Thursday, February 3, 2011
Review-Original Sins, by Peg Kingman
A NOVEL OF SLAVERY AND FREEDOM
W.W.Norton and Company
2010,HC, $25.95 416pp
Grace Pollacke is an artist, she paints portraits in miniature. Her husband arrives home to Philadelphia after being in China for several years. Traveling with Daniel is Anibaddh, The Rani of Nungklow. It is not the first time she has been in America for she is a runaway slave from Virginia. At great personal risk she has returned to establish a silk business, but this raises suspicion in Grace.
Grace, is a woman with a sharp intellect, well read in politics and literature, a rare find in 1840. Her current patron is Mrs. Ambler who is accompanied by her sister Mrs. MacFarlane. Engaged in a conversation about religion and slavery, Grace becomes disturbed with her subject, as her views are completely contrary. Anibaddh overhears the women and immediately recognizes their voices. They are the daughters of Judge Grant of Grantsboro Plantation and therefore Grace’s cousins.
When Grace steps in harms way to save her son, she realizes why Annibadh has returned. There could be only one reason she would risk her own life to sacrifice freedom: a child. Unaware of their common ancestral lineage, the woman invite Grace to visit Grantsboro to paint other family members. Realizing she can help Anibaddh with her maternal mission she accepts their request.
What follows is a complicated almost too coincidental yet thrilling story of Grace’s past and the discovery of her family’s slaveholding past and their unspeakable transgressions. Grace, is a character with vitality: bold, daring with unconventional thoughts and actions for the period she lives. As a painter, she is mesmerized by daguerreotype photography process and saddened by the newly installed gaslights in her city.
Original Sins, the author’s second novel is a deeply creative honest look at slavery and the ugly truths of human bondage that still emerge from America’s past. Highly recommended.
Disclosure: The copy of this book was provided at no charge by Historical Novels Review. This review was first published by HNR in August 2010.
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