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Property by Valerie Martin

Property (2003)

by Valerie Martin

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8794410,083 (3.73)1 / 229
  1. 50
    The Known World by Edward P. Jones (Alirob)
  2. 40
    March by Geraldine Brooks (RidgewayGirl)
    RidgewayGirl: Another award winning work that sheds light on the full horror of the results of slavery.
  3. 20
    Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball (kraaivrouw)
  4. 20
    The Bondwoman's Narrative by Hannah Crafts (goddesspt2)
  5. 10
    Philida by André Brink (charl08)
    charl08: Similar themes of identity in connection with slavery (but in very different setting).
  6. 10
    The Book of Night Women by Marlon James (GCPLreader)
    GCPLreader: amazing novel of slave revolt in Jamaica
  7. 10
    The Invention of Wings: A Novel by Sue Monk Kidd (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Both of these dramatic novels explore the troubled relationships between slaves and slave owners in the American South using strong female protagonists, as well as exploring the issues all women faced during this dark period in history.… (more)
  8. 00
    Time and the River by Zee Edgell (loriephillips)

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Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
Calling slavery "bad" sells it short in so many ways: it was a deeply perverse, fucked-up system of economic, social, and violent control that so infected everyday life in the South that it was impossible to escape and ignore. While we've all read about slavery in school, encountering the day-to-day realities is always a shocking experience, no matter how many times you've seen them before or how intellectually prepared you are.

The perverse ideology and "justice" of slavery is difficult to capture in fiction, which is why it's always a pleasure to see a work that does it well. The Known World by Edward P. Jones is my personal favorite, but Property by Valerie Martin also deserves a place in that company. The interesting thing about Martin's approach is picking a white female protagonist, paralleling (but never so callow as to equate) the systems of oppression governing both women and slaves—and at the intersection of both.

I'm hesitant to reveal too much of the book, as it's a slim 200 pages and pretty easy to read in a day as I did. But I should note that the book builds up to a disappointing conclusion. My wife enjoyed it more than I did, but it was a wet fart of an ending that doesn't really pay off on so much raised over the course of the story. It's an important moment for the character, but one that passes by largely unremarked. Some stories can do these kinds of anti-climaxes well—for example, the amazing ending to No Country for Old Men that pissed off so many people in theaters—but Property is not one of them. There's nothing wrong with the last page, except that it's the last. ( )
  gregorybrown | Oct 18, 2015 |
In 1828 Manon Gaudet is a beautiful and incredibly bitter wife of a Louisiana plantation owner. Her husband is rather mundane in thought and cruel to their slaves. Early in her marriage Manon's slave Sarah becomes her husbands unwilling mistress and mother of his two children. As a result the intelligent Manon passes ten years in isolation, not quite able to mask the hatred and disgust she feels for her husband. Manon's shame with her marriage and boredom of country living is superimposed on a country side seething with disease and rumors of slave revolts. Unable to divorce her husband or prevent him from squandering her inheritance, Manon never quite makes the leap in understanding that in many ways she has no more freedom than Sarah. Her own cage is just slightly more gilded. ( )
  queencersei | Aug 24, 2015 |
This book is set in Louisiana, nearly 40 years before the Civil War. The title of the book has many layers of meaning: Manon Gaudet is the bitter and unhappy wife of a sugar plantation owner who is rapidly descending into bankruptcy; her house slave Sarah who was given to her as a wedding gift in part to get her out of Manon’s parent’s house; the house that is left to her on her mother’s death is scheduled to become her husband’s property, since everything belonging to a woman automatically becomes the property of her husband – she only gets to retain the house due to the death of her husband in a slave uprising.

see the rest of my review here:

  nordie | Jun 24, 2015 |
Picked this up at the library as a random selection and so glad that I did. Beautifully written. Tells the story of slave culture in the time when it was the norm. No excuses for whether it was right. And neither should there be. Will be reading more Martin. ( )
  hscherry | Jul 1, 2014 |
A well-written, fast-paced, quickly read novel. Set in 1828 antebellum Louisiana, at the time when the sugarcane & cotton plantation economy & society were besieged by fantasies, rumors & justified fears of slave insurrection. There is nothing particularly new about this account, assuming one hasn't had one's head under a literary barrel for the past half-century. There is no happy ending, no endearing character. The steely-minded "heroine" Manon, is a white woman of modest means married to a boorish sugarcane planter who takes her servant Sarah to his bed & fathers 2 children by her, while Manon herself remains childless. Manon sees clearly her own status as property in the eyes of both the law and society (the only independence available to her is that of the widow, a status that she achieves, with considerable relief, after her husband is killed by a raiding party). Nevertheless, she is not able to make the leap to a full understanding of her servant Sarah's quest for freedom. Manon's servants remain property to her, to be ordered around, disdained, sold, retrieved by slavecatchers & done with as she sees fit. Self-recognition takes Manon only so far. It can't catapult her out of history into a version of history that we might prefer. No redemption here. ( )
  Paulagraph | May 25, 2014 |
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This one thing we wish to be understood and remembered,--that the Constitution of this State, has made Tom, Dick, and Harry, property--it has made Polly, Nancy, and Molly, property; and be that property an evil, a curse, or what not, we intend to hold it. ---Letter from A.B.C. of Halifax City to the Richmond Whig, January 28, 1832
To Margaret Atwood, whose help far exceeded the expectations of an already invaluable friendship, this novel is affectionately dedicated.
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Book description
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 her suffocating domestic situation,. The tension revolves around Sarah, a slave girl 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 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...
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375713301, Paperback)

Valerie Martin’s Property delivers an eerily mesmerizing inquiry into slavery’s venomous effects on the owner and the owned. The year is 1828, the setting a Louisiana sugar plantation where Manon Gaudet, pretty, bitterly intelligent, and monstrously self-absorbed, seethes under the dominion of her boorish husband. In particular his relationship with her slave Sarah, who is both his victim and his mistress.
Exploring the permutations of Manon’s own obsession with Sarah against the backdrop of an impending slave rebellion, Property unfolds with the speed and menace of heat lightning, casting a startling light from the past upon the assumptions we still make about the powerful and powerful.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:37 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Property is theft, so they say, and in this novel, the property is both an abundant sugar plantation and the former slave who is now the owner's mistress and the mother of his only child.

» see all 4 descriptions

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Average: (3.73)
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