Wench
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Wench

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3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  9,721 ratings  ·  1,569 reviews
In 1850s Tennessee, 13-year-old slave named Lizzie is taken on by the plantation owner as a sexual mistress, a practice common to the time. Lizzie's master even takes her along with him to a spa resort in "free" Ohio when the Southern summer heat becomes too much to bear. There, Lizzie meets two other young black women caught in a similar form of bondage, and the three beg...more
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Published January 5th 2010 by Books on Tape (first published December 16th 2009)
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Maegen
Wench was a book club choice and I was quite frustrated by it's selection. I hate reading about slavery or anything connected to it. It makes me uncomfortable, sad and angry. Furthermore, the idea that this story focused on the lives and relationships of four slave mistresses turned my stomach. Needless to say, I struggled with this book. It was incredibly difficult for me to get through. I read and put it down so many times that I often thought of not picking it up again, but I kept coming back...more
Tayari Jones
Today I received my copy of Wench, the new novel by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. I really loved this book. (And what a gorgeous cover!)The novel is set at Tawawa House-- an actual Ohio resort where white plantation owners vacationed with their enslaved mistresses.

I know that there are some readers who are very tired of the American fixation with slave mistresses. I know know where you are coming from. However, this novel is different. For one thing, Wench is the story of four women who are in the same...more
Jen
Oct 21, 2012 Jen rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mainstream chick lit readers who like literary hot pockets
Recommended to Jen by: my middle sister
-Edited 10/21/12-

If you are considering reading this book and are cruising 'round reviews, then consider reading



The Book of Night Women instead. It is infinitely better, although it will break your heart and stomp on the pieces.

*****original review*****

My thoughts: Should a writer take the most boring character and make her tell the story? Should I write that? Probably not. But, damn! I didn't want to hear any more about mealy-mouthed Lizzie. Give me Mawu, crazy assed Mawu, with the black sk...more
Bob Schmitz
I saw an article that Dolen Perkins-Valdez was speaking about her book here in Durham. I had never heard of her or her book but a book about a resort in Ohio where Southern men brought their slaves as escorts was an interesting topic so my wife and I joined 25 black people and 10 other whites in a local church to hear what she had to say.

Perkins-Valdez had been told by a writing teacher to look for materials in books in obituaries. She didn't like reading obits. She did however run across a foo...more
Sheila
I enjoyed this book, but only up to a point. The subject matter was quite gripping, but I found it an "almost there" book rather than a completely satisfying read. I found the prose a bit "prosy"; flat and straightforward, and not always in a good way. The characters were interesting but did not quite come alive; even Lizzie, the main character, who was the most developed, somehow was not completely well-rounded. The biggest disappointment was the ending, because it made no sense to me. Many loo...more
Mari Anne
I probably shouldn't have read this so close on the heels of "The Kitchen House". While this novel explores another interesting aspect of Southern antebellum slave life, it wasn't nearly as well done as "The Kitchen House". I am waffling between 2 and 3 stars for this one.

"Wench" explores the lives of four slaves who act as mistresses to their slave owners. They meet up four summers in a row at a Northern resort and the novel explores their lives and situations.

The basic storyline is very intere...more
G
I adore historical fiction, and feel so lucky to have been offered the chance to review Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valez. Not only am I thrilled to have found another brilliant historical fiction novel by a first-time writer, but I haven’t read a book on slavery since high school, and I was so happy to learn so many new things while reading Wench. Did you know about Tawawa House near Xenia, Ohio? It was open from 1852 – 1855 and it was a resort for Southern gentlemen and their “slave entourages.” No...more
Cina
I gave this book 2 stars because I am still waiting for a conclusion to this book. I kept reading hoping that the more I read the better it would get but that didn't happen. Some of the stories of the characters fell to the side or didn't develop fully, even with the characters to me there was very little development and it was disheartening that the main character Lizzie/Eliza never really realized her worth as a woman in the story. To the bitter end, even knowing what being a slave vs a free b...more
Rashida
Slavery in America. What an awful window into the human soul. Being a black woman, it's a subject that I both never wish to have to confront again, but also know that I MUST be educated about, even when the social institutions responsible for conveying history fail to give it the proper illumination. So, I go through these reading binges and purges, where I read many books on slavery and then just bear to read another word. I first heard of Wench when I was at the end of a binge, and I had no in...more
Kathrina
The historical authority necessary to write this novel was too much for this first-time author. There are various historical anachronisms that just rub wrong ("driveway", "chicken wire", growing soybeans in pre-Civil War Tennessee), but most importantly, the characters are flat, and our narrator's emotional terrain remains as elusive as it did in the first chapter. Perkins-Valdez admits to not knowing where her narrator was going as she began the novel, and I argue that she never did discover wh...more
Tara
Not just another book retelling the horrors of slavery. Perkins-Valdez brings to life a little-known piece of history, and I'm so glad she did. If she hadn't, the fact that white slave owners not only kept black women as sex slaves, but elevated them in a way that sometimes surpassed the roles of their own white wives, and traveled with them on vacation to a place near Xenia, Ohio, would have disappeared into our tragic American history. The author worked hard to show the complexity of the relat...more
Monique
Okay so I must admit with the replaying of Roots: An American Family Saga over the holidays and I dont know my recent fascination with the Civil war and slavery I put this book on hold at a neighboring library and picked it up willingly..I found the premise hands down just so interesting with one of the most intriguing leads ever promoting the story of a resort hotel in the free state of Ohio where Southern slaveowners would leave their strenous (bah) life of running a plantation and using and a...more
Kaki42
I first heard of this book during a discussion of THE HELP The Help on one of the public radio stations.
This story takes place before the Civil War, 1852-55, or thereabouts.
Southern slaveholding gentlemen would visit a resort in Ohio with their "wenches", or slaves. Many of these women had children back at the plantation fathered by these men. Their relationships were nothing if not complicated (at least from the women's standpoint).... all ranges of emotion are covered here. Love, hate, and in...more
Morgan F
I read about slavery for the same reason I read about Holocaust fiction; most of the time, I am guaranteed a powerful, emotionally resonant read. The subject alone could have made this book powerful, however the writing and poor character development made this an unenjoyable read.

