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Original Sins: A Novel of Slavery & Freedom

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  86 ratings  ·  32 reviews
Why would a runaway Virginia slave—having built a rewarding life in the East Indies as a silk merchant—risk everything by returning to America in 1840, eighteen years after taking her freedom?

Anibaddh Lyngdoh claims that she intends to introduce a new kind of silk to the floundering American silk industry. But her true reason, as her old friend Grace MacDonald Pollocke di
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published August 9th 2010 by W. W. Norton Company (first published August 1st 2010)
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Average rating 3.45  · 
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 ·  86 ratings  ·  32 reviews

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Jun 13, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: blog, crap, arc
**This was an advance reader's copy that I received from Library Thing**

There will be spoilers. Be forewarned.

If it hadn't been for the fact that I had agreed to review this book in order to receive a free copy, I would have abandoned it long ago. Alas, I am a woman of my word (at least when it comes to getting free stuff), so I trudged through all 400+ pages. I may have to alter this view and just stick to paying for the good stuff in the future.

Why did I volunteer to read this book, other than
Barbara Mitchell
May 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
I hadn't read Peg Kingman's previous books so I wasn't sure what to expect, but the story sounded interesting. After reading it, I'm going to look for her other books, because this one is so well-written and I particularly enjoyed her manner of depicting character. I felt like I knew many of the characters in Original Sins.

The time is 1840. Grace MacDonald Pollacke is an artist who lives in Philadelphia with her husband Daniel, a China trader. Grace has lived all over the world; she met and marr
Apr 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
i was drawn to this book by the cover and the synopsis promising deceit, forgery, fraud, perjury and possible murder in the historical context of slavery and freedom. aside from that, i really didn’t know what to expect. and to be honest, the synopsis didn’t really do a great job of preparing me for this novel, but as a new-to-me author, i was wholly impressed and am definitely curious enough to pick up Kingman’s other book Not Yet Drown’d.

on the surface, this book is about Grace, a native of Sc
Susan (aka Just My Op)
For me, the best thing about historical fiction is the chance to learn something new while being entertained with an engrossing story. Original Sins meets both of those criteria. Grace, a young white woman in early 19th century America is a painter of miniatures, is exceptionally independent for the times, was a world traveler, has a husband who travels frequently and a racist mother-in-law. When she was a young orphan living in Scotland, an aunt came to drag her back to live with relatives. No ...more
Nov 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Very good novel with a strong female protagonist -- in fact there were two key female characters: the heroine Grace and her onetime rescuer Rani.
Grace is a Scottish native who currently works as a portrait artist in Philadelphia. Her husband is a trader who is often away on buying trips to China. She visits cousins in Virginia to help her friend Rani find out what has become of the daughter that Rani left behind 18 years ago when Rani escaped to freedom.
The plot revolves around Grace attempt t
Sep 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
I gave this book 200 pages, a generous amount of time. I only did it because it was my in-person book selection. I can not imagine how anyone liked it enough to recommend it. The writing was at a senior in high school level. The situations were trite and very unlikely to have happened. I can not find a positive thing to say about it. I looked at the back and the author is from Potter Valley, a small community near ours. The only explanation would be somebody knew the author.

Life is too short to
Aug 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. A pure love of language and history reveals itself in Kingman's careful prose, vibrant characters, and attention to detailed description of a nineteenth-century America fraught with issues still prevalent in today's world.

Learn more about Peg Kingman from her interview on Words With Writers:
Mary Kay
May 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Fascinating story of Philadelphia in the 1840s and the role of Quakers and other concerned citizens in the Underground Railroad. Part of the story happens in Virginia and the reader sees the gamut of human foibles from wife abuse to Bible-sanctioned slavery to degenerate men, young and old.
Oct 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
One of my favorite authors! All my senses are engaged when I read Kingman.
Nov 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Strongly reccomend. Will be reading more of this author.
Travis Stone
Jan 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book serves as a scathing review of the hypocrisy of American ideals in the 19th century. An outsider, Grace Pollocke of Scotland, is used as someone who is well educated in American ideals, but not blinded by the culture. Through her trip into the south in 1840, we see how American ideals of freedom and equality are ignored for the benefit of those practicing slavery. We see how religion was used as a means to justify slavery and take away the rights of others.

Much of what we learn throug
Meh - great plot line - Grace is a northerner who is opposed to slavery, and she learns about a runaway slave. Grace also learns about her shameful link to slavery through her family connections.
Should be an interesting story but there was a lot of information that just never developed into an interesting and coherent story.
Mar 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
Read in 2010 updating!!
Jordan Taylor
Dec 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone, especially HF fans
"Original Sins" is the story of Grace Pollocke, a married woman in 1800's Pennsylvania who is unexpectedly reunited with a childhood friend - Anibadh, who fled from a life of slavery in Virginia years ago. Why would a runaway slave return and risk being discovered? When Grace asks herself the same question, she finds that Ani has returned in search of her daughter, still a slave at a plantation in Virginia, which just so happens to be owned by Grace's long-lost cousins. Concealing her identity, ...more
Original Sins is a historical novel that is more philosophical diatribe than one that contributes a greater understanding to historical events. It tries too hard to be grand in scope and ends up being polarizing as it discusses topics that are more appropriate to today's society than Philadelphia and Virginia in the 1840s. While Ms. Kingman uses historical figures in her novel to lend an air of authenticity to the novel, these true-life characters do not blend well with their fictional counterpa ...more
Jan 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
The story opens in Philadelphia in 1840. Grace, a young Scottish-born mother, paints portraits while pining for her husband to return from a long overseas trip. Daniel does come home but, simultaneously, a beloved friend and former slave arrives mysteriously and events are set in motion: Grace will travel to the deep south to search for her friend’s long-lost daughter.

