The miniseries (and the book) follows the story of Grace Marks, an Irish immigrant who was convicted of murdering her Canadian employer and his housekeeper.
Marks was only 16-years-old at the time of the murders. She would serve 30 years in jail before she was unexpectedly exonerated for the crimes.
LISTEN: The most compelling moments from Alias Grace, explained.
Marks was born and raised in Ulster, Northern Ireland. Her early life wasn’t easy – she was one of nine children and her father was an abusive alcoholic.
In 1840, when Marks was just 12-years-old, the family boarded a ship and emigrated to Canada. Sadly, her mother died during the journey and was buried at sea.
Once they arrived in Canada, their new life was punctuated by their father’s violent, abusive episodes. With her mother gone, Marks was left to raise the younger children and protect them from their terrifying, unpredictable father.
When she was 15-years-old, Marks’ father sent her out to work as a servant, with the expectation that she would send most of her $3 per month salary home to the family.
Grace began working for a wealthy farmer named Thomas Kinnear, a bachelor who lived alone in a large estate with his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery.
There she met James McDermott, the 20-year-old stable hand.
It said the two were lovers, that they were conducting an illicit affair behind Kinnear’s back.
In July 1843, just a few weeks after Marks and McDermott began working at the farm, Kinnear and Montgomery were found dead in the cellar of the house.
Marks and McDermott were nowhere to be seen. They had fled the estate with just a few of the stable hand’s belongings.
Montgomery had been struck in the head with an axe, strangled and shoved under a bathtub, while Kinnear had been shot in the chest.
At the time of their deaths, Kinnear and Montgomery were allegedly having an affair and it was rumoured that the housekeeper had previously given birth to Kinnear's illegitimate child.
An autopsy would later reveal that Montgomery was pregnant at the time of her death.
The two young lovers were eventually caught in New York, arrested for the murders, and brought back to Canada to be put on trial.
The case became one of the most high-profile murder trials in Canada, and around the world, in the 1800s - due to Marks' young age and striking beauty.
According to the forward Atwood included in the book, Marks was "uncommonly pretty and also extremely young".
Throughout the trials, both Marks and McDermott tried to blame each other for the murders, but in the end, they were both convicted of the crime.
McDermott was found guilty of first-degree murder and Marks was convicted as an accessory to the crime. Both were initially sentenced to death.
Marks apparently showed very little emotion as their sentences were read out in court.
McDermott was quickly sent to gallows and ultimately hanged for the murders of Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery.
But due to Marks' young age, she was initially sent to a mental asylum before she was transferred to a penitentiary where she stayed for the next 30 years.
When she was in her mid-40s, Marks was unexpectedly exonerated for the crimes.
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Not much is known about her life after her release from jail, but it's said she moved to New York under an alias and began a new life.
There's never been any real explanation for the murders and Marks' part in them.
Some people believe it was an act of retribution as Kinnear had been instrumental in stopping the uprising of the Irish working class in Canada just a few years earlier.
Overtime some have argued that Marks' was psychologically damaged from her tough upbringing and therefore not culpable in the murders. Others have wondered whether she was suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder.
While some believe Marks was a sociopath, a master manipulator who orchestrated the bloody murders and stood back and quietly watched while her former lover was hanged for the crimes.
You can watch all six episodes of Alias Grace on Netflix now.