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Slavery in 19th Century America.

The Invention of Wings: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club 2.0) - Sue Monk Kidd

This was an enjoyable read, based on the real lives of Sarah Grimke and her sister Angelina. They came from a wealthy family who owned plantations in Charleston, US, in the early nineteenth century. Their family owned slaves who worked on the fields and in the house, but Sarah was very distressed when, at the age of eleven, she was given ten-year-old Hattie (Handful), wrapped in purple ribbons, to be her house slave. She tried to free her there and then, but her parents would not permit it. From this point on, she became fervent in her objections to slavery and in adulthood she and her younger sister fought for both the rights of women and freedom for slaves.

Hattie and her mother, Charlotte, were talented seamstresses, besides their other duties, they sewed all the clothes for the household. Charlotte also embroidered her life story onto a quilt as a way of telling her history without needing to write. Sarah Grimke taught Hattie, illegally, to read, a skill that she used to her advantage later in life.
There is also a lot in the book about the punishments and trials that the slaves endured for, largely minor, infractions. It really is unbelievable what people can do to each other.

At the end of the book Sue Monk Kidd details which parts of the narrative were factual and which imaginary. Many of the characters were historical, but the slaves were largely fictional.

The Secret Life of Bees is one of my all-time favourite books, and The Invention of Wings didn't quite make it into that category. Nonetheless, it was an excellent book: 4.5 stars.

Also read:
The Secret Life of Bees (5+ stars)
The Mermaid Chair (3 stars)