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, but most of all, she longs to be free of the suffocating domestic situation. The tension revolves around Sarah, a slave girl who may have been given to Manon as a wedding present from her aunt, whose young son Walter is living proof of where Manon's husband's inclinations lie. This private drama is being played out against a brooding atmosphere of slave unrest and bloody uprisings. And if the attacks reach Manon's house, no one can be sure which way Sarah will turn ...Beautifully written, PROPERTY is an intricately told tale of both individual stories and of a country in a time of change, where ownership is at once everything and nothing, and where belonging, by contrast, is all.
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(212mm x 127mm x 15mm)
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Country of Publication:
UK Kirkus Review »
Valerie Martin has set Property in the Deep South of America in the early 19th century. Firmly based on primary sources, the novel tackles the mighty injustice of regarding people as chattels. Narrator Manon Gaudet is the unhappy, childless wife of a dull, brutal and inefficient owner of a Louisiana sugar plantation. Her husband, significantly, is never named, but his character is created via Manon's observations through a spyglass, and via the monotony of his concerns. The novel's pivotal character is Sarah, a house slave given to Manon as a wedding present: she becomes the mistress of Manon's husband and mother of his two children. In compressed and vivid style, Martin evokes both the suffocation and the cruelty of plantation life, with its concealment, hypocrisy and secrecy and its emphasis on money. This was a violent world geared to the buying and selling of helpless people: they could be sold and thus separated from their children, spouses and homes on an owner's whim. Slaves not unnaturally sought their freedom through running away or by means of uprisings, but a whole class of people made a living tracing runaways and any uprisings were ruthlessly dealt with. The stories of Manon and Sarah are parallels concerned with political and personal freedom. Both women feel themselves to be powerless, Manon because of her sex, Sarah because of her colour. Both are bent on escape; predictably it is Manon who achieves a degree of freedom, albeit at a price. Yet Sarah is the one who has the experience of seeing a wider world in which black people are at least nominally free. Through Manon's unvarying and unwittingly ironic narrative voice, Martin brilliantly exposes the moral blindness of a world in which absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. Forget Scarlett and Rhett: Martin tells it the way it really was. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Valerie Martin
Valerie Martin is the author of six other novels and a biography of St. Francis of Assisi, SALVATION.