Wednesday, March 17, 2010

40 - Wench; Dolen Perkins-Valdez












Wench; Dolen Perkins-Valdez







Set in the unsettling times of the 1850's, Wench, follows the lives of four slave women: Lizzie, Mawu, Sweet and Reenie.  Each summer for a few weeks,  the Southern white masters of these young women take them away from the hardship of plantation life to Tawawa resort, a summer retreat located in the free state of Ohio.  It is here that the slave women get to dress up in the cast off dresses of the white women from the previous year, when they attend a dinner dance with their master. The slave women come from different plantations, located in different states,  but they quickly develop a friendship and loyalty toward one another.

The story is told though the eyes of Lizzie, the central protagonist. Lizzie has been a slave since she was 13; she is now 23. She and her Master Drayle have had two children together.  She is the most accepting of her situation, and most of what we learn is her story, and how she is treated by both her master and his wife. The other slave women are not as accepting. There is Reenie, who is older and seems wiser than the others, Sweet, who is a very soft spoken and gentle woman, and Mawu, who is a new slave to the group this year, and she is somewhat of a rebel. It is Mawu who talks to the group about the possibility of escape.

One of the most touching parts of the story was a scene where the slaves were given temporary freedom to go to Dayton, Ohio for the day. It was here that they realize that not all African Americans, are chained or so closely monitored. The women long for this kind of freedom they have witnessed, but what would be the price they would pay?  Without giving away the ending or too much else for that matter, I'll just say that the way the story ended was not what I was suspecting, but I was satisfied.

MY THOUGHTS -  I was surprised to learn that although Wench is a fictional story, it is based on an actual place where plantation owners would bring their slave "wenches" in the summer.  The resort was finally sold, and later became the first black college, Wilberforce University.

The author did an amazing job creating memorable, and vividly portrayed characters that will stay with me for a long while. So is the case for other aspects of the novel: like the pain, anguish, physical and sexual abuse some had experienced.  It is a story that brilliantly detailed the complexity and emotions slave women experienced during this awful period of America's past. 
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - (4.5/5 stars)
(Final Copy was sent to me by Harper Collins for review)

29 comments:

  1. I can't wait to read this one! I love that they turned this place into a college for blacks; so ironic.

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  2. I have this one high on my wishlist! Really looking forward to it! Quite interesting that the events actually happened. I have to check that out!

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  3. Great review! I've been wanting to read this one for a while. I've seen mixed reviews on it, though, so I may just wait a bit until I see a few more positive reviews. 4.5 out of 5...sounds good to me.

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  4. I've got this one on my Kindle. Hope to get to it at some point in the next few months. I think the cover is lovely.

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  5. Ooh, so glad you like this! I won a copy from Fizzy Thoughts :-) I gave it to a friend to borrow, but I am looking forward to getting into it!

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  6. I've heard nothing but good things about this one. I did not know it was based on a real place. Interesting. Thanks for your review.

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  7. This sounds amazing. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. That scene when they realise that not everything is as much of a prisoner as they are does sound very moving.

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  8. I saw this on your Goodread feed and couldn't wait to jump over here and leave a comment. This one sounds fantastic and that historical fact about the place being turned into a college is very interesting. Great review!!

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  9. What a fabulous story,especially as it is based on real events. I will look out for this one now. Your review has sold it to me, but you are a very bad person for my TBR list.

    Just to let you know I sent your book off to you today by airmail, so you should get it soon.

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  10. Wow, what an amazing story! I've got to get my hands on that one.

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  11. I need a place for a special list of books that I don't own that I REALLY want to read, not just the "that sounds like I'd like it" sort that do go on my TBR pile, but a SPECIAL TBR pile. Maybe, that's what it is... my STBRP. This one would be on it. I've heard nothing but good and the topic to me is sooo intriguing. Thanks for taking the time to review!

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  12. Looks like a very powerful novel. Nice review.
    Alayne
    The Crowded Leaf

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  13. Wow, this sounds like a wonderful story although I am sure there are many heartbreaking parts. I'm surprised there actually was such a place. Great review!

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  14. I was wondering if any of this book was based on fact. I'll keep this one in mind.

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  15. I just got this one so I'm glad to see you liked it so much. What a unique story.

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  16. The fact that this site was turned into a college is very interesting. I have this book on my wish list. I can't wait to read it. Great review!

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  17. I've been wanting to read this but wasn't sure...now I am. Thanks!

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  18. i am going to love reading this book!

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  19. Diane, thanks for the review! I was wondering how that book was. Thanks for stopping by my blog too!

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  20. I've read several positive reviews of Wench, but yours is the first one that actually makes me want to read it. Thank you for the wonderful description and your thoughts. It sounds wonderful!

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  21. I've read nothing but positive reviews of this one. I'll get around to reading it one of these days!

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  22. This novel sounds terrific but heart-wrenching. I have seen several positive reviews of Wench on the blogs I read, and I am really intrigued by yours. Thanks!

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  23. This sounds like such a great book and I have read so many good reviews!!

    I so tally want to read this one.

    Thanks for a great review!

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  24. Great review, Diane! I've seen this book some time and it's on my wish list for now. :D

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  25. I didn't fully read your review because I have this book; just wanted to see if you liked it or not. I'm glad you did.

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  26. I agree, this is a fantastic book. I'm surprised there hasn't been more buzz about it.

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  27. Great review! I have been interested in this book for awhile now, and almost bought a copy last week. I think I am going to go ahead and grab it after reading your thoughts on it. It sounds like a really engrossing story!

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  28. This is a MUST READ for me. I didn't give it a second thought when I first saw it published, but then a friend read it and loved it. Now I have to have it. :)

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