Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood

Alias Grce - Margaret AtwoodThis book has been on a bookshelf in my home since 1997 but somehow I have never read it, to my chagrin. Atwood’s writing is impeccable, adopting the style of the mid-1800s in letters, for example. Her portrait of the enigmatic Grace Marks is breathtaking: poverty in childhood, a hard life in service, accused of being an accessory to murder at age 16 followed by 20 years of incarceration. The context of early versions of psychiatry and hypnotherapy are detailed carefully. Overall, a joy to read.

Hag-Seed – Margaret Atwood

Hag-Seed - Margaret AtwoodThe Hogarth Shakespeare project enlists accomplished authors to retell Shakespeare classics (e.g. Hamlet retold by Gillian Flynn, Macbeth retold by Jo Nesbo). Hag-Seed is Atwood’s version ofThe Tempest, and it is exceptional. First, there is Atwood’s sublime prose: “The door clicks and he walks into the warmth and that unique smell. Unfresh paint, faint mildew, unloved food eaten in boredom, and the smell of dejection, the shoulders slumping down, the head bowed, the body caving in upon itself”.  This wonderful passage describes a prison, hence the evocative phrasing. And second, Atwood’s plot emphasizes a delicious revenge. So the book is great fun, with a detailed exposition of the enigmatic parts of the Tempest at the end of the book.

And The Birds Rained Down by Jocelyn Saucier

And The Birds Rained Down by Jocelyn Saucier.jpgA beautiful and moving story about ageing on your own terms. The novel is set in Northern Ontario where 3 elderly men can hide in the remoteness. But two women join the hideaway and life for all changes. The ending is wistful and transcendent. This was the second funner-up in Canada Reads 2015 (with Martha Wainwright as the proponent), a very well-deserved recognition of exceptional writing.