AFter a summer of Black Lives Matter protests all over the world this novel starring a black slave owner was a bit of a shock (true story)

It was after a summer of Black Lives Matters protests all over the world in the midst of a pandemic that I was given the opportunity to review

Elisabeth Samson, Forbidden Bride

Based on the true story of the first black woman in 18th century Suriname to get legal permission to marry white.

Surinam or in Dutch Suriname was a Dutch colony in the north of South America. While in European Holland slavery was outlawed and apparently there was not a problem when people of different skincolours wanted to marry (The country had not that long ago fought a war of independence over freedom of religion), the colony was ruled under a different set of rules. Those rules were stipulated by the first governor and it felt to me like the whole area was ruled like it was a company.

One of those rules stipulated that everyone was allowed to marry everyone apart from people with not a drop of white blood in them. They were forbidden to marry white. That resulted in many people having a common law girlfriend boyfriend relationship. 

Elisabeth is not a slave. She is a free woman and she comes from a very rich family. She owns her own plantations and companies. Yes she owns her own slaves!

From someone from an oppressed minority I was expecting goodwill towards her fellow blacks. She however has none. For her slavery is as normal as it is for the white people in the country. It even goes that far that when one of her familymembers hits financial rock-bottom they make him a slave reasoning that then people will take care of someone who is too stupid to do it for himself.

The cruelty towards the slaves in widely pictured and that made me so dislike Elisabeth. But mine are 21st century eyes. In those days things were regarded normal. Enlightenment and human rights were a thing of the distant future. The fact that the Marrons, the run away slaves, were cruel too would not have helped either.

So we have very rich Elisabeth who is black. She has a lover who is a German army officer serving in Paramaribo who she loves very much. But whoever she petitions whatever money she pays their marriage stays forbidden. So she even goes to Holland to take it to court.

So Elisabeth uses her money and takes the government to court. She keeps at it because she insists to be treated the same as all other rich planters. Yes first it is love but later on in her life I could not rid myself of the feeling that it was just prestige that kept her going.

Remember the king of the Jungle in  Jungle Book who sings "I want to be like youhooohooo. To walk like you, talk like you dooohooohooo." Well that was the impression I got of her in the second half of the book.

Towards the end I found the book getting a bit of a chore. But that often happens with stories based on real lives. An author cannot invent thrilling moments. However I thought it a very interesting insight in my country's history. For a lawyer the legal issues are also interesting to read about. The author has a nice writing style. I am not sure if the introduction part of doing research is based on real life facts or just a literary plot.

I can recommend the story. Four stars out of 5.


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