Something about the prose was awkward and stumbling. I never forgot for a second I was reading a book. Normally, a book would sweep me up, making me either forget about the prose or making me marvel in its beauty. This...more
Will Byrnes
Set in the mid 19th Century, Wench offers a fictionalized account of a very real and strange practice. Southern slaveowners would vacation in a particular Ohio resort and take slave women along as their vacation partners, leaving their wives at home. The story centers on several slave women, their different backgrounds, experiences with slavery and relationships with the masters. All are used sexually, but one, Lizzie, holds actual feelings for her owner.

This is an engaging story, one that offe...more
Adrianne
wench \'wench\ n. from Middle English "wenchel," 1 a: a girl, maid, young woman; a female child.

Imagine being owned by the man you love, the father of your children. Not in a metaphorical sense, but lock, stock and barrel. If he so desires, he can sell you or your children to the highest bidder or trade you all for farm equipment, furniture or livestock. He can commit physical atrocities with impunity or end your lives without legal retribution. Knowing all of this, if you had the chance to esca...more
Diane
Set in the unsettling times of the 1850's, Wench, follows the lives of four slave women: Lizzie, Mawu, Sweet and Reenie. Each summer for a few weeks, the Southern white masters of these young women take them away from the hardship of plantation life to Tawawa resort, a summer retreat located in the free state of Ohio. It is here that the slave women get to dress up in the cast off dresses of the white women from the previous year, when they attend a dinner dance with their master. The slave wome...more
Katie Hutchison Irion
I don't know, the more I think about this the more I dislike it. If I didn't have a bleeding heart I think I'd only give it two stars. It is not like it is poorly written or without a good story, I just don't like the subject matter.
The story centers around some resort in Ohio in the 1850s. This resort caters to wealthy Northern and Southern families and while Ohio is a free state, it allows Southern families to bring their slaves. The crux of the story is about four slave women who come to the...more
Kimberly
I loved this book! It offered a a refreshing take on a subject that slave owners and their "mistresses", although I use this word loosely because it implies that these women freely entered these relationships. I think with all the reviews of the book, it is not neccessary for me to recap what it is about. What I would like to say is that I loved how the author showed you four women in the same situation, and how each one of them viewed their situation differently. And how knowing one another cha...more
Adam
"Show, don't tell" is one of the key principles of good writing. Dolen Perkins-Valdez doesn't appear to have learned this.

Let me offer an example with a single sentence from Chapter 32:
"Even before the words that followed, the words that would deliver Mawu's message, Lizzie knew something was wrong."

That's padding, folks. Eighteen words doing the work of five. "Lizzie knew something was wrong" alone would have conveyed everything.

Some of the historical details are also suspect. Drayle, Lizzie's...more
Vern
I have read hundreds of books but this one has left a lasting impression on my heart. The story is about endearing friendships, the love a mother, a forbidden love, and a discovery of self. Most of all I would have to say that this novel shows how love actually does “bear all things.” This novel also changed the way I had previously viewed slave/master “intimate” relationships. I truly hated for this book to end.

The narrator of this story is Eliza “Lizzie” houseslave on the Drayle plantation. D...more
Irene
Apr 21, 2011 Irene rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Irene by: Author Exposure
Shelves: have-a-copy
Reviewed for Author Exposure: http://www.authorexposure.com/2011/04...

