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3.68  ·  Rating details ·  4,516 ratings  ·  535 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, 196 pages
Published April 13th 2004 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2003)
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3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,516 ratings  ·  535 reviews

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Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 05, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
"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
Jul 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
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 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 a sympathetic character, you see the society that has made her the way she is and will always be. Chilling.
Jan 30, 2012 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
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Diana Petty-stone
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A riveting read for anyone interested in knowing about the relationship between slaves and their masters before the Civil War.
Aug 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition



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,
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it

Valerie Martin’s “Property” narrates the chilling story of a sugar plantation and slave owner’s wife, Manon Gaudet, who hates the plantation, despises her husband, dismisses the slaves, and strongly judges the characters around her. She tells her bitter narrative from a haughty yet victimized point of view: she is appalled by her fate as the wife of a boorish man who has made a raped mistress out of their wedding gift. The young slave Sarah becomes the mother of her husband’s two children, while
May 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Carol Bro
Jun 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Manon Gaudet lives in the deep South at a time when it's common to view certain people as less than human based simply on the color of their skin. She grew up in a slave holding household and naturally continues the family tradition when she marries. Thus, when she moves with her new husband to his sugar plantation just north of New Orleans, she takes with her Sarah, a family house servant gifted to her by her mother. But she soon discovers her new husband has found other uses for Sarah beyond c ...more
Jun 12, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the early 19th century Manon is married to a plantation owner in the south of America. Her marriage isn't happy though and she longs to return to her old life in New Orleans. There are also problems with the slaves and rebellion is in the air. It was hard to feel sorry for Manon in some respects because she was part of the system that took people from their homes in Africa and treated them no better than animals. But Manon was also a victim of the patriarchy and she found herself trapped in a ...more
Mar 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book didn’t do much for me. It felt like the end of the book was the middle of the book and left me feeling like their was a cliff hanger.

1800’s New Orleans Story of a young woman that marries a older plantation owner. The slave that tends to her is is also the mistress to the husband, whom she hates. She escapes the plantation when a group of escaped slaves kill the land owner. She attempts to head north but is captured.
Jan 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Kathy Duncan
Feb 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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
Viji  (Bookish endeavors)
Mar 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 28, 2013 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
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.
Paula Dembeck
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When this novel opens in Ascension Parrish Louisiana in 1828, Manon Gaudet is watching her husband play a cruel sex game with the young negro slave boys on his sugar plantation. It is an obscene, humiliating and uncomfortable scene. Manon is the sole narrator, ready to tell her story but in a way that keeps the listener on her side. She wants the reader to see the world through her eyes and from her point of view; she wants their understanding, their compassion and their concern. And so she take ...more
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pretty interesting book. I need to pay more attention to where I either hear about books, or who recommends them to me. This story takes place in 1828 in Louisiana on a sugar plantation. A woman, Manon, is married to a man she loathes, the owner of the plantation. Sarah takes the brunt of the wife's resentment being a slave. Sarah has two children from Manons husband. There is a revolt and a dramatic confrontation. Manon's obsession to subjugate her husband and Sarah know no ends. I don't know t ...more
Greg Brown
Nov 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Calling slavery "bad" sells it short in so many ways: it was a deeply perverse, fucked-up system of economic, social, and violent control that so infected everyday life in the South that it was impossible to escape and ignore. While we've all read about slavery in school, encountering the day-to-day realities is always a shocking experience, no matter how many times you've seen them before or how intellectually prepared you are.

The perverse ideology and "justice" of slavery is difficult to captu
Aimee Massey
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
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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).
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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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