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3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  3,696 Ratings  ·  447 Reviews
From the acclaimed author of Mary Reilly, a groundbreaking novel that reexamines the questions of power and resistance, violence and sex, which inform all her work.

Set in the surreal heat of the antebellum South during a slave rebellion, Property takes the form of a dramatic monologue, bringing to the page a voice rarely heard in American fiction: the voice of a woman slav
Hardcover, 193 pages
Published February 18th 2003 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2003)
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Aug 22, 2012 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-novels
This won the orange prize in 2003. The novel is from the perspective of Manon Gaudet, a plantation owners wife. It is set in 1828 in Louisiana. It is rather brief and reads very easily, despite the horrors it describes. The book is in three parts; the build up to the slave revolt, the revolt and the aftermath.

Spoilers ahead

Manon is the daughter of a slave owner and her husband (who she hates). She describes the difficulties of her life with him; he has a child with one of the house slaves, Sara
Feb 12, 2013 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The evils and barbarity of slavery are effectively conveyed in this powerful and spellbinding novel. The time period is 1828 and set in Louisiana nearly 40 years before the Civil War. “Property” as a title fittingly describes the main premise of this book as it reveals the marital subjugation of Manon Gaudet, a bitter and unhappy wife of a sugar plantation owner; and Sarah, a slave girl given to her as a wedding gift (and the mother of two illegitimate children from Manon’s husband).

Both women
Aug 05, 2008 Donna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was livid at the end (or the last page) of this book. It was like it ended in the middle of the book! As I was heading toward the last 10 pages of this book, I kept wondering, "How is she going to finish this in 10 pages?". Well....she didn't. It just stopped. Nothing resolved. It is about the relationship of a slave and her owners. The character of the slave is never all. I suppose that the author wants you to read between the lines but I didn't get it. The book was well writt ...more
Dec 05, 2008 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The story itself was pretty decent and I enjoyed the writing and the setting of the story. I'm giving it only 3 stars because I was really annoyed by the ending. It ended in the middle of a conversation and I was like: What was the purpose of all this now?? Also, the breast feeding was really weird and disturbing...
Jul 04, 2012 Billy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A strangely disturbing & beautiful look at our twisted past...,

The characters in this novel are not really center, in my humble opinion. The story isn't even really central. The thing that this book holds at its core is a dramatization of the sickness in all of us; the glaring truth of the fact that everyone is self-centered and self-loathing at the same time.

The use of the harsh realities of slavery creates a discomfort that made me feel disjointed, not sure whom I should be feeling is the
Jan 21, 2017 Debbie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What did I just read?
Dear Author,
I don't mean to be mean or disrespectful towards a work that is obviously your baby as all works by authors are. However, I do need to ask a question that is very important to me. A lot of my fellow readers may also agree that it is a topic of much importance. I will not delay and will forthwith deliver my inquiry into this most pressing of concerns. Please, if at all possible tell me what IN THE SAM HILL WAS THE PLOT??!!
This Confused Reader

Jan 27, 2011 Julia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Property" is, in my experience, one of the rare page-turners that is not YA or fantasy/sci-fi. "Property" is set in antebellum Louisiana, on a sugar cane plantation. The protagonist and narrator is Manon Gaudet, the young wife of the plantation owner (whom she loathes). She and her husband are both fixated upon Sarah, a beautiful slave in their house who has born two children by her owner.

Manon can hardly be called a heroine, but she is both the best and worst thing about the book. She is a fa
Jan 30, 2012 Judith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The year is 1828

.....a sugar plantation in Louisiana, where Slavery is in flower for both the slaves and slave owners

