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Valerie Martin’s Property delivers an eerily mesmerizing inquiry into slavery’s venomous effects on the owner and the owned. The year is 1828, the setting a Louisiana sugar plantation where Manon Gaudet, pretty, bitterly intelligent, and monstrously self-absorbed, seethes under the dominion of her boorish husband. In particular his relationship with her slave Sarah, who is both his victim and his mistress.
Exploring the permutations of Manon’s own obsession with Sarah against the backdrop of an impending slave rebellion, Property unfolds with the speed and menace of heat lightning, casting a startling light from the past upon the assumptions we still make about the powerful and powerful.
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“I made the “mistake” of glancing at the opening page and was instantly hijacked into the text. This fresh, unsentimental look at what slaveowning does to (and for) one’s interior life must be a first. And the writing — so prised and clean-limbed–is a marvel"
"A wonderful novel, vivid, revealing."
"In this stunningly powerful novel, Valerie Martin's gifts--a fearless originality and seemingly limitless perspective combined with a cool and elegant intelligenc--are all on splendid display."
"[Property] is vivid and gripping. I read it in one gulp."
“[Property] is a brilliant, chillingly revelatory piece of fiction, a work of craft, economy and such good merciless observation--one of those rare, crucial novels illuminating a history we think we know and understand so that after we've read it we'll never forget its truth.”
-Ali Smith, author of Hotel World
Valerie Martin is the author of two collections of short fiction and six novels, including Italian Fever, The Great Divorce, and Mary Reilly. Her most recent book is a nonfiction work on St. Francis of Assisi: Salvation: Scenes from the Life of St. Francis. She resides in upstate New York.
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