Your latest Netflix obsession has arrived. You might still be basking in the riveting glow that was Stranger Things Season 2, but that doesn't mean you can't make room in your TV-loving heart for another addictive drama. Alias Grace hits the streaming service on Friday, Nov. 3, and the thrilling series is based on Margaret Atwood's 1996 novel of the same name. To clarify, the Canadian author got the inspiration for the book-turned-show from a real story. And the Alias Grace true facts surrounding the story will make watching the show even more compelling.
The buzzy and award winning The Handmaid's Tale, the other 2017 TV adaptation of Atwood's work, was a fictional portrait of a dystopian near-future. But the tale behind Alias Grace actually happened. Yes, there are elements that are imagined to enhance the narrative, but the best selling novel and subsequent series are based in a very chilling reality. True crime has become a staple of entertainment these days, but we rarely travel this far back in time. 1843, to be exact. 16-year-old Grace Marks, an Irish immigrant and servant, is convicted of the double murder of her employer, affluent Ontario farmer Thomas Kinnear, as well as his housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery. She was tried alongside 20-year-old stablehand James McDermott, who was hanged. Marks was sentenced to life in prison. Does the story already pique your curiosity? The eerie details of the fascinating case will have you hooked.
Nancy Montgomery Was Pregnant at the Time of the Murders
Slain housekeeper Nancy Montgomery was found to be with child at the time of her death, according to the autopsy. She and Thomas Kinnear were allegedly involved in an illicit affair and she had given birth previously. Margaret Atwood wrote in the novel's afterword:
The details were sensational: Grace Marks was uncommonly pretty and also extremely young; Kinnear's housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery, had previously given birth to an illegitimate child and was Thomas Kinnear's mistress; at her autopsy she was found to be pregnant. Grace and her fellow servant James McDermott had run away to the United States together and were assumed by the press to be lovers. The combination of sex, violence and the deplorable insubordination of the lower classes was most attractive to the journalists of the day.'
Grace Wore Nancy's Clothes
According to a Smithsonian article that pointed to newspaper reports from the time, Grace Marks dressed in murder victim Nancy Montgomery's clothes for her trial. A passage from the book also referenced this possibility. An excerpt reads,
The last thing I did was to take off the clothes I’d been wearing that day; and I put on one of Nancy’s dresses, the pale one with the white ground and the small floral print, which was the same one she had on the first day I came to Mr. Kinnear’s.
Master Plan or Master Manipulation?
McDermott's signed statements allege that "[Grace] and the housekeeper used often to quarrel, and she told me she was determined if I would assist her, she would poison both the Housekeeper and Mr. Kinnear by mixing poison with porridge." McDermott claimed he "would not to consent" to such behavior of that sort. The question on everyone's mind: Was Grace behind the brutal murder or did McDermott lead the impressionable young woman in that direction?
A "Celebrated Murderess"
Grace descended into what was described as insanity during her prison sentence and was deemed a criminal lunatic. But her mental health was not kept under wraps in the confines of the prison walls. "In those days you could visit prisons and insane asylums as a tourist attraction. People would go to the prison and say, 'Here I am, and I’d like to see Grace Marks.' And she would be trotted out for them to look at," Margaret Atwood said in an interview with Penguin Random House.
The ins and the outs of Grace's life, her apparent psychological state and its legitimacy, and the entire case are fascinating, to the say the least. Alias Grace is already streaming now. Binge watch responsibly, Netflixers.