Sunday, February 21, 2010

Property by Valerie Martin

A woman is oppressed and oppresses on an antebellum sugar cane plantation

This book is like a Rubik’s cube – artfully put together. A crude slaveowner oppresses both his genteel wife and the slave who bore his children. They are both property and they both hate him. One gets her freedom, the other doesn’t. The wife has the highest standards in the book yet is corrupted by the system. It never occurs to her that slaves could possess rights, just as it never occurs to her husband that women might have rights, though the wife desperately wants her freedom. She’s been sheltered from any other concepts besides slaves being property and using methods ranging from sadistically cruel to cruel to control them. Remarkably, the n-word doesn’t show up in this book. The narrator is extremely unsympathetic and yet she has a strong will to live, for freedom. The story is ultimately sad.

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