Friday, July 24, 2015

Book Review: The Invention Of Wings (By Sue Monk Kidd)

As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free. Psychological freedom, a firm sense of self-esteem, is the most powerful weapon against the long night of physical slavery 


My favorite line from the book - "It was his way of telling me. I could not have him and myself both."
Spanning a period of about 35 years, this is the story of two female protagonists, Sarah Grimke and Hetty Handful and their tryst with broken dreams, heartbreak, personal loss and finally liberation (the so called wings).

The opening chapter introduces you to the character of the slave girl Handful who listens with rapt attention to the stories narrated by her mother, the best seamstress in Charleston. "There was a time in Africa the people could fly". The seeds of freedom from slavery are sowed in the little one's mind even before she realizes it. "It was later that I saw what she meant. We could fly all right, but it wasn't any magic to it."

The next chapter introduces us to Sarah, a eleven year old who devises a slogan for herself. "If you must err, do so on the side of audacity.". This proclamation combined with her refusal to take a waiting maid, sets the tone for things to come. Her love for books and her desire to become a jurist was in stark contradiction to her times which was about "polite education for the female mind", a course course in needlework, manners, drawing, basic reading, penmanship, piano, Bible, french and "enough arithmetic to add two and two". The early stirrings of feminism are very much evident in her character.

The readers are exposed to every aspect of a slave's life as the two girls set on a journey of breaking one taboo after the other. There are moments of humor like one where it seems that they are burning down the house, another moment of tenderness when the girls enjoy some tea on the roof and exchange secrets. There is downright indignation when Handful's mother is subjected to a most horrifying punishment. The change in latter's character is quite evident after the incident as she "had stopped stealing and taken up safer ways to do harm and wreckage".

As the girls grow up, Sarah suffers a heartbreak which leads her to the religious way. At the same time, we are introduced to the character of Denmark Vesey, who is shown to be linked with Handful's mother. As the plot advances, his character grows more and more prominent.

There are more characters introduced later in the book, the most notable of them being Angelina, who is Sarah's youngest sibling. She turns into a godmother for her, and wants to live her unfulfilled dreams through her. The reader is obliged when towards the end of this book, the sisters actually come together for a cause.

A beautiful tale that deals with slavery and women's empowerment, this is a book that grows on you as you move from one page to another. The unlikely bonding between a girl from a aristocratic family and her slave girl takes many a twists and turns before culminating in a befitting climax. 

No comments:

Post a Comment