The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s dystopian story about an overthrown United Stated government turned into a totalitarian state, is her best-known, massively popular television series, with three seasons completed and another on its way. But the author has another woman-centric series well worth watching, a limited series based on her 1996 novel, Alias Grace, released in 2017 and available now on Netflix.
Unlike Handmaid’s Tale, the story in Alias Grace takes place in a world where women’s rights never even existed. It’s a chilling reminder of life in the 19th century, an engaging, complex murder mystery story brought to life in six gripping episodes you’ll race through just like we did.
The series tells the story of a poor Irish immigrant servant, Grace Marks, who finds herself accused of a double murder in 1840s Canada.
Here’s the synopsis as detailed in the book versions offered on Amazon.com:
In Alias Grace, the bestselling author of The Handmaid’s Tale takes readers into the life of one of the most notorious women of the nineteenth century—recently adapted into a 6-part Netflix original mini-series by director Mary Harron and writer/actress Sarah Polley.
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 bestselling, Booker Prize-winning author Margaret Atwood at the peak of her powers.
The novel and series are based on the real-life murders of land owner Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery. But this is not a simple re-telling of the double murder that would become a sensational Canadian story at the time.
Instead, the story of the life of Grace Marks, how she ended up as one of the servants of Thomas Kinnear, and what may…or may not have…happened on that fateful night is told to us by Grace Marks herself.
An imprisoned Grace is interviewed by a psychologist who was hired by a group of people who want to see Grace freed from her prison. This fictional character created by Margaret Atwood drives the narrative of the story, as we follow the journey of her life through his eyes. The doctor becomes caught up in her account of this story as told by this enchanting, intelligent, and quite possibly, deceptive young woman.
Canadian actress Sarah Gadon (Enemy, True Detective, 11.22.63, A Dangerous Method) gives a compelling, understated performance as protagonist Grace Marks. She creates a magnetic tension between herself and her interviewer, drawing in the audience which each session, as the episodes slowly but deliberately drive towards that decisive, deadly event.
Grace Marks, Episode One:
“They say I’m a female demon. Some say I’m an innocent victim lead astray”.
Grace is a complicated person, the perfect symbol of the Margaret Atwood female character. This is a captivating series that latches on to you from the opening scene and won’t let you go until the final credits roll. The next Handmaids Tale season will not arrive until 2021 (thank you again, Covid-19), but Alias Grace will fill that Margaret Atwood void.
Alias Grace is available now on NETFLIX.