Slavery in American history is often presented as a series of facts. The human aspect is often overlooked.
Valerie Martin’s new novel, Property looks at America’s slave owning past through the eyes of an entirely new perspective: the wife of the plantation owner. While she was not property in the same sense that the African-American slaves were property, she has no rights. Any property or money that she inherits is immediately transferred to her husband’s name.
In 1828 Manon Gaudet trapped in a childless marriage to a man she hates. Sarah, a house slave who was a wedding present from her aunt has bore Manon’s husband two children. The oldest child, a boy named Walter is allowed to run wild and act as he pleases without censure. Her husband (whose name the reader is not told) tries to reach out to his wife, but she rejects him. The story takes off when a group of run away slaves take over the estate, tensions between Manon and Sarah escalate.
This book is only 200 pages, but within those 200 pages Ms. Martin creates tension that is felt from the first page. Manon’s seething hatred of her husband, Sarah and her her situation is extremely palatable. Instead of turning inside herself with anger and grief, Manon transfers her rage to Sarah. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it was seeing history on a very personal and different level than any history book or documentary could provide.
I recommend this book.