Reviews

Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The slave owner featured in Martin's new work happens to be a woman, and she's very unhappy that her favorite piece of "property" has become her husband's mistress. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
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The vivid imagination that allowed Martin to create Jekyll and Hyde's eponymous servant in Mary Reilly is again evident in this powerful story of a petulant and bitter plantation mistress whose absorption in her own misery leaves her blind to that of a slave she despises. Manon Gaudet is married to her husband before she could know whether the socially advantageous match would be a happy one, before discovering he is a cruel slave master with a propensity for debt and certainly before realizing that he will force Sarah, the light-skinned housekeeper who was a wedding gift from her aunt, to bear two of his illegitimate children. She learns all of these things soon after leaving her native New Orleans and arriving on her new husband's Louisiana sugar plantation, and is henceforth consumed by loathing for both her domestic predicament and the society in which it is possible. Manon's fierce discontent makes her an excellent narrator, as she has long abandoned any romantic notions about slavery and the plantation life. Her husband's arbitrary cruelty fills her with disgust for him, the "negroes" he abuses and herself. Her misery is grotesquely self-centered; she never evinces even a glimmer of sympathy for Sarah. Martin conveys this sickening blend of moral delusion and self-serving repugnance in feverish prose that perfectly reflects Manon's desperation. The racial unrest of the 1820s reaches this unhappy trio in the form of a small gang of escaped slaves who, in an unforgettably hellish scene, wound Manon, murder her husband and allow Sarah to escape. Manon's subsequent determination to have Sarah caught and returned is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this story, an emphatic reminder that the inhumanity of slave ownership knew no bounds. Yet in depicting Manon's plight as wife and widow, Martin also demonstrates compassion for white women in the patriarchal society of the antebellum South. In addressing these issues, Martin adds resonance to a compelling story. (Feb.) Forecast: Strong reviews should greet this intensely dramatic novel, which seems a natural for a TV book club selection. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Set in Louisiana in 1828, Martin's latest novel depicts the psychologically charged relationship between a wealthy white woman and the slave she detests. Manon Gaudet is bored and dissatisfied with her stifling marriage to a man she loathes. She takes much of her resentment out on her slave, Sarah, who is her husband's unwilling mistress and the mother of his only two children. Manon hates the children, especially the eldest, Walter, who is allowed to run wild on their estate. Her husband (who is never given a name) tries to reach out to Manon, but she rejects his attempts with disdain and condescension. The claustrophobic estate only makes Manon resent her life more, and she is grateful when she is unable to conceive a child. When a group of runaway slaves descends upon Manon's home, their attack brings the simmering tensions between Manon and Sarah to a head, resulting in a dramatic confrontation that only serves to heighten Manon's obsession with subjugating Sarah. The book is taut and atmospheric and effectively chronicles an obsessive fixation. --Kristine Huntley


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Martin (Mary Reilly) re-creates antebellum New Orleans, examining how slavery affects owners as well as slaves. Manon Gaudet, the narrator, is the unhappy young wife of a sugar planter, disgusted by her husband's blatant sexual desires for both her and her slave Sarah. Contained here are all the trademarks of Martin's fiction-a female narrator sensitive to her own misery but somehow missing the big picture; the depiction of individuals and society as violent, self-absorbed, and base; and a mass of twisted sexual and interpersonal relations. The novel's subject lifts it above the ordinary. In chilling, crystalline prose, Manon disparages her husband's brutality but fails to recognize her own complicity as a slave-owner when she ruthlessly pursues Sarah after the woman escapes, thus betraying her own view of slaves as property, no different from an armchair. In this beautiful, disturbing novel, Martin has found an ideal match for her narrative obsessions. Property will resonate with readers long after it is finished. For all fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/02.]-Andrea Kempf, Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.