Property
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Property

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3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  2,517 ratings  ·  329 reviews
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...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published April 13th 2004 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2003)
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Carol
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...more
Donna
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 developed....at 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
Linda
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Paul
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...more
Billy
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...more
Judith
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 corner..as 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...more
Julia
"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...more
Danna
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
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
Joanne
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
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...more
Kathy Duncan
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...more
Paula
A well-written, fast-paced, quickly read novel. Set in 1828 antebellum Louisiana, at the time when the sugarcane & cotton plantation economy & society were besieged by fantasies, rumors & justified fears of slave insurrection. There is nothing particularly new about this account, assuming one hasn't had one's head under a literary barrel for the past half-century. There is no happy ending, no endearing character. The steely-minded "heroine" Manon, is a white woman of modest means mar...more
Youaretheskythatshootstokill
The writing style was easily read and I got through it very quickly but it continuously annoyed me. In an interview Valerie Martin said she didn't want to "romanticise" slavery but, in my opinion, she has done exactly that. There can be ways of writing from a middle class white woman and still portray the brutality that was committed, but she did not do that one bit. The ending is also anti-climatic, it leaves you wondering why you even read the book. I only had to read this for my English class...more
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
Niki
This book was recommended to me for its focus on the dehumanization of whites under slavery. This is a very important topic, one that merits more study, and by that I mean not just of slaveholding families but of anyone who was not an abolitionist while this great crime against humanity was going on.

Martin's book won the Orange Prize for fiction. I read and grew more and more reluctant to read, though paradoxically found the reading to go more and more quickly. This was probably because of the...more
Margot Jennifer
Finished in one day. Mesmerizing. There was some really uncomfortable material in this book, but I think I got a small glimpse of what it means to be thought of as "property". I have always thought that the slave owners/supporters called their slaves "brutes" or "savages" to make themselves feel better about what they were doing. I really thought it was all some hideous form of denial. But this book opened my eyes to the reality of this evil. These people genuinely thought, and lived by the theo...more
Monique
Alright finally got to finish a book--yikes--I know not like me but my mind is constantly whirling with wedding miscellaneous (wedding planning really does make you crazy!)---- So I kinda wanted to ease back into my nightly reading routine so I chose a small book-finished it in two days with little less than two hundred pages so I may be back LOL, I heard of this so I requested from a neighboring library and I was pressed to read it and get me back in my reading groove..So finally a story about...more
Autumn
Disturbing.

Discomfiting.

Dark.

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,...more
P.J. Young
I was intrigued by 'Property'. It's a book that, on the surface, seems destined to prepare you for a dramatic assault on your perceptions of slavery, but in the end leaves you feeling uneasy for quite different reasons.

Manon, the beautiful white wife of a sugar plantation manager, is unhappy and childless. She lives with the uncomfortable knowledge that her husband is in love with her negro maid, Sarah, and fathered two children by her. Although Sarah is not a 'free' woman, she is more 'free' th...more
Betsy McTiernan
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
Heffalumpi
This was an interesting idea for a book where the story is told from the perspective of a wife of a plantation owner about one of her wedding presents - a slave.

The slave, Sarah, was a gift from the wife's aunt on their wedding. The slave had previously been owned by the aunt but there was some untold reason why she wished to be rid of her.

The book is well written and the story interesting about the rebellion that was taking place in the south during the 1830's. I would not go so far as to say t...more
Danielle
Dec 10, 2011 Danielle rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Danielle by: Have to read it for english class
I have no idea what to say about this book because it's so weird. I'm so dissapointed with it because I have to study this book for english and I'm really not enthusiastic about it at all.

Although I do feel sympathy for the protagonist at times, she is so unlikeable and just insensitive (though i know this reflects the attitudes of the time period), for example, the child, or 'creature' in her words (Walter) is treated like an animal by most characters. The breastfeeding incident was so unexpect...more
Lorraine
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...more
Helen
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...more
Alyssa
A seemingly realistic portrayal of slavery in Louisiana in 1828. It is grim stuff and all the characters are unlikeable. Manon is the narrator – she hates her husband, who is having an affair with one of their slaves, Sarah. Manon is tough, clever and even a bit funny but still consistently cruel and unpleasant. Sarah despises Manon’s husband as well, but Manon feels no sympathy for Sarah. In fact, Manon never gives a moment of thought to the whole concept of owning other people – slavery is a g...more
Anne
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This is Me Equivocally
I'm not one to normally take interest in historical fiction, but Valerie Martin presents the story in such a manner that one almost forgets that she is writing about slavery in 1828 Louisiana. The universal concepts within the story make it timeless. The book's short length and easy vocabulary make this a very quick, but interesting, read.

Manon, from whose point of view the story is told, is very cynical about her position as the wife of an unsuccessful plantation owner, about his relationship...more
Lene
A story about a woman who hated her life and seemed to find solace that she would have a "companion" in her misery. I finished the book feeling deeply unsatisfied, but I can't really put too much fault on the author for this. The story had the feeling of truth to it. I rarely read books during American slavery from the perspective of the Southern white mistress and I think I realize why. They are "free" in name only and the chains that bind them to their situations seem more unbreakable than tha...more
Rachel
Now, that's an abrupt, suspense filled ending! I cannot for the life of me understand why Manon would spend so much money to find and bring Sarah back. WHATEVER FOR?!?! Much as she (Manon)is a victim of her stifling social setting, I find it hard to sympathize with her, no matter what befalls her. Why does she hate Sarah so much? What does she think Sarah could/should have done to resist the Gaudet's advances? The fact that she goes to very expensive pains to curtail Sarah's attempt to freedom s...more
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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
More about Valerie Martin...
Mary Reilly The Ghost of the Mary Celeste Trespass The Confessions of Edward Day Italian Fever

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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?” 3 likes
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