Property by Valerie Martin
This is yet another used book store find. This one I took off the shelf because of the cover photo. When I read the description on the back cover I thought I had never read anything like that, so why not give it a try. On the front cover was a blurb that said "This fresh, unsentimental look at what slave owning does to (and for) one's interior life must be a first." This book was about the effects of owning slaves, not being a slave.
The book's back cover description said "Valerie Martin's Property delivers an eerily mesmerizing inquiry into slavery's venomous effects on the owner and the owned. The year is 1828, the setting a Louisiana sugar plantation where Manon Gaudet- pretty, bitterly intelligent, and monstrously self-absorbed- seethes under the dominion of her boorish husband. In particular she resents his relationship with her slave Sarah, who is both his victim and his mistress" It sounded interesting, and it was written by a female author, so I took it home.
It is an easy read. Manon is the narrator. She is miserable in her life. There is nothing she likes. Everyone and everything has faults, except her deceased father, he is help up as the standard for everyone else. That is until she realizes he was like all the rest. She is completely absorbed in herself and her own world. Everything is about what is good for her, what she wants, and what she likes. She hates her husband. She hates her slaves. She hates the other farmers. She wishes more than once that her husband would die...and then there is a slave uprising.
Then there is the empathetic look at this book. Manon is a woman in the early 1800s. She has no rights. She is completely dependent upon a man she hardly knew when they were married. She has no safety net. She is stuck and scared and worried all the time. She sees the debt mounting at the plantation and knows her husband has indebted them to bankruptcy. Would anyone be "self-absorbed" when their thoughts are always about self-preservation? Probably.
This book has lots of fun things. Stuff like cholera, yellow fever, hangings, beheadings, murder, manipulation, rape, bounty hunters, bastard mulatto children, etc.
vetiver: the long, fibrous, aromatic roots of an East Indian grass, Vetiveria zizanioides, used for making hangings and screens and yielding an oil used in perfumery.
epistolary: contained in or carried on by letters: an epistolary friendship.
manumission: To free from slavery or bondage; emancipate.
This was a very quick read. The book is 193 pages and it flows easily. It gives a little insight into what life may have been like in New Orleans and the surrounding area in 1828, thought I believe if it was like that all the time the people would have moved away. That is one more reason to think that Manon is just a very negative person.