As a result of her mission–on Virginia plantations, at a revival meeting, and in a Philadelphia courtroom–Grace will be surrounde
Apr 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Though I enjoyed this book, I found the plot to be unsurprising (and it was promoted as something of an historical mystery). Why would an escaped slave endanger herself by returning to the United States? Who is the father of her child? What is the source of the "original sin" that set all these events in motion? All these questions had predictable answers.

More interesting was the character of a free-thinking abolitionist, Grace Pollocke, struggling to live with conviction and integrity in a worl
Sep 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Original Sins is a difficult novel to describe. It's not especially plot-driven, yet there is certainly an enthralling and complex story woven throughout. I neither loved nor hated most of the characters, which to me is a mark of a very real cast. I was more invested in seeing certain principles succeed than in any particular character. I thought Peg Kingman did an excellent job piecing together a firm foundation on which she could then set her story, but readers who prefer plot to philosophizin ...more
Angela Kinder
Sep 25, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: boring
I will be honest- I cannot remember where I received the book, but I assume it was from LibraryThing as an Early Reviewer.

So help me, I tried to read the whole book. I got halfway through before I gave up. The back description is what led me to wanting to read it because the description was filled with the promise of murder, deceit, forgery... you get the idea.

Not only was there no sign of murder or even forgery in the first 252 pages (which is how far I read), it was NOTHING like the descriptio
Sarah Wagner
Dec 20, 2010 rated it liked it
*I received this book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.*

While enjoyable, I was somewhat disappointed that this book did not focus more on the character of Anibaddh Lyngdoh, the runaway slave who returns to claim her daughter, and was instead centered on Grace MacDonald Pollocke. Grace is an interesting character herself, but I did feel that her atheism was given too much emphasis and gave the novel a sense of less historical accuracy. In addition, Grace can be somewhat naive at times - or ov
Feb 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
It took a while for me to read this book. It didn't look interesting & I kept passing over it to grab some other book in my "pile to read". In fact I was wondering why I bought it. I finally decided to give it a shot and I am so glad I did. It was an easy read and entertaining enough to keep me interested. There were some passages in it on some topics that I felt the author could have shortened and not gone into such detail about such as silk worms and silk making, photography and her religious ...more
Sep 16, 2011 rated it did not like it
I have never read a book so different from the cover jacket description! About a runaway slave returning to America, risking her freedom, her true story discovered by her friend Grace... No, this is the story of Grace, a self-important woman who was caught up in the escape of a slave when she was 8 (and in Scotland). The slave is barely an ancillary figure in the story of Grace, several story points are left unanswered/explained, and the moralizing/religiosity is nauseating. I read through to th ...more
Apr 19, 2015 rated it liked it
I did not love this book. I wanted to, and even continued to read it beyond my desire to read it. I was somewhat intrigued by the story, and the historical aspect, but it never completely reached my heart. Perhaps it is because of the shallowness of the characters. Not one of them were real to me. And as a result, I could not understand or appreciate many of the actions or thinking of these characters. But I did learn, and that is, at least, something.
Shirley Freeman
I liked this. It isn't necessarily a page-turner but it is a well developed story. The main character, Grace, is very likeable. She is an unusual woman for her time - a free thinker, an abolitionist, a painter who learns photography just as that field is being developed. The story has a good plot but you also learn a fair amount about living in the 1840's. ...more
Barbara Hansen
May 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Because this book is long and detailed, a reread is a pleasure; plenty of time to catch a bit of dialog missed the first time around. I find the main character completely fascinating. She's smart and gutzy. The story moves in a compelling fashion.
Aug 16, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-for-2011
Probably closer to a 2.5. I enjoyed the book but there were parts that just dragged. I ended up skipping a lot of the philosophical discussions.
Much, much longer than it needed to be, with an insufferable main character. The only reason I'd give it two stars is because the plot sounded so good. ...more
Oct 06, 2010 rated it it was ok
Wish I could give 1/2 stars. The book was completely predictable.
R. J
Feb 11, 2011 rated it did not like it
Just one of those books I couldn't finish... ...more
Sara Habein
Jun 20, 2011 added it
Shelves: pass
(received this, but haven't read it. It's not really something I'm interested in, but I have added it to Bookswap for someone who might be. No point in it sitting around here unloved, right?) ...more
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Peg Kingman is the author of Not Yet Drown’d and Original Sins. Formerly a tea merchant and a technical writer, she lives in northern California.

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