Margaret Atwood is having a very good year. Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale was praised by critics and has been renewed for a third season. Now, this fall another one of Atwood’s novels is being adapted for the small screen.
Alias Grace may be lesser known than #TheHandmaidsTale but is one of her most interesting novels from a stylistic point of view. It’s a work of historical fiction focusing on the character of Grace Marks, a maid in Kingston who was convicted of murdering her Master, Thomas Kinnear, and his housekeeper in 1843. Convicted alongside her was Kinnear’s stable-hand James McDermott. There was so much ambiguity surrounding the case that while McDermott was hanged, Marks was initially moved to an asylum before being jailed and later pardoned.
The real story of Grace Marks is interesting enough. She was hired out of prison to work as a maid once again, but everything we know about her comes from other people’s perspectives. In her book Atwood takes this story and turns it on its head, making Grace one of the narrators, providing insights into a motive and her share of the blame. Marks, however, is an unreliable narrator causing the reader to question her at every turn of the page.
It’s masterfully done on the page, but on TV this could either translate brilliantly or fall flat. The fact that Sarah Polley (Away From Her) is writing and producing the show is a good sign. The project is a co-production between #Netflix and Canadian broadcaster CBC, who have already had a measure of success after partnering on Anne With an E, and having a higher production value means that it should at least be visually stunning.
The show will be riding the true crime wave, fitting in with series like American Crime Story: People Vs. OJ Simpson. It also has the potential to explore the gender politics of the time that have strong relevance today. Even though the murders occurred in the 19th century I have no doubt that Polley has managed to make the story fresh and modern. Check out the trailer below:
So far the cast includes Anna Paquin, Paul Gross, and Kerr Logan. Sarah Gadon has been cast to play Grace Marks. The series is set to premier on September 25, 2017.
Did you love The Handmaid's Tale?