Alias Grace

Your Family History - - Agenda: -

Real life crime sto­ries from the past have al­ways grabbed our at­ten­tion – from Jack the Rip­per on­wards, we have ea­gerly read ac­counts of such crimes (whether fac­tual or fic­tion­alised ver­sions) or watched pro­grammes about them on tele­vi­sion. The lat­est true crime to hit our screens is Alias Grace, it­self an adap­ta­tion of Mar­garet At­wood’s nov­el­i­sa­tion of a Vic­to­rian mur­der case.

At­wood’s 1996 novel takes as its in­spi­ra­tion a mur­der that oc­curred in her na­tive Canada back in 1843. Thomas Kin­n­ear and his house­keeper, Nancy Mont­gomery, were mur­dered, and two of Kin­n­ear’s ser­vants – Grace Marks and James McDer­mott – were charged and con­victed. Grace was sen­tenced to life im­pris­on­ment, but McDer­mott was not so for­tu­nate, and was hanged. The novel, which starts in 1859, sees Grace be­ing sent from prison to work as the pen­i­ten­tiary gover­nor’s ser­vant; as she is be­lieved to be suf­fer­ing from hys­te­ria, a doc­tor, Si­mon Jor­dan, is brought in to as­sess her…

The six- episode mini-se­ries of Alias Grace starts on Net­flix on 3 Novem­ber. If your in­ter­est in the case is piqued by the tele­vi­sion ver­sion, you can also buy Mar­garet At­wood’s Alias Grace in a new edi­tion to tie-in with the se­ries, for £8.99 (pub­lished by Vi­rago). Su­sanna Moodie (1803– 1885) also wrote a his­tory of the case, called Life in the Clear­ings Ver­sus The Bush, which is avail­able from Ama­zon.

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