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Property Paperback – April 13, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The slave owner featured in Martin's new work happens to be a woman, and she's very unhappy that her favorite piece of "property" has become her husband's mistress.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Set in Louisiana in 1828, Martin's latest novel depicts the psychologically charged relationship between a wealthy white woman and the slave she detests. Manon Gaudet is bored and dissatisfied with her stifling marriage to a man she loathes. She takes much of her resentment out on her slave, Sarah, who is her husband's unwilling mistress and the mother of his only two children. Manon hates the children, especially the eldest, Walter, who is allowed to run wild on their estate. Her husband (who is never given a name) tries to reach out to Manon, but she rejects his attempts with disdain and condescension. The claustrophobic estate only makes Manon resent her life more, and she is grateful when she is unable to conceive a child. When a group of runaway slaves descends upon Manon's home, their attack brings the simmering tensions between Manon and Sarah to a head, resulting in a dramatic confrontation that only serves to heighten Manon's obsession with subjugating Sarah. The book is taut and atmospheric and effectively chronicles an obsessive fixation. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 196 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375713301
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375713309
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,437 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 62 people found the following review helpful By A. B. Cost on May 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
'Property' relays the life experiences of Manon, the white wife of a Louisiana plantation owner during the time of slavery. Manon is disgusted by her husband but is hardly more sympathetic herself. The book expresses the hypocrisy and evils of slave ownership through Manon's petty distinctions between her vulgar, brutal husband, and her idealized view of her father. Ultimately, there are no hero's of this tale. Each character is uniquely flawed and human, and the beauty of this book is its realistic recreation of the time period without appealing to sentimentality or melodrama.
This is an excellent book, and a very easy read. Like any good depiction of the human grotesque, reading 'Property' feels like watching a car accident, you are disgusted and appalled, yet you can't look away.
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59 of 64 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is an interesting story of two antebellum women (one white, one black) in Louisiana, both of whom are "property". The main character in this story (told from her point of view), Manon Gaudet, is a young, white, married woman living on a sugar plantation in Louisiana in 1828. I think that the author does an excellent job illustrating how desensitized white property owners (of human chattel, that is) had to have been in order to justify the existence of slavery to themselves. Manon is NOT a likeable, nor even a sympathetic character. She hates her own status as "chattel", yet she never seems to make the connection that she is no different from the slave Sarah, nor any other slave on her husband's plantation, nor does she ever understand the slaves' desire to be free despite her own yearnings of freedom from the slavery of her marriage. (Women were "chattel", i.e., the property of their husbands, and had absolutely no rights of their own once they married. The money or property that a woman brought to the marriage in the form of a dowry became her husband's upon their marriage. If he gambled or drank it away, or spent it all on a mistress or prostitutes she had no legal recourse because a wife was not considered a person in the eyes of the law. She could not sue to get it back, nor could she even protect it from creditors if her husband was in debt. There was no way for her to try to change the system because women were not only not educated in the same way that men were educated, but were prohibited from the professions such as doctor or lawyer, and, even more importantly, they could not vote! Married women were not even permitted to own property until the mid-19th century, and even then, once this law was passed, subsequent legislation was passed which chipped away at this basic principle.Read more ›
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Unusual and extraordinary - these are the first 2 words that come to my mind when trying to describe this book. I've never read anything like it (...and to think, I read it only 2 sittings!)!
This was a fictional slave narrative in the most unusual sense ... from the point of view of a remorseless female slave owner. It examines the psyche of the oppressor, making one even more sympathetic toward the oppressed! Valerie Martin skillfully created a fascinating portrait of an insolent and self-centered young woman and, in doing so, delved into that "peculiar institution" that denied freedom to whole race of people and was tolerated for so long in this country! VERY POWERFUL! I would definitely consider reading more of Ms. Martin's work.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By abt1950 on October 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"Property" is a short, quietly brutal novel about the relationship between mistress and slave and husband and wife in the antebellum South. Manon Gaudet, through whose eyes the narrative unfolds, is an unhappy and ultimately cruel woman married to a perverse and insensitive husband. Raised in a slave-owning household and now mistress of one herself, she must deal with her husband's infidelilty with her own slave, Sarah, whose resentment is all too apparent. At her mother's death, she inherits enough to maintain herself independently, but discovers that, as a woman, she has no legal right to her own money and therefore no escape. She is as much chattel as Sarah, her slave. Manon gains her freedom when her husband is killed in a slave rebellion, but she herself is severely wounded and Sarah escapes. Ironically, her husband's death has left her independent, but not a rich enough piece of property to attract a new husband. She resigns herself to a fate on the margins of society and asserts her own property rights by engaging a slave hunter to recapture the runaway Sarah.

I wouldn't call "Property" a completely pleasant book to read, but it is powerful. .Martin has written her novel in a terse, matter-of-fact style. "Property" is not one of those books in which the heroine realizes the error of her ways and becomes a better person. Far from it--Manon is a product of her upbringing and is totally desensitized to her slaves' humanity. Her bitterness comes through in every line, and her self-absorption becomes increasingly claustrophobic as events unfold. At the beginning of the book, Manon seems like a potentially sympathetic character, but by the end she's as much a monster as her husband.
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