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Property: A Novel Hardcover – February 18, 2003
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From the acclaimed author of Mary Reilly, a groundbreaking novel that reexamines the questions of power and resistance, violence and sex, which inform all her work.Set in the surreal heat of the antebellum South during a slave rebellion, PROPERTY takes the form of a dramatic monologue, bringing to the page a voice rarely heard in American fiction: the voice of a woman slave holder. Manon Gaudet is pretty and petulant, self-absorbed and bored. She has come to a sugar plantation north of New Orleans as a bride, bringing with her a prized piece of property, the young slave Sarah, only to see Sarah become her husband?s mistress and bear his child. As the whispers of a slave rebellion grow louder and more threatening, Manon speaks to us of her past and her present, her longings and dreams ? an uncensored, pitch-perfect voice from the heart of moral darkness.
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The main character's perspectives are consistent with those of white women in the antebellum South--women who had limited property and political rights and who were forced to accept their husbands' sexual relationships with black women. The main character's experiences show that, like a slave woman, she too is property.
The book is well written--especially the descriptions of outdoor scenes and the presentations of characters--such as the slave woman Sarah.
While the book is not boring, the perspective draws extremes of emotion and I cannot agree with anyone who thinks the only hatred expressed in this book is because of the rivalry of the females. Those who think so should read this piece again, with objective eyes.
Louisiana seems a frightening place: wild, tropical, and prone to natural disasters and frequent, devastating outbreaks of yellow fever. Manon is much smarter than her husband and has some resources that she might be able to use to save herself. She is also a complex character: self-absorbed and vindictive and realistically self-pitying as she now faces the consequences of decisions (such as whether or not to marry Mr. Gaudet) that she made when young and naïve.
Her destiny intertwines in an intriguing way with that of her counterpart: Sarah, the beautiful slave whom she brought as her property into the marriage. Sarah is enigmatic, strong, and at least as smart as Manon. A fascinating, fast-paced story. This novel won the Orange Prize for fiction by women. Longer review on ImpatientReader-dot-com.