple of days.

While I loved the writing, I wasn’t a fan of the characters. I didn’t like Melody, I didn’t like Pat, I didn’t like Mary. I felt almost indifferent to the story and what was happening because I couldn’t connect with anyone on a personal level – even Melody, who was pregnant, when I’ve had two pregnancies of my own. I think a lot of the story dealt more with what Melody was going through than the pregnancy itself. It dealt a lot with her relationships – with Pat, with her father, with Martin, with Mary, with her past relationship with Breedie, and with herself – than it did with actually being pregnant.

When I think deeper about the story, relating it to my own pregnancies, I almost wonder if Melody was going through some kind of depression, though that was never actually addressed. There are many things that happen in the story that are almost red flags when it comes to depression and she had had miscarriages before so I wondered if her hormones were out of balance, but that’s not really the focus of the story. I also couldn’t get behind Pat and wondered why there were so many readers exclaiming “Poor Pat!” as though they didn’t know that he also had VERY BIG FAULTS.

I’m definitely glad I read the story and I’m happy it didn’t take too long to read. I started it after DNFing a book I had been reading, not getting into that story or connecting with the characters. Even though this wasn’t my favourite book, I appreciated the beauty of Donal Ryan’s writing and that’s what kept me connected with the story. Like I said, I’m definitely going to check out more of this Irish writer’s books – I’ve heard his previous books are really great!

[Canadian 🇨🇦 Book Talk] 40 Things I Want To Tell You by Alice Kuipers


Book Details:

Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Read: May 2017

Synopsis:

Amy (a.k.a. Bird) seems to have the perfect life: loving parents, a hot boyfriend, the best friend ever. She even writes an online advice column, full of Top Tips, to help other teens take control of their lives. But after a new guy shows up at school, Bird can’t seem to follow her own wisdom.

Pete is the consummate bad boy. He’s everything Bird is not: wild, unambitious and more than a little dangerous. Although she knows he’s trouble, Bird can’t stay away. And the more drawn she is to Pete, the more cracks are revealed in her relationship with Griffin, her doting boyfriend. Meanwhile, her parents’ marriage is also fracturing, possibly for good.

Bird is way out of her comfort zone. All it takes is one mistake, one momentary loss of control, for her entire future to be blown away . . .

My Thoughts

When I was going through the unread books on my Canadian bookcase (what, you don’t have one of those?) I was drawn to the cover of Alice Kuipers book – it’s one of those covers that just makes you have to read a book because it’s so gorgeous! I did really enjoy reading the book, too, and felt that her writing was very engaging even if the story could have been a bit longer for me.

I really liked Bird’s character, even if I didn’t really like a lot of the choices she made. I felt like a lot of the drama in this book happened so quickly and decisions were made without thought and were almost uncharacteristic of Bird. It’s very much a teenage drama book, one that I had a hard time connecting with as an adult. Actually, while I couldn’t connect with parts of the story, I felt empathy towards Bird, especially when it came to her relationship with her parents. They drove me a bit crazy with their own drama and I wondered who was the teenager at times.

However, while I felt that a lot of the story was predictable and maybe too young for me, I really enjoyed reading it and thought that Alice Kuipers wrote in a way that just pulled me in, wanting more. It was a really fast read and it really is such a pretty book for the bookcase. I do look forward to reading more of her titles, too!

But don’t take my word for it … read some other reviews! 

Fab Book Reviews
Book Nerd
YA Books Central