Irish girl’s story at heart of Netflix adaptation

Anna Paquin is one of the stars of 'Alias Grace'.

The shocking true story of an Irishwoman at the centre of a brutal double murder is tipped to be the next worldwide TV smash hit.

A six-part Netflix miniseries will tell how Grace Marks, a poor young immigrant to Canada, became a convicted killer with fellow Irish native James McDermott in a notorious case in the 1840s.

The pair were found guilty of butchering their employer, Thomas Kinnear, and his housekeeper and lover, Nancy Montgomery.

McDermott was hanged and Grace was sentenced to life imprisonment until she was eventually exonerated after 30 years in jail. She then vanished.

The story of how the 16-year-old became one of the most notorious women in 19th-century Canada was immortalised in a 1996 book by Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Another of the author’s famous novels, The Handmaid’s Tale, has already been turned into a TV series and is currently winning rave reviews — it is up for 13 Emmy awards in September.

Now Alias Grace is being turned into television gold with Canadian actress Sarah Gadon playing the doomed Irish maid.

The sensational double murder sparked debate about whether Grace was an unwitting accessory because she claimed to remember nothing about the killings.

The Netflix adaptation, like Atwood’s novel, will introduce a fictional young doctor named Simon Jordan who researches the case and falls in love with Grace.

She tells him of her poor upbringing in Ireland where her father was often drunk and her mother pregnant so she took care of the younger children.

She reveals the shocking conditions in the hold of the ship which was taking them to Canada when her mother got sick and died.


She gets a job as a maid in the house of Thomas Kinnear where his housekeeper Nancy, played by Anna Paquin, rules the roost.

Nancy, who initially befriended Grace, fired her in a fit of jealous rage before she was found brutally murdered.

Kerr Logan plays stable hand McDermott who is convicted of the 1843 murders and pays the ultimate price.

Netflix has issued a clip of the new drama which will be released worldwide on November 3.

In it Grace, speaking in an Irish accent, says: “I think of all the things that have been written about me. That I am an inhuman female demon.

“That I am an innocent victim of a blaggard, forced against my will and in danger of my own life.

“That I am cunning and devious. How can I be all of these different things at once?”

She then adds: “Murderess is a strong word to have attached to you. Murderer is merely brutal. I’d rather be a murderess than a murderer if those were the only choices.”

The drama has been described as a psychological thriller turned steamy bodice-ripper.


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