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 both his victim and his mistress.
Exploring the permutations of Manon’s own obsession with Sarah against the backdrop of an impending slave rebellion, Property
unfolds with the speed and menace of heat lightning, casting a startling light from the past upon the assumptions we still make about the powerful and powerful.
“As chilling and satisfying as anything she has written. . . . A fierce and uncompromising book, a bracing and cathartic work of art.”–Chicago Tribune
“This fresh, unsentimental look at what slaveowning does to (and for) one’s interior life must be a first. And the writing—so prised and clean-limbed—is amarvel.”—Toni Morrison
“Tightly constructed [and] suspenseful. . . . Manon is a vividly presented voice, precociously cynical, mordantly amusing, despairing. . . . A subtly cadenced novel of racial and sexual transgressions.” --The New York Review of Books
“Fraught with tension, desperation, and rage, all masterfully sustained. . . . An unflinching depiction of our nation’s most shameful historical chapter.” – Los Angeles Times
“Compelling. . . . A painful yet elegant study of . . . the authority of the mighty over the deprived. . . . Astonishing.” – The Washington Post
“Quick-paced and absorbing . . . chilling, understated and brilliant.” – The Miami Herald
“A fascinating little gem of darkness.” – San Francisco Chronicle