Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has been ubiquitous.
When we saw the trailer for Alias Grace set in 19th century Toronto about an Irish immigrant accused of a crime but possibly crazy, I really wanted to see it. After all, it’s the same author. I hoped for a similar piece of fiction.
I didn’t mean to make my husband hate it, but I did accidentally.
The Unreliable Narrator.
My husband was unfamiliar with the concept of an unreliable narrator. They probably covered it in a lit. class he had 10+ years ago.
So as we were watching the series, we paused it. I explained the concept and told him all about The Yellow Wallpaper. I told him the narrator can be ignorant, deceitful, insane, or have an otherwise skewed perspective of what is happening.
I told him of a particular gothic novel that I would like to adapt into a miniseries, which I believe is really an unreliable narrator. The main character in this other piece of fiction hears voices, hallucinates apparitions, has a poor grasp on what is happening or is lying to herself about it, and at the end … the author explains everything as “science”, but it doesn’t hold up to the modern understanding of science fiction.
In Alias Grace it’s clear that what the main character is relaying is fragmented. Memories are such strange, fragile creatures. It’s hard to look away – I wanted to know what really happened. I wanted to know – was she crazy? Or a liar? The ending was apropos. I haven’t read the book, but I have read that the book and movie are different. No spoilers, but this is one instance where the book was probably better.
Perhaps I hyped it too much. Had I not been so enthusiastic, perhaps he would have enjoyed it better. Who am I kidding? He wouldn’t have watched it without me!
I’m a sucker for period settings from Poldark to Bleak House. Period settings, however, focus so heavily on Edwardian or Victorian England, Colonial America, and the Wild West.
It was refreshing to see Toronto in this light. I loved them featuring a First Nations character and all the realities of their lives – harsh for some and easy for others.
The costumes were gorgeous. The attention to detail was impressive. The accents were engaging- from the Scottish lord to the Irish immigrants.
My husband doesn’t really go for these kinds of shows, so it wasn’t surprising that a period setting wouldn’t pique him.
Where most stories flow through linear time from the beginning to the end, those that are atypical flow instead through time like a leaf stuck in a whirlpool- starting at Point B and toying with the ideas of Point A and Point C until you piece together the story.
Some people hate these kinds of stories. I love them. My husband is pretty fond of them too.
My favorite example is Arrival and I think his favorite is Snatch.
Alias Grace does not disappoint on this front going between the past and present, but progressing the plot in a compelling way.
It’s historical, not dystopian like The Handmaid’s Tale, and where the latter is based on a horrible near future, Alias Grace explores an actual crime. It’s kind of like the Canadian Lizzie Borden.
So … while I made my husband hate Alias Grace, I enjoyed it thoroughly. If you watch it, I hope you will enjoy it too. After all, I won’t be there coming up with crazy theories that might disappoint!