Wednesday, 20 December 2017

The horrible reality of being a slave in America. Review of The Prodigy Slave

In my country the last time slavery was legal the Romans still ruled. So American slavery is something I know only from reading "Uncle Tom's cabin" as a schoolgirl. In this novel The Prodigy Slave it comes as a shock that even when a white master would be sympathetic to his slaves even he would be more or less powerless against the system: a child born out of a slave would be a slave, marrying a free negro would turn that one back into a slave and punish also the white husband, free negroes were not allowed to own land hand out medicine and not only the slave but also the master was punished when the slave were given an education. A complete hopeless existence!

Lily is the daughter of a black slave and her white master but her father feels no love for his child and sells her at a young age. Her new owner and his eldest sons are cruel men but the lady of the house and the youngest son are better persons. The child Lily and the youngest son even develop a close friendship as children but things change for the worse when they turn 16. All she has left is her music. Playing it in secret on the piano in the living room.

At first the story is told from Lily's point of view but later it reverts back to what that son was thinking or doing. And this happens a couple of times more in the story. That makes the pace of storytelling sometimes extremely slow - even too slow - but it makes us feel the tension and insecurity of the people involved.

It seems the story is drawn out over several novels. This is not a stand alone one. I would advice the writer to bundle her novels into one book. The story is too gripping to damage by cliff hangers.

I wonder how historically correct the story is. It is a romance story after all although I think it surpasses that level of storytelling because it is that good. However when I read that James is bedding girls while at university my mind thinks "in the 19th century women did not study and the only women who did run the risk to sleep around were whores as a pregnancy would destroy a woman's reputation."

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