The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden

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The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Jones
Reviewed by Louise Jones
Summary: A slave girl is given as a gift to her half-sister on her wedding day in this gripping tale based on a real-life court case.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: June 2014
Publisher: Arrow
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978009579984

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Half-sisters Clarissa and Sarah couldn’t lead more different lives. Clarissa is a typical 'Southern Belle'; the apple of her daddy's eye with every whim dutifully indulged. Sarah, the daughter of a slave, lives in a cabin on the plantation with her mother and has been born into a life of servitude. Their father is plantation owner Cornelius Allen, a man prone to violent mood swings: at one moment a benevolent patron, the next, a cruel tyrant.

Sarah constantly questions her position, much to the annoyance of her mother, who is Cornelius' 'concubine'. She doesn't want to end up in sexual slavery like her mother and longs to be free. A turning point comes when she is chosen as a companion and playmate to a lonely Clarissa. As Sarah sits in on Clarissa's lessons, she slowly learns to read; something that is forbidden for slaves. This new skill may be her key to her freedom.

The Wedding Gift is a gripping story that had me completely hooked. The settings, plot and characters were all perfectly written. The story is written in dual-narrative format, following the story of Sarah, the young slave girl and Theodora, the wife of the plantation owner. Both stories overlap and it is interesting to see how the tale pans out from the two differing perspectives. It was easy to empathize with both women, as the story was sympathetically written and both narrators were warm and likeable.

Bodden does not shy away from some of the more unsavoury aspects of slavery and many of the passages contain harrowing accounts. It was upsetting to read about how slaves were viewed as property and therefore one could not be held accountable for the murder of a slave as one cannot murder 'property'. Families were often split up and children wrenched away from distraught mothers. It is so sad to think that these things happened in our relatively recent history. Bodden also points out that slavery is still a worldwide problem and that there are currently over thirty million slaves around the globe, even more than during the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

My only criticism of the book was the abrupt ending, which seemed to have been squeezed in over the final few pages. In contrast to the rest of the book, the ending felt rushed and contrived, as if the author wished to wave a magic wand and put everything right for Sarah and her family. The result is an unsatisfactory and brief denouement that does not do justice to the rich and involving story that precedes it. Despite this, the book is well worth reading and I devoured the whole thing in two days, although the story stayed with me much longer.

For another inspiring story of slavery and emancipation, Bookbag recommends Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons by Ann Rinaldi, a fictionalised account of Phillis Wheatley, the first female black American poet.

Buy The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden at

Buy The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Wedding Gift by Marlen Suyapa Bodden at


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