The Slave Owners see “slave rebellions” around every they should, since their entire way of life is dependent on the labor of their “lowly blacks”.....and, our “heroine” Manon Gaudet, is no exception...though she is but the wife of a boorish “Massa”, Manon is not stupid...just crippled by her social status (she is “chattel” to her husband, as much as his slaves) and her
May 12, 2008 Danna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
That America was built on the free labor of its slaves is common knowledge and many have heard the axiom , "Our possessions possess us" as well as "the sins of the fathers are vistited upon the heads of the children." It's hard to determine how many have considered what an institution such as slavery, in which Sarah, Midge, Delphine, and Walter are actual property, does to that "property" and to the owners. It appears both become intimate enemies, owner and slave entwined in an amoral system tha ...more
Aug 25, 2011 gaudeo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is an uncommon take on antebellum life in the South: a tale told from the perspective of a white woman whose husband owns slaves. And that fact--that it is her HUSBAND who owns slaves--is key here. For the "property" that the novel depicts is not just the slaves themselves, and the children of those slaves, but also the material property that white women ceded to their husbands upon their marriage. Martin very skillfully communicates the various binds that hold African Americans, white ...more
Jan 20, 2008 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The day I finished this book, it had me thinking all night. What a 'tour de force' it is! To be able to write such a book from a first person point of view and keep you reading with the kind of woman the narrator is -- I'm in awe. And though she isn't sympathetic, you see the society that has made her the way she is and will always be. Chilling.
Jan 25, 2013 Q rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Rarely do I finish a book and think, "what's the point?" as I try to go where the author takes me. However, Valerie Martin took me in many different directions - e.g., the comparative relationship between a daughter and each of her parents, slave vs. master relationship, slave vs. mistress relationship, slaves vs. freedmen, Creole vs. Whites, etc. - that I had difficulty understanding the foci of the story. Perhaps there wasn't one. Yet, with all of the slave narratives that exist, I expected mo ...more
Jun 22, 2012 Autumn rated it really liked it



Those are the first words that come to mind upon finishing "Property".

"Property" is not a story that I can say that I liked-there is nothing to like here.

Manon Gaudet is the wife of a plantation owner in 1828 Louisiana. Her marriage is irretrievably broken, both by her husband's actions and by her own choice. She is vain, arrogant, cold, and uncaring, judgmental in the extreme, and prone to extremism. She hates the plantation on which she lives, despises her husband,
Jan 25, 2016 Nick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Watching an ice skating competition last weekend, I was startled to hear as background music (sandwiched between the usual pop and Stravinsky's "Firebird"), the theme from "Gone with the Wind". Valerie Martin's "Property" is the blistering, concise rebuttal of Margaret Mitchell's maudlin evocation of an Old South with gallant owners and slaves who speak when spoken to and then only in accordance with accepted myth. "Property" is something very different, starting with the title; this is an Old S ...more
Viji  (Bookish endeavors)
A touching story about slavery.. The relation between the owner and the slave is portrayed with all its sophistication.. The title is apt-property. To treat a human as an object seems shocking enough. And to add to that,this book has some really disturbing situations. None of the characters are pictured as black or white but as the grey area of normal life. We can sympathize with any of them according to our inclination. Wonderful presentation,this book has. The writing is neither too touchy not ...more
Oct 15, 2014 Avital rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Property, a book by the excellent writer Valerie Martin (The Confessions of Edward Day, Italian Fever) deals with the state of women as possessions at the time of slavery in the United States. Martin offers an original slant in her profound dive into a white woman’s psyche and situation as she, Manon, tells her life story and the life of her female slave, Sarah. While Manon tries to release herself from the greedy possession of her husband, she is unaware of repeating the same pattern of an owne ...more
Wiebke (1book1review)
This was a surprising read, since I had just picked it up on a whim without ever having heard of it. However, the stories of those two different women and their lives is fascinating. Also the writing and how you see everything through the eyes of the horrible narrator and yet get a clear understanding of what life is like is amazing.
I was truly sucked into the book and flew through it.
Lisa Lepore
Nov 29, 2007 Lisa Lepore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kathy Duncan
Feb 22, 2010 Kathy Duncan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Valerie Martin taught creative writing at NMSU when I was a student there. My relationship with her was merely one of exchanging "hello" in the hallway of old Young Hall. Her students had only good things to say about both her teaching and her writing.

I find I also have only good things to say about her writing. While we can never go back in time and share in the inner workings of the human heart and mind of the slave owner, Property comes close. If plantation wives had ever dropped the mask of
This book provides no answers, no solutions. That alone makes it stand out among more feel-good race-relations books like "The Help."
The narrator (she can't really be called the protagonist and certainly not the heroine) is Manon Gaudet, married to an unnamed sugar plantation owner whom she holds in deepest contempt. He has fathered two children with Manon's maid Sarah, and for this Manon despises Sarah even more than she despises him.
Manon is not a sympathetic character. perhaps she is somewha
Oct 09, 2009 Joanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first heard of Valerie Martin when I came across a review of THE CONFESSION OF EDWARD DAY. I read it in a single gulp, and searched for other works by this author. PROPERTY is mesmerizing, disturbing, evocative and haunting. Although none of the characters is what I would describe as "sympathetic" each is compelling and the relationships among them illuminates the human ability to compartmentalize, dehumanize the "other," and generally perceive the world through the narrow porthole of self in ...more
The thing:
This book may be another victim of poor timing, of me being at a point in my life where just about everything about this book annoys me. It is possible that it would improve on another reading at a different time.

