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Satisfying but not gripping
on June 26, 2013
Before reading this novel, I had the expectation that it was going to be gripping and unforgettable, but it definitely fell short of it. The plot was not engrossing; it had a typical story line where the young white innocent girl grows up with an African American family in the late 1700s in America, not noticing the physical difference between her African American family and herself. It was a decent attempt at character development, portraying Lavinia (the young white indentured servant girl from Ireland) as selfless and consistently proving her unconditional love for her African American family, and Belle (the young mulatto slave girl, fathered by her master) as a headstrong young woman, but only a helpless bystander in the white man's world. The characters had potential, but their personalities were way too extreme. It was not relatable, which is one of the most important traits a good historical fiction novel should have. The audience wants to be taken back to that time and feel what the people of that time had felt, and this just did not do it.
Lavinia was too pure, even at the age of 17, she only partly understood that her skin color was different from that of her adopted family. After the turmoil she had been through, there should have been more internal conflict within her to love her adopted family the same or to have that love falter. Even though her love for her family was unconditional, it just was not portrayed very intensely, which would have made the novel much more enticing. It was not touching; the audience understands the lowly status of African Americans during this time, and the way in which the white male dominated society, and this understanding should have made me cried when I realized how unconditional and ahead of her time Lavinia's love for her family was. Grissom just did not touch on that aspect enough. She made Lavinia's love natural and modern, which was disappointing. I wanted to see Lavinia struggle and finally realize that skin color and social norms did not determine love. As for Belle, she talked headstrong, but never really acted on any of her actions until the end of the novel. She just seemed helpless, always a damsel in distress. Her heroic moments were definitely overshadowed by her helplessness.
Overall, this novel was just simply alright. It was nothing too exciting, but I did want to know the ending, and it was sweet.