Property by Valerie Martin


Property explores slavery from the point of view of a plantation owner’s wife. Manon is angry and bitter, full of hatred for her husband and the house slave he has taken as a mistress. Unlike Claire Messud’s Nora, Manon is definitely unlikeable. She seethes with resentment, ruminating on how she’s been wronged, plotting revenge on a slave woman. Martin seems to be presenting her as an example of how slaveholding poisons the soul of slaveholders. Luckily, her repellant personality doesn’t keep her from being interesting. She is preoccupied with hating the slave woman who bore her husband’s two children. Most of the book’s conflict is about whether Manon will be able to escape her marriage. The most dramatic scenes are about a violent slave uprising. It’s a pretty short, first-person novel, and it doesn’t have a happy ending for Manon, but then, she doesn’t really deserve one.


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