Cover of the book 'Alias Grace' by Margaret Atwood

Murder in Canada

On July 23, 1843, landlord Thomas Kinnaer and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery are butchered in their home just outside Toronto (Canada). A cold-blooded and bloody case; half the house is dripping with blood.

Kinnaer’s remaining two servants are arrested. James McDermott, age 24, and Grace Marks, age 16, are on the run, heading for the US. Their guilt seems obvious and their trial is short: both are sentenced to death. McDermott is hanged in November that year.

Grace’s sentence is converted to imprisonment for life – because she’s so young, because she is said to only have gone along with McDermot out of fear, because she is certified insane due to loss of memory.

She is alternately confined in prison or in a psychiatric ward. Petitions are filed in order to free her, and a civil committee asks a young doctor to collect material to support their petition.

He speaks to her doctors and her guards, but mainly to herself. He uses the latest scientific insights to seduce her to tell him the truth. She tells him her life story, her dreams, her associative thoughts on different artifacts and he has her hypnotized.

In her novel 'Alias Grace', the Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood describes Grace’s life story as it may have been, and complements it with the experiences of a young doctor who dreams of opening a psychiatric ward that offers the latest treatments.

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