Friday, 3 January 2014

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Sarah Grimke, the daughter of an aristocratic family in Charleston, is given a slave for her 11th birthday.  Hetty, also known as Handful, is presented to her with lavender ribbons tied around her neck and waist.  Even at such a young age Sarah is appalled by the inhumanity of such a gift and attempts to give Handful her freedom.  However, this is the Deep South of America in 1803, where slavery is the norm and Sarah is forced to keep her.  Consequently, the two girls grow up together and a bond forms which will stay with them forever.

I could not have kicked off my reading in 2014 with a better book than this as it has everything that appeals to me as a reader.  I was engrossed in the plot from the very first page and involved with the characters to the extent that I could not wait to get back to reading this book and was thinking about it during my non-reading time (you know, that thing called life that tends to get in the way of reading sometimes.)

The dialogue and atmosphere transported me to the time and place of this novel. However, what I appreciated about the prose most of all was the alternating narration between Sarah and Handful.  This gave the novel such balance as it enabled me to observe the events unfolding through both pairs of eyes.  The theme of freedom and the different forms it’s loss can take was well portrayed through this dual narration.

There are times when this book is shocking in it’s brutality but is contrasted with the kindness, love and friendship that blossoms between the main characters.  It’s themes are powerful and told with an intensity that not many authors could achieve but Sue Monk Kidd tells the story with a beauty that will stir the heart of any reader. In another writers hands this story could have been depressing but my feeling was that it portrayed a message of understanding, compassion, freedom and, above all, hope.

I was amazed when I read the author’s note at the conclusion of the book to find that this had been based on real events.  I could not believe that I had never heard of the Grimke sisters before who did so much, not only for the cause of slavery, but also for the emancipation of women.  I am grateful to the author for bringing the achievements of these two great women to my attention.

This book will stay with me long after the final page and I cannot recommend it highly enough.  I have been a fan of Sue Monk Kidd since I read The Secret Life of Bees, which I also highly recommend if you haven’t read it.  I already thought that she was a writer of great significance but this book proves her to also be a writer of outstanding quality.   Every now and again a book comes along that makes me feel privileged to have been able to read it and this is just such a book.

ISBN:  978 1472212757

Publisher:  Tinder Press

Price:  £11.99

Total saved so far:  £122.94

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