In 1852, as the blistering summer heat descends upon the South, numerous plantation owners abandon their dejected wives and depart with their preferred slave “mistresses” to vacation in the cooler climates across the river in Ohio. Among them is Nathan Drayle of Tennessee, who arrives with his slave horseman, Philip, and his slave “mistress”, Lizzie, the mother of his son and daughter. Despite Nathan’s calculated prepubescent...more
Breann
Sunday I left for another quick business trip and upon arriving at the airport discovered I forgot both of my current reads. Nothing makes me crankier than the prospect of a trip with nothing to read, so I dashed to Book People and paid full market price for this unexpected gem of a book. I had very little time to make my selection, but the review suggesting readers of "The Help" would enjoy this title made my decision easy.

With book in hand I boarded the plane I must confess that this engrossin...more
Janelle
This work of historical fiction had the potential to be riveting - the main characters are white Southern plantation owners and their black slave mistresses, and the setting alternates between the Southern farms and a summer resort in Ohio where the men vacation with their mistresses (usually without their wives along). However, the execution didn't quite live up to the promise of the premise. Without a solid literary foundation, the plot came off as sentimental and I felt voyeuristic rather tha...more
Kierra J,
This book was unique because it is written from the perspective of voices often unheard: the favored slaves of the slave holders. During the summer, masters and their favorite slave would vacation at a resort to spend falsified time with one another as though they were husband and wife. Naturally, the slave women who were there gravitated towards one another and shared their experiences. It was an interesting take on this facet of slavery, because no one really acknowledges that many white men d...more
Alisa
I was really excited to read this because of the unique setting - a resort in Ohio that allowed Southern slave owners to vacation with their slaves. This is an historically real place, and according to something I read by the author, she was intrigued by why slaves didn't run away the minute they set foot in a free state. That seemed like a great reason for a novel.

It felt very competent in the beginning, as we are introduced to four women from different plantations who meet over the course of s...more
Iejones
This was a great portrait of enslaved women's lives. The 4 characters represent the baseline emotions and opportunities many enslaved women probably faced. Decisions & repercussions concerning motherhood, love, sexual violence and degradation were all elements of the cocktail during chattle slavery in America.
The one woman that becomes the thread of fraught decision drew me into to reckoning my own gender in the contemporary as an heir to this legacy of being Black and female. WOW, is all I...more
Sophia
Wench is a debut historical fiction novel based on an interesting premise: how does it feel to be a favored slave and mistress? do you run for it when taken on holiday by your master? Lizzie, whose master regularly vacations at Tawawa House, a resort in the free territory of Ohio, faces these questions. When newcomer Mawu joins the coterie of slave-mistresses and circumstances change, there's talk of running away. Unlike the others, Lizzie is literate and well-treated, perhaps even loved by her...more
Sterlingcindysu
This book really draws you in quick, and while it's a work of fiction you do wonder how much of that probably really happened. I think the cover is very misleading--while the slaves were at the resort, they had to work in their masters' cabins and time permitting at the resort itself. There wasn't any sitting on the lawn reading (and most of the masters didn't allow reading anyway.)

(copied review) In her debut, Perkins-Valdez eloquently plunges into a dark period of American history, chroniclin...more
Barb
In 1852 Tawawa House is a resort located in Ohio, a free territory. Every summer slave-owners from the south vacation there with their enslaved black mistresses. Four of these women return several summers in a row and build friendships with one another.

I was looking forward to reading this novel but was disappointed by the experience. Part of my problem no doubt is from having read 'The Kitchen House' by Kathleen Grissom last year and by reading 'Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl' by Harrie...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Edgerton Elementa...: What was Lizzie's opinion of Mawu when she first met her? Describe the arc of their relationship. What events changed they way they saw each other? 1 7 May 04, 2013 11:54AM  
2013 Clutch Readi...: Wench Part IV 21 33 Mar 03, 2013 03:06PM  
2013 Clutch Readi...: Wench Part III 10 33 Feb 23, 2013 01:09PM  
2013 Clutch Readi...: Wench Part II 11 28 Feb 23, 2013 01:04PM  
2013 Clutch Readi...: February Pick is Wench 6 46 Feb 09, 2013 03:09PM  
UW-Parkside Library: Wench 1 6 Dec 18, 2012 10:35AM  
Love 7 96 May 10, 2012 03:38PM  
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Dolen Perkins-Valdezs fiction and essays have appeared or will appear in The Kenyon Review, StoryQuarterly, African American Review, PMS: PoemMemoirStory, North Carolina Literary Review, Richard Wright Newsletter, and SLI: Studies in Literary Imagination. She is a 2009 finalist for the Robert Olen Butler Fiction Award. A graduate of Harvard and a former University of California Presidents Postdoct...more
More about Dolen Perkins-Valdez...
Twelve Years a Slave

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“My children ain’t the only thing I love. If I was allowed, I reckon I’d love myself, too.” 10 likes
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