This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Reviewed by Kate Appleton
The Wedding Gift tells the tale of the Allen plantation in Alabama during the height of the slave trade in America and the harsh realities for those caught up in it. Two girls Clarissa the plantation owner’s daughter, and Sarah a slave girl have grown up together but their lives could not have been more different. Tied to the plantation and Clarissa’s side by law Sarah dreams of freedom, an idea that grows further away as the two women get older. But when Clarissa’s reckless behaviour leads to devastating consequences for the plantation Sarah has a difficult decision to make that will change her life forever.
The story is a dual narrative told from the view points of both Sarah Campbell, a young slave and half sister to Clarissa and that of Theodora Allen, the wife of Cornelius the plantation owner. The two women take turns narrating their experiences of life on the plantation which is really interesting in getting a feeling of life on both sides of the coin. It was surprised to find that I sympathised with the so-called privileged Theodora after learning that she herself is enslaved to the plantation and the whim of her husband. The reality of being an educated woman and having to live as a subordinate to her husband’s mastery must have been hideous.
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In contrast is the story of Sarah and her struggles to come to terms with her identity, her mother’s behaviour and the determination to one day escape. Her story was extremely effective as we follow her journey from childhood to becoming a young adult, her narrative is also written in colloquial language which shows real commitment to developing the different characters. Both sides paint a heart wrenching and poignant picture of life in America for women during this period.
I was pleased that Marlen’s depiction of slavery was candid and that she didn’t shy away from shocking the reader. This was especially true when dealing with Cornelius’s behaviour and his relationship with Emmeline. She is his mistress whether she likes it or not to protect the safety of her children from being sold. However, the one time she disobeys him the repercussions to her daughter Belle are absolutely horrific and not for the faint hearted to read. Similar incidents are recounted in terms of how slaves were sold amongst plantations and families split up. This was a refreshingly frank and hard-hitting tale of slavery and was extremely interesting to read.
However, the ending was slightly disappointing. All the stories are tied up very neatly which, after the harsh realities of the rest of the novel, I found to be unrealistic, but overall this was great read!
Marlen Suyapa Bodden's Website