Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Property - Valerie Martin

Synopsis - Manon Gaudet is unhappily married to the owner of a Louisiana sugar plantation.  She misses her family and longs for the vibrant lifestyle of her native New Orleans.  Most of all she longs to be free of her suffocating domestic situation.  The tension revolves around Sarah, a slave girl given to Manon as a wedding present from her aunt.  Sarah's young son Walter is proof of where Manon's husband's inclinations lie.  the drama is played out against a brooding atmosphere of slave unrest and bloody uprisings.  If the attacks reach Manon's house, no one can be sure which way Sarah will turn.
Review - This book was winner of the Orange prize in 2003.  If you like Doris Lessing's novel The Grass is Singing then you will like this.  It is well written but an uncomfortable read.  I could not empathise with any of the characters, not even Manon who I found to be very cold.  Slavery is very much a part of southern American history and the book depicts the way white man treated his black slave, physical assault, verbal assault and rape or adultery.  The conditions must have been poor that revolt and attacks on the rich white man would regularly take place.  Manon's husband is not a good man, having slept with his wife's servant who bore his deaf son, this man was simple, in debt and a selfish and brutal lover.  Sarah in her own part was conniving, taciturn, resentful and maybe rightly so.  She was mistreated by both master and mistress.  It is difficult to review a book that I didn't particularly like so I cannot rate it higher than 3*.

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