While the book was published in 1997 it reads like a Victorian novel, plush with detail and well-drawn characters. Atwood (from the perspective of Grace) takes her time telling the story, leaving no stone unturned. While tedious at times, the detail is important to the reader as they are put in the place of Dr. Jordan as he listens to Grace tell her side of the story. The real-life Grace Marks claimed that she did not remember the murders taking place, and in a time when psychology is just being established as a science, those who become close to Grace struggle to understand her role in the murders.
Like any great storyteller, Atwood manages to move seamlessly through time as Grace talks about her experiences before the murders and while in prison, and across characters, as Grace and Dr. Jordan share their points of view. Atwood also includes a good deal of tension between characters, with some obvious friction between the young but worldly Dr. Jordan and his rather ignorant peers in Kingston. And although the story holds several surprises for the reader, the main question of Grace's innocence is left just as ambiguous as it was in real life.
Overall Grade: B+