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Dear Kay,

Oh, boy, this is a good one. The Netflix limited series Alias Grace is based on the 1996 novel by Margaret Atwood.

We find ourselves back in the 1850s. Sarah Gadon plays Grace Marks, a young girl who leaves Ireland for Toronto and whose trajectory can only be described as grim.

Is she a murderess?

I’m halfway through this six-episode limited series, and I will not say another word. I loved knowing very little about this series and this story before I began watching—sometimes the hullabaloo around a movie sucks all the surprise out of it.

The performances are good to great, the desaturated color of the whole thing feels like a faded memory, and the performance of Sarah Gadon is perfectly flat and ambiguous.

There is a ton of heartbreak in here, and not a little violence, so fair warning. But Margaret Atwood’s interest in the lives of women is front and center here, maybe a prequel of sorts to The Handmaid’s Tale in terms of providing the historical background of women who get very, very little from the world—and often sacrifice pretty much everything.



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  • I had listened to the audiobook years ago and recently watched the series. Excellent. Thanks for making others aware.

  • I loved this series, so well done!

  • I loved this book so much when I read it years ago. I am not sure if my heart can take the story again, with its reminder of women’s grim place in the world. (I absolutely cannot watch the Handmaid’s Tale – reading that book back in the 1980s was all I could take; I still have vivid flashbacks!)

    • Agree re the Handmaid’s Tale, it’s one of the most frightening books I have ever read.

  • This is going on The List! I’m keeping a list of things to watch when I’m not in a constant state of anxiety re the state of the nation. Fiction-wise, I am on the equivalent of an invalid diet. At this point, I think I could burst into tears rereading the part where Gilbert Blythe picks up the end of Anne’s braid and whispers, “Carrots!”

    • Related: I watched– and WEPT– through the first episode of Netflix’s new adaptation of Anne of Green Gables. Like tears streaming for a good 95% of the thing.

  • Looks like something I’d never want to expose myself to. Shudder. I’m sorry I watched the trailer. 🙁

    I should have read the “heartbreak and violence” before I watched. Wish I had.

  • I’ve watched half of the episodes, then got distracted by other excellent Netflix offerings….but I must get on and watch the rest as I really enjoyed it. You’re right, it is quite grim in it’s depiction of women in that era (and doesn’t stint on the blood or violence either). Makes me want to read the book too.

  • Did you notice the quilts? They are everywhere in this series.

  • I didn’t know it was based on a Margaret Atwood book. I’ll have to bump it up in the queue.

  • I absolutely loved the series – Gadon’s portrayal of Grace was amazing. She was often asked to do a take a number of times, each time playing it differently in order to get different effect. It must have been something to edit that series. So many choices!
    And how about the shawl at the very end? Gorgeous! Tried looking for the pattern on Ravelry, but sadly it doesn’t exist.
    The story is based real events and Atwood did extensive research before writing the novel. For the curious, the book “In Search of Alias Grace” would be an interesting read.
    Fun fact: Atwood herself is a knitter. 🙂

    • WOW! Thanks for your comment. I loved the series and especially the lead – she was spectacular. I also love The Handmaids Tale even though most find it too grim. I didn’t know Atwood was a knitter – interesting

  • Please don’t take offense, but I’m truly stumped by the thought that watching something described as grim, depressing and oppressive could qualify as “entertainment”. Sounds harsh, negative and awful. For me, I prefer things that lift my spirit, provide a warm view of life, happiness and laughter. These positive experiences and feelings are more mentally healthy and food for the soul.

    • I swing back and forth on the things I watch–I definitely have times when I can’t bear to watch anything grim, depressing and oppressive. And in general, violence is not something I’ll watch, for the reasons you say. But then there are times when I’ll listen to a 36-hour podcast on World War I because it is astonishing to hear what humans are capable of, both good and evil. Even the darkest story tends to have moments that are deeply inspiring and reminds me that it’s important to aim to make the world a better place.

    • May I humbly disagree? I think occasionally seeing more of life’s grim side gives us true perspective and enriches all the blessings we have. You can’t enjoy a rainbow without the rain.

    • But life isn’t all happiness and laughter, is it? I am intrigued by a human puzzle, and by what motivates people. That’s not always pretty.

  • Looks like I have something to watch this week!

  • I would like to say that I have watched both Alias Grace and The Handmaids Tale. I agree that both books depict women in desperate times and obviously not treated well. However, there are lessons for women in remembering how far we’ve come and what we need to celebrate. We also can see what work still needs to be done. Life isn’t all pansies and laughter and for me being well-rounded is about learning both sides of a story. I think Margaret Atwood’s work is amazing and so ahead of its time, plus she knits

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