Hetty "Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.
Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid.We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.
As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.
Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.
This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.
The invention of wings is a historical novel based around the lives of two women, one of them a factual character, Sarah Grimke a revolutionary female rights campaigner.
In the book we are introduced to Sarah on her 11th birthday when the gift she is presented with is a slave Hetty, a little girl known as Handful who is to be Sarahs maid. Thus begins a lifetime of opposition to slavery in the Deep South of USA where slavery is a fact of life and white folk rule and anyone who dares to oppose this is considered a pariah in society, especially if that person is a woman.
The book is an epic tale of early female emancipation and looks rather brutally at the lives of slaves and how their mistresses are no more free than they are, bound by rules and respectability to live a life not of their own choosing. It is also a story of friendship beyond the boundaries of acceptable society.
The book will appeal to anyone who enjoyed The Help, which, by the way I intensely DISliked. I actually preferred the authors previous book The Secret Life of Bees and found it a slightly easier read.
This is a much harsher and harder book to read, however it is superbly researched and told, and perfect for anyone interested in the history of slavery and rascism in the Deep Southern states of America.
I was kindly provided with a copy through Bookbridgr to read and review.