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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.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Jan 13, 2003 – The vivid imagination that allowed Martin to create Jekyll and Hyde's eponymous servant in Mary Reilly is again evident in this powerful story of a petulant and bitter plantation mistress whose absorption in her own misery leaves her blind to that of a slave she despises. Manon Gaudet is married to her husband before she could know whether the socially advantageous match would be a happy one, before discovering he is a cruel slave master with a propensity for debt and certainly before realizing that he will force Sarah, the light-skinned housekeeper who was a wedding gift from her aunt, to bear two of his illegitimate children. She learns all of these things soon after leaving her native New Orleans and arriving on her new husband's Louisiana sugar plantation, and is henceforth consumed by loathing for both her domestic predicament and the society in which it is possible. Manon's fierce discontent makes her an excellent narrator, as she has long abandoned any romantic notions about slavery and the plantation life. Her husband's arbitrary cruelty fills her with disgust for him, the "negroes" he abuses and herself. Her misery is grotesquely self-centered; she never evinces even a glimmer of sympathy for Sarah. Martin conveys this sickening blend of moral delusion and self-serving repugnance in feverish prose that perfectly reflects Manon's desperation. The racial unrest of the 1820s reaches this unhappy trio in the form of a small gang of escaped slaves who, in an unforgettably hellish scene, wound Manon, murder her husband and allow Sarah to escape. Manon's subsequent determination to have Sarah caught and returned is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this story, an emphatic reminder that the inhumanity of slave ownership knew no bounds. Yet in depicting Manon's plight as wife and widow, Martin also demonstrates compassion for white women in the patriarchal society of the antebellum South. In addressing these issues, Martin adds resonance to a compelling story.

Customer Reviews


A book that reflects on politics is something that has every bit of what is going on in the present world, but at a different expense of course. We are all property of someone or something. Bringing this to a wider concept, it is not just about being African American, or being women; it is about each and every person being the property of someone or something.

Waste of my time

This book is foul. The author speaks from a slave owner point of person. She makes the women out to be a victim. That owning slaves and a emotionless husband made her to be some kind of charity case. It gets worse as the book comes to a pointless end. What exactly was the message at the end, what point was being made. This book truly bothered me. It angered me in a way that I can't exactly explain. I felt like the author believed the foul things she described. Terrible In my opinion.

Great but disappointing ending

This book was a really good read, I just wish there was a sequel to it because the ending left me wanting more. It feels like I'm missing half the book.

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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: African American
  • Published: Apr 13, 2004
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 208 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings