Property by Valerie Martin

Manon Gaudet is an unhappy housewife in the early 19th century.  Married at a young age to a Louisiana sugar plantation owner who is brutal and cruel, she longs for a way out of her life and wishes she could return to her home town of New Orleans.  Her housemaid Sarah is a young black woman, whose child is proof of Manon’s husband’s unfaithfulness.

These are dangerous times for Sarah and her husband, with many of the slaves rebelling against their white employers (or owners, as slaves are considered to be property of the household) and while the threat of violence and murder is around the corner, Manon has to worry about where Sarah’s loyalties will lie if the insurrection reaches their home…

This book is certainly well written.  The writing is clean and stark and the story – told from Manon’s point of view, is related without emotion.  It certainly brought to life a period of history which was shocking and disturbing, and I felt that both the era and the lifestyle of the characters was very well described.

Characterisation was stark – as Manon is the narrator, it is probably no surprise that she is the most fleshed out character of all.  However, I felt that Manon’s husband, and their slave Sarah were also extremely believable.

Overall, this was a quick read, but certainly made me think. It is  an excellent portrayal of life in turbulent times, and certainly is a book that made me think.  A story that will linger in the mind long after the final page has been turned.

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