Posts Tagged ‘slavery’

The Invention of Wings – Sue Monk Kidd

Posted in American Fiction, Historical Fiction on January 9th, 2014 by admin – 4 Comments
  • 18581771
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Tinder Press (7 Jan 2014)
  • Source – Netgalley
  • My Rating – 4 stars

 

Set in early 19th century Charleston, Sue Monk Kidd’s latest novel is the story of two women from very different backgrounds. On her eleventh birthday Sarah Grimke, daughter of a wealthy judge, is gifted ownership of ten year old Hetty “Handful” Grimke, a slave who will act as her handmaid. Both young girls have many dreams and aspirations but these are thwarted by social convention in Sarah’s case and the brutal reality of enslavement for Handful. Indeed, Handful points out that her slavery is that of the body whilst Sarah is held captive by her own mind.
Narrated in turn by Sarah and Handful, the story paints a realistic picture of the deep South where anyone speaking out against slavery is ostracised. Sarah has had a privileged background but she’s an intelligent woman who wants more than needlepoint and a socially acceptable match. As a teenager she sees how her brothers’ horizons expand whilst her prospects become limited. Meanwhile Handful is raised by a strong mother, Charlotte, who advocates quiet rebellion and unlocks the possibility of freedom for her daughter.
Spanning 35 years, this novel is loosely based on the life of Sarah Grimke and her sister Angelina who were the first female abolitionists and feminist thinkers in the United States. The parallel stories of Sarah and Handful provide an intriguing insight into the racism, misogynism and inequality which pervaded the Southern States during this era. The voices of Sarah and Handful are very convincing as is the depiction of the claustrophobic life of the landed gentry and the daily brutality of life for slaves.
This is a very readable, thought-provoking story which packs a slightly stronger punch than the author’s first novel The Secret Life of Bees.

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The Wedding Gift – Marlen Suyapa Bodden

Posted in American Fiction, Historical Fiction on June 2nd, 2013 by admin – 2 Comments

The Wedding Gift

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Century (9 May 2013
  • Source: Publisher
  • My Rating – 4 stars

I enjoy historical fiction but have a restricted range, preferring British Tudor and Medieval settings or, as in this case, the antebellum Southern States.

The Wedding Gift is set in Alabama and the focus is on two women who come from very different social classes but who share a common bond of powerlessness when faced with domineering men.  Sarah is a half-white slave, the off-spring of Emmeline, a house slave,  and the boorish plantation owner.  Theodora is the plantation owner’s long suffering wife, the target of his alcohol fuelled mood swings and she is expected to toe the line at all times.  Both women are victims of slavery yet they strive to escape their bondage – Sarah with her plans to escape and Theodora with little acts of rebellion such as teaching Sarah to read and write even though it is considered illegal.

Yes, there is a lot of dialogue and it can seem, at times, a little forced but you’re carried along by the compelling storyline.  This is an impressive debut and one for fans of Kathleen Grissom’s The Kitchen House and Gone With the Wind.

You can discover more about the author on her website here.

Marlen Bodden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr Marlen Suyapa Bodden

 

 

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The Kitchen House – Kathleen Grissom

Posted in American Fiction, Historical Fiction on February 27th, 2013 by admin – 2 Comments

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (14 Mar 2013)
  • Source: Amazon Vine
  • My Rating – 4 stars

Kathleen Grissom’s debut novel, The Kitchen House, is a New York Times bestseller and a firm favourite with book clubs in the United States. Despite stiff competition from many other novels set in the antebellum Deep South, this story has captured the imagination of contemporary America.

Perhaps it is the twist of placing a white female in the midst of black slaves which makes it stand out and gives it a spark of originality. Lavinia, a seven year old Irish orphan, finds herself indentured to a white plantation family and eventually discovers a new family amongst the black slaves in the kitchen house. As the years pass, she ends up in a limbo-like situation unsure of her status in society, not quite fitting in anywhere.

Yes, there are some stereotypical characters including evil overseers, drunken, power-crazed plantation owners, swooning ladies but there are also some strong female characters ironically more so among the slave population than amid the white genteel ladies who seem imprisoned by the shackles of marriage and the constraints of society. With chapters alternately narrated by either Lavinia or Belle (her guardian at the kitchen house), the reader gets a broad, balanced view of events.

There is quite a lot of misery but nevertheless this is an extremely readable, compelling story. I’m not sure if I would put it on a par with The Help as that was a more character-driven novel and there were moments of humour to alleviate the gloom but it is an impressive debut and a definite page-turner.

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