Vintage £7.99 (165pp) (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop : 0870 079 8897
A Mercy, By Toni Morrison
Friday 19 June 2009
Set in 17th-century Virginia, Morrison's first novel in five years takes place on a small farm run by Anglo-Dutch trader, Jacob Vaark. Although Vaark does not trade in human flesh, he agrees to accept a young Angolan slave, Florens, in part payment for a bad debt.
Florens joins a largely female household that already includes the entrepreneur's English wife, Rebekka, her Native American maid, Lina, and Sorrow, a shipwrecked foundling. Each woman, in varying degrees, finds herself a slave.
From such an iconic writer as Morrison, portentous pronouncements are almost expected. In this novel, the story of America's messy birth lies in its terms of enslavement: "To be given dominion over another is a hard thing; to wrest dominion over another is a wrong thing; to give dominion of yourself to another is a wicked thing."
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