5 Things to Know Before Watching Margaret Atwood’s ‘Alias Grace’

Posted on October 31, 2017 by

Season one of The Handmaid’s Tale — the Hulu adaptation of Margaret Atwood‘s dystopian classic — was a huge hit. Luckily, we don’t have to wait long for another Atwood adaptation, as Alias Grace is coming to Netflix on November 3. This scintillating historical tale features a twisty mystery, a fascinating heroine, and a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Here’s everything you need know about the six-part Alias Grace TV show.

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1. This is Margaret Atwood’s second book-to-TV adaptation of the year, but it’s distinct from its predecessor.

Alias Grace is Atwood’s second novel to be adapted in 2017. And though it promises the same depth and tension as The Handmaid’s Tale, star Anna Paquin warns again comparing the two:

“It’s the same author. Of course, they’re going to draw comparisons. But it’s more like being part of somebody’s canon of work because the two have nothing to do with each other… I think it’s just exciting that really good female-centric literature is being turned into exciting high-quality entertainment.”


2. Alias Grace is based on a real-life murder mystery.

Alias Grace takes its inspiration from a real-life true crime tale. In 1843, a Canadian farmer and his housekeeper were mysteriously murdered. Two of their servants, Grace Marks (the protagonist of the story) and James McDermott, were accused of the murder. Atwood’s story explores whether Marks actually had something to do with it, or was merely a pawn in a larger scheme.


3. The show’s all-star cast is already receiving praise.

Actress Sarah Gadon’s portrayal of Grace Marks is described as “transporting” by Variety and “intriguing and deliberately evasive” by The Hollywood Reporter. But Gadon — best-known for her role in last year’s adaptation of Stephen King‘s 11/22/63 isn’t the only shining star. Academy Award winner Anna Paquin plays housekeeper Nancy Montgomery, while Zachary Levi beguiles the audience as peddler Jeremiah.


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4. Atwood’s story touches on many important themes, including gender issues.

Similar to The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace explores many interesting thematic undercurrents. Specifically, Atwood has long been fascinated by the issues of gender and criminality, and told CBC:

“In murders in which there are a man and a woman involved, public opinion usually goes in the following fashion: Everybody is agreed on the man but opinion is usually split about the woman. One side: ‘She instigated it all. She’s the female demon.’ The other side: ‘She is an innocent victim coerced by force, circumstance and fear’… it was certainly how it spilt on Grace.”


5. This mystery might raise more questions than it answers.

Atwood deliberately left some questions open in Alias Grace, and believes the depth of the story lies in those unknowns. Atwood told IndieWire:

“If I had known the truth, I probably wouldn’t have written a book. And if I had known the truth and told it to Sarah [Polley], she probably wouldn’t have made this show. The interesting thing is the way everybody projects their ideas onto Grace. The fact that she had various stories that she told to different audiences… well, that always affects the story that you tell — who the audience is. Does it not?”

Do you plan to watch the upcoming Alias Grace TV show? Tell us in the comments!


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