The problem:
Very little about this book makes me want to read it again.

I think I'm maxed out reading books, (particularly told in first-person) about people of relative privilege who only see what they don't have and are unwilling to suffer for change. This is too harsh a cr
Theresa Leone Davidson
Oh, how I would have loved to have read this one with a book club. It would be interesting to hear interpretations of everything that went unexplained in the novel, narrated by our main character, Manon, wife to a plantation owner in the South and owner of Sarah, her personal slave. The book does an excellent job with describing how unfair life was to white women at the time, who were property much in the same way that African Americans were property. Of course they still had it a WHOLE lot bett ...more
Betsy McTiernan
Jul 26, 2012 Betsy McTiernan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Valerie Martin's take on slavery is masterful. Toni Morrison calls it a "fresh, unsentimental look at what slavery does to (and for) one's interior life." Martin creates in Manon, an unsympathetic narrator who we (especially we women) sometimes sympathize with. As the isolated and neglected wife of an arrogant, brutish slave holder, she understands her oppression, her situation as her husband's property. At the same, racism blinds her to the plight of the slaves, especially to her personal maid, ...more
E. Chainey (Bookowski)
Bu aralar kölelik romanlarına sarmış durumdayım. Bu konuyla ilgili birçok film ve belgesel izledim. Ayrıca araştırma kitabı da aldım okuyacağım.

Gelelim kitaba: Manon Gaudet mutsuz bir evliliğe sahip ve çocuksuz bir genç kadindir. Louisiana'da kocasıyla birlikte bir çiftlikte yaşamaktadırlar. Köleleri vardır. İçlerinden biri, Sarah, Manon için sinir bozucudur. Çünkü her ne kadar açıkça belirtilmese de Sarah'yi kiskanmaktadir. Sarah beceriklidir, asidir ve en önemlisi de kocası Sarah'dan çocuk pe
Feb 14, 2008 Lorraine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novella is told from the perspective of the solipsistic, wounded little girl world view of the slave mistress who has lost all empathy with the human beings that she owns as slaves.

There are clues as to how she has arrived at this place. She is, after all, a woman in the antebellum south, who, despite her position as mistress, is only herself a piece of property to be traded between father and husband to cement a business deal. She is the commodity fetish, and apparently, as commodity feti
Sep 25, 2012 Helen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very interesting book and I don't know why I've never come across it before since it won the Orange Prize in 2003.

The story is told from the plantation owner's wife's perspective. She owns a slave, Sarah, who has two children by her husband. As you can imagine, this has left her far from happy with her lot especially as she is childless. Thrown into the mix is a bloody revolt by the slaves.

I really like the wife, Manon, she was so honest! Her wish for her husband to die as she hated h
Jan 28, 2013 Kristen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After reading Wench...I thought I would give this a try....


I had a hard time really engaging with the narrator, Manon, who happens to be the Plantation Owner's wife. She has a harsh view of the world being the wife while the other woman is cherished. Mind you the other woman is a slave girl who really has no choice in the matter of who wants who.

The story is set amongst the backdrop of slave insurrections, rebellions, and murders. Needless to say that one scene halfway through left
Feb 05, 2013 Vanessa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very bold considering it is written by a White woman from the perspective of a White woman slave owner whose husband rapes and tortures his slaves. I expected for the book to try to solicit sympathy for the wives of slave owners and to make them seem like victims themselves or at least not as bad as their husbands who are technically the real slave owners since women had very little say....

Slight spoiler alert...

I was wrong...the protagonist in the story was probably the most unlikable person in
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Valerie Martin is the author of nine novels, including Trespass, Mary Reilly, Italian Fever, and Property, three collections of short fiction, and a biography of St. Francis of Assisi, titled Salvation. She has been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as the Kafka Prize (for Mary Reilly) and Britain’s Orange Prize (for Property).
More about Valerie Martin...

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“Everyone else felt the need to assure me that Mother's death was part of God's plan. Exactly, I wanted to shout after reading this sentiment half a dozen times--- his plan is to kill us all, and if an innocent child dies in agony and a wicked man breathes his last at an advanced age in his sleep, who are we to call it injustice?” 5 likes
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