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Set in Southern plantations and bayous during the years just following the Louisiana Purchase, Straight's impressionistic character study effectively evokes the conflicted mélange of races, nationalities and cultures that defined the early 19th-century territory. The novel spans the life of Moinette, a "mulatresse," beginning with the events that wrench her from her mother at age 14, to her final days in her 40s. Moinette's first young mistress, Cephaline, exposes her to book learning, and Moinette struggles to negotiate the contradictions between the language of science and her mother's belief in traditional Senegalese spirits, a dichotomy that haunts her throughout her life. After Cephaline's premature death, Moinette, light-skinned and beautiful, is sold upriver and separated from her beloved mother. She repeatedly suffers sexual assault and must use her wits to protect herself, and later her son and daughters. While Straight (Highwire Moon) vividly depicts the danger and degradation black women faced, she also makes feminist comparisons between Moinette's enslavement and the situations of her wealthy white mistresses. However, the terms of Moinette's very sophisticated understanding of what's happening to her seem anachronistic, and the success she achieves, combined with the handy coincidences that lead to it, although tempered with tragedy, are too convenient to be entirely convincing. (Mar.)
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Straight, whose sixth novel explores family bonds, slavery, and freedom in a dark period of American history, elicited almost universal praise. Moinette, an intelligent, moving narrative presence who navigates througheven exploitsslavery's constraints, charmed critics. Straight's evocative language also impressed them, as did the depth of her historical researchfrom boot blacking to gory scenes of murdered runaway slaves. (A glossary of Creole and French terms helps.) Only the Los Angeles Times felt that Straight's historical novel was, first and foremost, a polished literary exercise. (The critic suggested reading more "honest historical melodrama" like Gone With the Wind). Despite this minor criticism, A Million Nightingales is an affecting, powerful story.<BR>Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Editorial Reviews
I wanted to like this book more. There's some beautiful writing here and Susan Straight does a good job of bringing to life an early 1800s Louisiana still struggling with the... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Sophfronia Scott
A beautifully written account of one African-American woman's life and of women's realities in 18th century Louisiana. Atmospheric and haunting.Published 22 months ago by Elinor
Straight dredges her rich imagination and empathy to portray mean, desperate lives in late 18th century Louisiana of slaves, plantation owners, their daughters and wives.Published on April 24, 2013 by Jill
A Million Nightingales allows the reader to feel the weight of the stories of three generations of women bound by slavery through the heart of the last of the last slave of her... Read morePublished on January 27, 2013 by robert mattson
Poetically written, with captivating characters. Many to keep track of, so I felt the need to make notes. Read morePublished on December 28, 2012 by lucy
Recently while listening to NPR Susan Straight was being interviewed. She sounded so interesting I wrote her name down and ordered "A Million Nightingales". Read morePublished on October 21, 2012 by Wendy S.
Moinette is born south of New Orleans to a slave mother as a mulatresse-she is half white and half black. Read morePublished on February 16, 2012 by AMM
Moinette will make you think twice before uttering a racial slur or thinking that African Americans are lucky because they got free passage here. Read morePublished on January 18, 2012 by mariwinn
Told in lyrical prose, Susan Straight's "A Million Nightingales" is a deep exploration of Moinette's life as a female slave in Louisiana. Read morePublished on September 30, 2011 by Buecherwurm