This review also appears in my blog at www.msleighmbooks.blogspot.com
I received this book as an Advance Reader Edition, but I can't figure out from whom. There is no e-mail telling me I won a giveaway and no letter with the book-just the book. So, I will thank St. Martin's Press and the author for receiving this gift in the mail (and in the future decide on a way to track my entries for giveaways so I can properly thank the correct person or organization. However, one would think they would include a note... no?). Ah, I found a comment on the very bottom on the back cover to send comments to an email at St. Martin's press. So, thank you very much for giving me this ARC to read and review.
For the first 3/4 of the book I kept wondering if this was going to be presented as a young adult book. The writing is very simple, the explanations of things very thorough, but I felt no depth beyond the descriptions of plantation life.
The reader is presented with chapters written in two voices. Each voice is clearly marked at the beginning of each chapter and one voice may go on for several chapters at a time to tell her side of the stories. The first voice is Sarah, born to a house slave and The Master, she is half sister to the woman she will end up serving when they are both adults. As children they play together, and when Sarah learns at a young age it is illegal for slaves to read, she convinces her playmate to let her sit in on lessons. Sarah also has a half sister from her mothers previous marriage; we learn that the husband was sold. Sarah's one overriding goal in life is to run away from the plantation and be free.
The second voice is the mother of Sarah's sister: Theodora, mistress of the house. She speaks of her life before her marriage, moving into her new home, and learning the rules her husband expects of her as Mistress of the plantation (including her having to come to accept the mistress in her husbands bed). Theodora dotes on her daughter Clarissa (the boys being sent away to school). Where Theodora is intelligent and thoughtful, Clarissa grows up to be spoiled and intractable.
When Clarissa get's married, I started to wonder if the book would still be appropriate for young adults. After some thought, I decided, yes. It's a very good overview of the best and the worst of slavery told in a language that anyone can understand (PG13).
I'd rather give it 3.5 stars, however since that's not an option, I'll give it 4.