The Wedding Gift – Marlen Suyapa Bodden – 9/10

“That was how I learned what my future was to be, and my only thought was that my dreams of escaping were those of a fool. My absurd notions of running away or being bought into freedom by Isaac were exposed for what they were, empty plans made by a girl in bondage.”

wedding gift

Clarissa is born into Southern wealth – as the daughter of a plantation owner, she can expect privilege and honour all her life. Sarah is born into slavery – the daughter of a housekeeper, her life is considerably better than that of the fieldhands. The girls grow up together, which has its advantages for Sarah. But when Clarissa gets married and her father gives her Sarah as a maid, the two young women will be dependent on each other much more than they could have envisaged.

This novel is full of fantastically strong women. Sarah, Theodora Allen, Emmeline, Belle, Clarissa, Miss Mary – Bodden writes compelling, attention-grabbing, wonderful women, decisive in the courses of their lives. Sarah in particular is impulsive and gutsy, but the reader cannot help rooting for her. The twist at the end was actually quite harrowing – it was totally unexpected and cast the rest of the novel in a totally different light.

I was surprised by the social mores of the time in the white family – the common keeping of black mistresses, the physical abuse, the drinking… I don’t really know why I was surprised by it when it featured pretty strongly a century later in The Shadow QueenAmazing Grace is one of my favourite films, but it tells the story of slavery from a very British side. I have no way of knowing how accurate the depiction of the lives of cotton slaves is in The Wedding Gift, but like after I read The Help, I feel like I should do some learning. Which is a commendable result for a novel.

Buy it, borrow it, get it, read it.

Additional information:
Copy provided by the publisher, Random House, in exchange for an honest review
Publisher: Random House, 399 pages (hardback)
Order The Wedding Giftfrom Amazon*
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards give-aways and site hosting

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7 thoughts on “The Wedding Gift – Marlen Suyapa Bodden – 9/10

  1. Alex 8 June 2013 at 10:42 pm Reply

    Sounds good. I grew up watching Brazilian soap-operas that sometimes were set in plantations during slavery. Have you read Kindred by Octavia Butler?

  2. […] The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden – this was really excellent, I sped through it very quickly because it was so compelling. Life on as a slave on a cotton plantation in the South in the early 19th century. […]

  3. […] year, but without referring to my Books I’ve Read pages, I can’t think of more than The Wedding Gift and The Lawgiver, plus the thought-provoking non-fiction titles of Quiet and Lean In (not yet […]

  4. […] read some of the best books this year like that – Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, Sisterland, The Wedding Gift […]

  5. […] The Wedding Gift, by Marlen Suyapa […]

  6. samstillreading 4 January 2014 at 6:12 am Reply

    This sounds great! On my wishlist now 🙂

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