Disclosure. This post is a review of a book I was sent for free. All opinions are my own.
I have received a free advance copy of the book A Sitting in St. James by Rita Williams-Garcia to review. You may find out more about the author on her website.
Here is the book blurb.
A tour-de-force from three-time National Book Award finalist Rita Williams-Garcia, this story of an antebellum plantation—and the enduring legacies of slavery upon every person who lives there—is essential reading for both teens and adults grappling with the long history of American racism.
1860, Louisiana. After serving as mistress of Le Petit Cottage for more than six decades, Madame Sylvie Guilbert has decided, in spite of her family’s objections, to sit for a portrait.
While Madame plots her last hurrah, stories that span generations—from the big house to out in the fields—of routine horrors, secrets buried as deep as the family fortune, and the tangled bonds of descendants and enslaved.
This astonishing novel from award-winning author Rita Williams-Garcia about the interwoven lives of those bound to a plantation in antebellum America is an epic masterwork—empathetic, brutal, and entirely human.
The story is set in 1860 Louisiana on a sugarcane plantation shortly before the American Civil War.
This diverse read packs in a lot of topics including LGBTQ+ but the main focus is slavery, racism and white privilege.
The way that the mistress, 80 year old Madame Sylvie Guilbert and her son Lucien treat their black slaves is truly horrific and appalling, but to them, they view it as their entitlement and right. I would describe them both as brutal, cruel and as for Lucien, even evil.
Meanwhile the story also revolves around 6 young people. Firstly 16 year old Thisbe, a slave who has been Madame’s personal servant since she was 6 years old. She has to do everything for Madame including wiping her bum, whilst maintaining a silent invisible presence.
Then there is 17 year old Rosalie, Lucien’s daughter of slave Camille, who has just returned from 6 years boarding at the Sisters of Mercy school. Madame will not even acknowledge her due to her quarter Black blood. And Lucien of course has plans for Rosalie for his own gain.
And on the privileged side there is Lucien’s son and heir Byron, a West Point cadet, his fiancée Eugenie and his secret lover, fellow cadet Robinson Pearce.
Finally there is Jane, abandoned white daughter from a neighbouring plantation, who defies social convention entirely. She just wants to be herself.
A Sitting in St. James is available for pre-order on Amazon in Kindle format, audiobook or hardback. A powerful compelling read, which I would recommend adding to Black Lives Matter booklists. However I would suggest suitable for age 16+ due to some of the subject matter.
Note does include rape, abuse and child murder.
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