Title: The Invention of Wings
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 2014
Number of Pages: 384
Geographical Setting: Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Time Period: Throughout the 1800s.
Series (If applicable): No series
Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.
The novel begins on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.
Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.
Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.
This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.
Grimké, Sarah Moore, 1792-1873 > Fiction. Antislavery movements > Fiction. Feminists > South Carolina > Fiction. Women's rights > Fiction.
Appeal: "World-building" is crucial in historical fiction. Historical fiction requires accurate historical facts. Readers discover a wealth of details relating to the setting as well as to characters and events. The frame, constructed with facts, is the first element readers respond to. Story lines generally emphasize either a particular time or event or they follow the lives of characters in a time. Characters can take center stage, and the lives of the protagonists are more important than the individual events.
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