Property is Valerie Martin's powerful, startling novel set in America's deep South in the early nineteenth century.Manon Gaudet is unhappily married to the owner of a Louisiana sugar plantation. She misses her family and longs for her native New Orleans, but most of all she longs to be free of her suffocating domestic situation.
The tension revolves around Sarah, a slave girl given to Manon as a wedding present, whose young son Walter is living proof of where Manon's husband's inclinations lie. This private drama is played out against a brooding atmosphere of unrest and bloody uprisings, as the whispers of a slave rebellion grow louder and more threatening.
About the Author
Valerie Martin is the author of six other novels and a biography of St. Francis of Assisi, Salvation.
Valerie Martin has set Property in the Deep South of America in the early 19th century. Firmly based on primary sources, the novel tackles the mighty injustice of regarding people as chattels. Narrator Manon Gaudet is the unhappy, childless wife of a dull, brutal and inefficient owner of a Louisiana sugar plantation. Her husband, significantly, is never named, but his character is created via Manon's observations through a spyglass, and via the monotony of his concerns. The novel's pivotal character is Sarah, a house slave given to Manon as a wedding present: she becomes the mistress of Manon's husband and mother of his two children. In compressed and vivid style, Martin evokes both the suffocation and the cruelty of plantation life, with its concealment, hypocrisy and secrecy and its emphasis on money. This was a violent world geared to the buying and selling of helpless people: they could be sold and thus separated from their children, spouses and homes on an owner's whim. Slaves not unnaturally sought their freedom through running away or by means of uprisings, but a whole class of people made a living tracing runaways and any uprisings were ruthlessly dealt with. The stories of Manon and Sarah are parallels concerned with political and personal freedom. Both women feel themselves to be powerless, Manon because of her sex, Sarah because of her colour. Both are bent on escape; predictably it is Manon who achieves a degree of freedom, albeit at a price. Yet Sarah is the one who has the experience of seeing a wider world in which black people are at least nominally free. Through Manon's unvarying and unwittingly ironic narrative voice, Martin brilliantly exposes the moral blindness of a world in which absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. Forget Scarlett and Rhett: Martin tells it the way it really was. (Kirkus UK)
Series: Abacus 40th Anniversary
Number Of Pages: 212
Published: 1st January 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 12.6
Weight (kg): 0.17
Edition Number: 1