Friday, 10 January 2014

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Review by The Mole

The story of two sisters, two sisters, family, slavery and abolitionists.

Living in Charleston slavery is a part of everyday life so when Sarah, on her 11th birthday, is given Hetty (also known as Handful) for a present it shocks and abhors people that she tries to refuse the gift. However they build up an unusual relationship for the time of a great friendship that lasts throughout their lives - lives that see Sarah and her sister Nina move to the North and become abolitionists and women's rights activists while Handful and her sister Sky try to run away to the North for freedom.

The author's notes come at the back book and explain a little of the history. Sarah and Nina were, very broadly, not only real historical characters but they did leave the South to become abolitionists - unusual ones though in that they campaigned for equality and not just for freedom - and also they started the campaign in North America for equal rights for women. I feel that while the notes contain spoilers that something should have been at the front of the book explaining the historical context and how heavily the idea of their story is fictionalised.

I did enjoy this book a lot but I failed to feel for any of the characters except perhaps Handful - most of the rest feeling like a report on the happenings rather than a window on their story.

Perhaps the slavery story has been over told in the past, perhaps it can't be over told, but here we get a good insight into how the owner/slave relationship may well have ranged from almost benevolent to downright domineering almost to the point of sadistic - and all within the context of one family. We also get an insight into how the spirits of the slaves could not just be controlled to be compliant but how they would rise up in anger when the slave owners were not in sight.

In addition to the insight into slavery we also get an insight into how shallow the families of the slave owners of the deep south may well have been and how women could do whatever they liked so long as it didn't encroach into the man's world and power.

Coming back to the heavy fictionalisation aspect, I am left wondering (despite the research also mentioned in the notes) how realistically this portrayed the life and times although so much of it rings as feasible and possibly likely.

But it is a work a fiction - let's not lose sight of that - and one that I did enjoy reading.

Publisher -  Tinder Press
Genre - Adult fiction, historical

Buy The Invention of Wings from Amazon

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