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Monday, 9 June 2014


Review written and read live on the bookshow by Corinna christopher on 5th June 2014
This book begins in 1803 and follows the lives of two girls into women, neither following the path prescribed for them.

Sarah Grimke was the daughter of Judge John – a Southern patriot, slaveholder and an aristocrat.  At the age of 10 she was given a personal slave Hetty (known as Handful) .  We are drawn into the daily hard lives of Handful and her mother who is a gifted seamstress and had embarked upon an amazing quilt depicting their life story with black blackbirds wings interspersed throughout.  Handful also became a gifted sewer, learnt to read and had an independent attitude which got her into trouble at times.

Sarah was a clever girl and hoped to be a lawyer but her father was only prepared to encourage the sons in the family.  She had all along the feeling that slaves should be released and freed from their servitude but of course Charleston where she lived was very much in favour of the Status Quo unlike their compatriots in the North.  Late in life her mother gave birth to another daughter Nina and accepting the role of godmother Sarah took on the role of raising her.  Nina turned out to be beautiful and strongly opinionated

Sarah unable to cope with the restraints of home left to live in Philadelphia as a tutor to a family of girls and also became a probationer Quaker.  There she was eventually joined by Nina where they spearheaded an anti-slavery project.  Always good at expressing her ideas Sarah wrote letters and pamphlets, one being “An Epistle to the clergy of the Southern States and An Appeal to the Christian women of the South.  She was taken on by an abolitionist organisation headed by Theodore and embarked upon a lecture tour of many states.  Nina married this Theodore and Sarah went to live with them and their children.

This is quite a complex book with many threads but is fascinating and informative. Sarah throughout her life experienced crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, loneliness, self doubt and ostracism.  

This story was found by the author and is based on facts.  The Grimke sisters were the first female abolitionist agents and earliest female feminist thinkers.  They were famous and broke from family, religion and homeland, becoming exiles and eventually pariahs in Charleston.

This is a moving tale of slavery and those who lived in its grip.  There were engaging characters and powerful events highlighting the culture of inequality on many levels.
Thought provoking and a great read.  The author also wrote the best seller “The secret life of bees”

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