Monday, October 19, 2009

Property by Valerie Martin

Shocking and disturbing, yet compulsive reading about the master slave relationship that took place in America’s Deep South in the early nineteenth century.
At the centre of the story is the narrator Manon Gaudet a New Orleans girl who is married to the owner of a Louisiana sugar plantation. When he was courting her she thought he was mysterious and his aloofness due to his sensitivity. However she was soon to discover that she was married to a hideous monster, we never learn the Christian name of this racist bigot. The tension was heightened by the fact that they had no children of their own but her husband had a mad son, Walter whose mother was their slave girl Sarah and who lives as a member of the household. It is no wonder that Manon hates Sarah but at least she tries to escape slavery. Whereas all Manon seems to do is blame Sarah for all her problems, without trying to change things. Until this household drama extends into a bloody uprising of slave unrest causing Manon to gain her independence but only after a series of terrifying episodes.
I did not really warm to any of the main characters although I have extreme sympathy with them for the terrible way that the slaves were treated. Manon even annoyed me in a way as I felt she did not help her own misery by treating her slaves the way she did.
Slavery was diabolical and this story certainly makes that clear but it also reminds us that it was not just the slaves that were seen as ‘ Property’ but also the wives in those times!

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