The Wedding Gift, Marlen Suyapa Bodden

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Set in the Deep South pre Gone with the Wind and the Civil War, The Wedding Gift is a compelling and powerful story of slavery, abuse and passion. Perfect for fans of The Help.

What if, on your wedding day, you were given your sister – as your slave?

When wealthy plantation owner Cornelius Allen marries off his daughter Clarissa, he presents her with a wedding gift: a young slave woman called Sarah.

The two girls have grown up together but their lives could not have been more different. Clarissa is white and is used to a life of privilege and ease. Sarah is black and is used to a life of slavery and hard work.

When Sarah decides her future lies outside the plantation, it sets in motion a series of events that will have devastating consequences for them both.

Since she was small, Sarah has dreamed of her and her family being given freedom .When Clarissa is married to Julius Cromwell, another plantation owner, Sarah decides to escape and this sets in motion a chain of events which impacts on all their lives irrevocably.

Publisher: Arrow:  June 2014

Reviewer: Lindsey Phillipson

What to say about this book? Exploring themes of oppression, slavery, dominance and violence, the author weaves a powerful narrative which is fast paced and beautifully plotted. She relates each of the character’s stories so that the reader is plunged into what it meant to be a slave and indeed a woman during these times. The reader gleans firsthand the harshness and the tyranny which the slave endured during these times. Interestingly, in parallel, the reader also sees how Theodora and Clarissa are victims of circumstance too. Although they are not enslaved as such, nevertheless, their lives are coerced under their husbands’ and father’s rule and they too face repression because of their gender and the societal norms of their day.

This novel is a latter day Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Although fictional, the author has drawn inspiration from a real life court case and is a human rights lawyer herself. The story really resonated with me and the characters were brilliantly structured. I especially warmed to Sarah, the protagonist, as in spite of her circumstances, she is such an empathetic, strong character who defies oppression at every turn; from learning to read and write to finally escaping. Theodora, also finally wins her freedom but at personal cost too.

This book was simply outstanding. Cannot recommend it highly enough

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