Book Review: The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd

This book is available tomorrow in bookstores.

This is the third novel by this author. I was entrancedcv_the_invention_of_wings from the get-go. I had to keep on reading. Even when I was moved to rage or tears (the latter unusual for me when reading!), I still found myself drawn back to the story. It’s set in Charleston, USA, in the early years of the nineteenth century, when slavery was at its peak (or rather its nadir, depending on your point of view).

The main characters, all of whom are searching for freedom in one way or another, are Hetty (Handful) and Sarah and Angelina Grimke.

Hetty/Handful is a slave, who is given to Sarah as a birthday present,which  in itself is an horrific concept for the modern reader.

The appalling treatment of slaves in the American south is well documented and I don’t think I need to expand on it here, except to say that Kidd brings it to life almost too convincingly.

The book, although not particularly long, is wide-ranging and thought-provoking, and Sue Monk Kidd’s writing draws you in to the lives of her characters, even the minor ones, quickly and effectively.

The leading characters, including Handful’s mother, are drawn well, and are uniformly strong, determined, feisty and willing to do whatever is necessary to bring about change. They must have been remarkable , as this was a time when women had little or no say in anything at all, particularly matters which affected them directly. And I say “they must have been” since the Grimke sisters are based on real women who left Charleston and worked actively to abolish slavery in the South. It’s worth looking them up to read more.

I am reluctant to give away too much of the storyline, as I think this might spoil the book for intending readers. So I will confine myself to this – there is drama enough for Shakespeare, emotion  which will touch you, actions which will enrage and uplift you, courage which will boost you, and above all wings which will help you rise above the mundane, the unjust, the oppressive history, the just-plain-wrongness  of many aspects of life both then and now – it is a remarkable novel.

Reviewed by Susan Esterman

The invention of wings 
by Sue Monk Kidd
Published by Tinder Press (Distributor Hachette NZ)
ISBN 9781472212740

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