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Original Sins: A Novel of Slavery & Freedom…

Original Sins: A Novel of Slavery & Freedom

by Peg Kingman

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Original Sins is a difficult novel to describe. It's not especially plot-driven, yet there is certainly an enthralling and complex story woven throughout. I neither loved nor hated most of the characters, which to me is a mark of a very real cast. I was more invested in seeing certain principles succeed than in any particular character. I thought Peg Kingman did an excellent job piecing together a firm foundation on which she could then set her story, but readers who prefer plot to philosophizing will most likely be frustrated. I found the ending immensely satisfying, though not every question was answered. Overall, I found Original Sins to be a very interesting novel and there are many others out there who will feel the same.

Full thoughts on Erin Reads. ( )
  erelsi183 | Oct 16, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I wanted to like this book. I loved the premise of a free black woman--a successful business woman--returning to the antebellum south to rescue her child. I was excited to receive a copy from the Early Reviewers' Program.

However, the book began with a long slog through the daily life of a miniaturist (never a good thing) and then pole-vaulted into disaster by sticking with the miniaturist. It never became a story I wanted to read. ( )
  karhne | Sep 29, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Grace MacDonald Pollacke has come to live in Philadelphia, the home of her husband's family, after spending most of her life in the far east. Originally Scottish, she fled with her step-mother to India to escape attempts by her late mother's American family to force her to leave her home and live with them in Virginia. Eighteen years later she is working as a painter of portraits while awaiting her husband's return from a trading voyage to China. His return also brings Anniebaddh, the slave girl who accompanied her mistress to Scotland all those years ago and who escaped bondage by joining Grace and her step-mother on the ship to India. The girls grew up as friends.

Grace is worried at Annie's insistence on remaining in America rather than going on to London as planned. She is even more concerned when Annie tells her she will be travelling to Virginia on business - she has brought a supply of mulberry trees and silk worms with her. Virginia is a dangerous place for free blacks in 1840, so when Grace realizes that Annie actually plans to return to her old master's plantation to retrieve "something" she left behind, she volunteers to go in her place. After all, she has been invited to come and paint portraits of the entire family by the Virginia ladies who have been sitting for her. The same ladies who just happen to be her cousins.

I enjoyed reading this book enormously. But it is not flawless. There are too many coincidences of the kind just described. The main focus of the book is the evil of slavery, and I enjoyed the descriptions of the different viewpoints and arguments for and against the "institution". However, Kingman didn't restrain herself to just railing against slavery. There is an especially long tirade near the end of the book that had little to do with anything that had come before and should have been cut out or at least edited severely. It came near to ruining the entire book for me, but it ended as abruptly as it began in time for a rushed conclusion. Ignoring the last section, it is a very enjoyable, if unorthodox, look at American society in the ante-bellum period. ( )
  sjmccreary | Apr 17, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I usually read 100 pages of a book before I make a decision; however, this time I couldn't even get that far. To me it was a lot of pretentious babble. By this I mean, that the dialog between the characters was written as if someone was pretending to be "high class and snobby". I found it irritating and could not continue to read any further.

I feel badly when I give a bad review because I know how much goes into writing a book. I have no patience for a book that doesn't capture my attention right away. I love to read and have many, many more books waiting for me. ( )
1 vote Quiltinfun06 | Jan 27, 2011 |
Peg Kingman, W.W.Norton and Company,2010,HC, $25.95 416pp, 978-0-393-06547-3.

Grace Pollacke is an artist, she paints portraits in miniature. Her husband arrives home to Philadelphia after being in China for several years. Traveling with Daniel is Anibaddh, The Rani of Nungklow. It is not the first time she has been in America for she is a runaway slave from Virginia. At great personal risk she has returned to establish a silk business, but this raises suspicion in Grace.

Grace, is a woman with a sharp intellect, well read in politics and literature, a rare find in 1840. Her current patron is Mrs. Ambler who is accompanied by her sister Mrs. MacFarlane. Engaged in a conversation about religion and slavery, Grace becomes disturbed with her subject, as her views are completely contrary. Anibaddh overhears the women and immediately recognizes their voices. They are the daughters of Judge Grant of Grantsboro Plantation and therefore Grace’s cousins.

When Grace steps in harms way to save her son, she realizes why Annibadh has returned. There could be only one reason she would risk her own life to sacrifice freedom: a child. Unaware of their common ancestral lineage, the woman invite Grace to visit Grantsboro to paint other family members. Realizing she can help Anibaddh with her maternal mission she accepts their request.

What follows is a complicated almost too coincidental yet thrilling story of Grace’s past and the discovery of her family’s slaveholding past and their unspeakable transgressions. Grace, is a character with vitality: bold, daring with unconventional thoughts and actions for the period she lives. As a painter, she is mesmerized by daguerreotype photography process and saddened by the newly installed gaslights in her city.
Original Sins, the author’s second novel is a deeply creative honest look at slavery and the ugly truths of human bondage that still emerge from America’s past. Highly recommended.

© [Wisteria Leigh] and [Bookworm's Dinner], [2008-2011]. ( )
  WisteriaLeigh | Jan 22, 2011 |
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Grace had imagined Daniel's homecoming hundreds of times; repeatedly she had painted the scene in her mind's eye.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393065472, Hardcover)

Why would a runaway Virginia slave—having built a rewarding life in the East Indies as a silk merchant—risk everything by returning to America in 1840, eighteen years after taking her freedom?

Anibaddh Lyngdoh claims that she intends to introduce a new kind of silk to the floundering American silk industry. But her true reason, as her old friend Grace MacDonald Pollocke discovers, is far more personal. Grace, now a Philadelphia portrait painter, undertakes a perilous investigation that leads to the discovery of old sins and crimes, and the commission of new ones. What laws may be broken—what sins and crimes committed—in the service of a higher justice? Deceit, forgery, fraud, perjury . . . even murder?

This novel thrillingly evokes a nineteenth-century America not so different from the present: a time of stunning new technologies and financial collapse, when religious and racial views collided with avowed principles of morality and law.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:23 -0400)

Why would a runaway Virginia slave--having built a rewarding life in the East Indies as a silk merchant--risk everything by returning to America in 1840, eighteen years after taking her freedom? Anibaddh Lyngdoh claims that she intends to introduce a new kind of silk to the floundering American silk industry. But her true reason is to find the child she abandoned when she ran away.… (more)

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