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Sapphira and the Slave Girl (Vintage Classics) Paperback – December 7, 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Novel by Willa Cather, published in 1940. The novel is set in Virginia in the mid-1800s on the estate of a declining slaveholding family. Sapphira and the Slave Girl centers on the family's matriarch, Sapphira Colbert, and her attempt to sell Nancy Till, a mixed-race slave girl. Sapphira's plot is foiled by her husband Henry and their widowed daughter Rachel Blake. A confident, strong-willed invalid, Sapphira has earned the respect of many of her slaves despite her subtle cruelty toward Nancy. Henry is a pious miller whose simple upbringing and passivity contrast with the aristocratic and manipulative nature of his wife. Henry's nephew Martin, a suave but lecherous ex-soldier, tries to seduce Nancy. Rachel, who helps Nancy flee to Canada, remains at odds with Sapphira over the issue of slavery until the death of Rachel's daughter reconciles the pair. Cather appears in the epilogue as a child who notes Nancy's triumphant return 25 years later. -- The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Sapphira Dodderidge, a Virginia lady of the 19th century, marries beneath her and becomes irrationally jealous of Nancy, a beautiful slave. One of Cather's later works. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Classics
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (December 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307739651
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307739650
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #419,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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After powering through the first chapters to find peace with the old attitudes and old language (the N Word, manumit, dropsy, negress, mulatto) and roll into the flow of the story through the context of history, this book becomes a high value and educational story. Delightful old talk, like "It's city life that learns you, an' I'd a-loved it!" It is extremely well written, fully using the language of the time to bring forth a rare, uncleansed and honest insight of this period of American society. It is interesting that, as the more open-minded characters muse about the righteousness of owning people, they never thought to PAY them, at least. A very good read for those that appreciate historical fiction and would be a great assignment for a literature or linguistics class.
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I live in Winchester and recently began reading Willa Cather's books because she was born here. Her most beautiful writing appears in "My Antonia," but I loved "Sapphira and the Slave Girl" too, for taking me back 150 years to the way life was in my area. Cather lived that life, and although her books are fiction, she, like many authors, includes bits of her own life and experiences in her writing. I could follow her up to Timber Ridge, down to Winchester, and was so absorbed in her writing that I felt I'd stepped back in time and was watching her beautifully painted scenes and hearing her realistically-written dialog for myself. I don't read much fiction about the midwest (where most of the rest of her books take place), but I have read all of her midwestern books. They are worth it!
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Excellent--point of view of the conscientious slave-holder, torn by Abolitionist leanings even while holding slaves--after Civil War time, shows a bit of what freed slaves and slave owners went through--sensitively and fairly dealt with
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As I was reading this book (which is thought provoking) I also was thinking thoughts similar to the previous reviewer, i.e., would the black people in the book really think this way in real life; (Example, some of the slaves would talk about the other slaves calling them "no count niggers". One of the slaves was offered freedom and a job in Pennsylvania but turned it down saying he wanted to stay where he was). I assume there were all kinds. All kinds of slave owners and all kinds of slaves. Perhaps some of what the author writes was true for some people but not true for others.
I really find it interesting that The "Master" (Mr. Henry Colbert) and his daughter (Mrs. Blake) would go to such trouble to make sure that Nancy (the slave girl) did not come to any sexual harm by Mr. Colbert's nephew Martin. Would this have really happened or would, in most cases, people in their position have turned a blind eye? Would a slave actually have felt comfortable going to a white person about this trouble?
I found it a bit hard to digest that the slaves were so ultimately loyal and simple and that the slave owners were to some extent so lenient. Was this a truthful depiction based on some facts the author uncovered or were theses all-false assumptions that she accepted as truth?
Of course I am reading this with all of the influences of a 2003 consciousness.
I think this book is perhaps showing a side to slavery that maybe did exist, just perhaps not on a widespread basis. I would hope the author did some type of research to substantiate what she wrote. It does make one contemplate...
Review written by a black person.
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I did a genealogy project for a family who lived in the mill that serves as the setting for this book. I love Willa Cather and had somehow missed this one! It was great.
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a good look at history before the Civil Rights era. I thought all characters were well drawn and worth knowing.
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I think that the writing style in this book would better serve the teen group.
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