The Monday Book: PROPERTY by Valerie Martin

This book is beautifully written and brutal. Told first person from the point of view of Manon, a wealthy-enough woman married to a man she doesn’t like all that much, it’s set in slavery-era New Orleans.

I am a sucker for character-driven books and this entire plot revolves around the observations of Manon, who cannot see that she treats others as property while being angry at being considered in the same way.

First, there is the guy she wishes she had married, Joel. He needs to marry a rich woman. It’s very clear that they are well suited, but her comfortable existence isn’t enough; he has debts. So she doesn’t have enough property for him.

Her husband is wealthy, but he needs a lot of conjugal satisfaction. So he has her slave, Sarah, quite a bit. Enough to make a boy who is seven years old, and mentally handicapped, who runs through the book (literally) causing havoc.

Then there are the other slaves, and it’s close enough to the coming Civil War that unrest and violence black-on-white is rising. Escaped men and sometimes families live in the woods, and when it’s plausible, they come out to kill white people. Because, slavery. The results of such an encounter are pretty intense for both Manon and Sarah.

Sarah is the near-silent character who slides through the book having the list word by almost never opening her mouth. (Although she does get the last spoken sentence in the novel, and it is brilliant. No spoilers :] )

This book is almost a character study, except the through-line of the violence and the marriage make actual activities move. Otherwise, you just watch Sarah silently win most of the arguments, and Manon never quite figure out what the center of the argument should be. Enthusiastically recommended. But be warned: it is a harsh book in description and attitude.

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