The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Publisher: Tinder Press
Release Date:7 January 2014
Release Date:7 January 2014
Back Cover Blurb: Sarah Grimké is the middle daughter. The one her mother calls difficult and her father calls remarkable. On Sarah's eleventh birthday, Hetty 'Handful' Grimké is taken from the slave quarters she shares with her mother, wrapped in lavender ribbons, and presented to Sarah as a gift. Sarah knows what she does next will unleash a world of trouble. She also knows that she cannot accept. And so, indeed, the trouble begins ... A powerful, sweeping novel, inspired by real events, and set in the American Deep South in the nineteenth century, THE INVENTION OF WINGS evokes a world of shocking contrasts, of beauty and ugliness, of righteous people living daily with cruelty they fail to recognise; and celebrates the power of friendship and sisterhood against all the odds.
The Invention of Wings is a historical novel, with a little bit of a difference.
I didn't realise until the end when reading the Authors notes that it is based in part on the real lives of the Grimké sisters. American history wasn't something we studied when I was in Secondary School, but part of me wishes that I had, based on the fascination I now have with the subject matter of this novel.
The Invention of Wings is told in alternate chapters by the two main characters, Hetty 'Handful' Grimké (the slave) and Sarah Grimké (the wealthy plantation owners daughter) over a thirty year period. We meet the two when Hetty is being presented to Sarah as a 'gift' for her Eleventh Birthday. Sarah is appalled by the gesture and immediately tries to refuse her 'present'.
"I felt my spirit rise up to meet my will. I would not give up. I would err on the side of audacity. That was what I'd always done".
Despite her strong beliefs Sarah quickly learns that she is unable to do exactly as she pleases, and is forced the following day to accept her 'gift'. Having witnessed one of the family slaves being beaten at an early age, Sarah is determined to protect Hetty in any way that she can, even if this involves being getting into trouble herself.
A close friendship is formed between the two young girls, which grows as Sarah teaches Hetty to read. This was illegal in slave owning states, which shows how committed Sarah was to her cause. As we follow the two girls through to adulthood, we see their relationships change as the world around them changes and different characters are weaved in and out of their lives.
The Invention of Wings is a thought provoking novel which doesn't shy away from the horrors of pre-abolition in the deep south of America. It does make for uncomfortable reading at times, but that is purely down to how well written the novel is.
I found it a little long personally (hence the 3.5 rather than 4 stars) but that's not to say I didn't enjoy it. It's a great historical novel that's very informative as well as enjoyable. But don't take my word for it, go and check it out for yourself!