Posts tagged ‘slaves’

May 10th, 2010

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Wench

Author: Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Published: January 5th, 2010 by HarperCollins

Number of Pages: 304

Rating: 3/5

Review Sent to HarperCollins*:

Wench is a novel full of characters in situations you can relate to without having to experience them – a sign of spectacularly descriptive writing and words that are not superfluous, but necessary and truthful. The horror of what these slave wenches went through is only surpassed in power by the women’s strength and determination. Wench is a book that will empower its women readers and make evident all that they have to be thankful for. It’s an enlightening, heartwarming, and entirely surprising novel written by a woman who clearly cares immensely about womankind.


Wench was an intriguing book, but I can’t say that I loved it. It’s doubtful that I’d read it again. However, I found the strength of the slave mistresses inspiring. The history, the incredible atmosphere of the novel was wonderful, and I got a fascinating though slightly sickening view into life in the ol’ South. (The book isn’t actually set in the South, but you get the picture.)

The slave women meet year after year at a hotel in Ohio, where there masters bring them in the summer. The men are favored slaves for their strength, skills, and/or cooperation. The women are favored as well, in the way that any woman in her right mind would hate to be. The masters’ wives are entirely aware of why the men bring along these women. It’s horrific to think of how generally excepted the situations of these women were.

Anyway, it’s when a new woman who is not so accepting  joins the party that a spark of rebellion and wonder is sparked. From then on, no one’s quite as satisfied with their lifestyle as they were before. Some of the slaves learn to write. It was the typical downfall of parts of the slave structure: Once the enslaved people realized that they had the power, that they truly were deserving, that a better future was possible, they snatched at every opportunity to learn and better their situation. Thank goodness for that downfall.

I enjoyed reading from such an insightful view, where I could watch through clear eyes as the people were treated brutally or deceived. More importantly, I loved that I could be intimate with the women and watch first-hand as they gathered the strength that they hadn’t realized they had and took advantage of it. A few of them began to stand up for themselves, despite the thoughts nagging them, saying, “You’re ruining yourself. You’re ruining yourself.” They did what was right, they stood up for and were examples to the women around them, saying You can’t take me and not give anything back.

If you’re eager to read an empowering novel, one that speaks ardently of the strength, will-power, and value of women, this is the book for you. It would be an absolutely fabulous book club pick.

As I felt with The Girl Who Fell from the Sky (Review), I was a bit uncomfortable with parts of the novel. At the same time, however, it was usually an essential part of portraying the abuse. The brutal clarity rung in your mind and infused in you an indignation bordering on utter fury.

So, though the book was intriguing and  harbored a wonderful message, I didn’t love it as much as I hoped I would. I do believe, however, that many will find comfort and inspiration in this novel.

Just a reminder that tomorrow is the last day to enter to win ONE of FIVE copies of Sorta Like a Rock Star.

*Thanks for the book!