Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Book reviews, Pullitzer, Booker, Costa and Children's Book reviews
Prize Winning Fiction
Prize Winning Fiction

2003 Women's Prize for Fiction Winner

Property: A Novel by Valerie Martin


Publisher: Vintage

Length: 208 pages

About: Master/slave relationship in deep South

Style: 1st person

Where: US (Louisiana near New orleans)

When: 1820s -30s


Publisher’s synopsis:

Valerie Martin's Property delivers an eerily mesmerizing inquiry into slavery's venomous effects on the owner and the owned. The year is 1828, the setting a Louisiana sugar plantation where Manon Gaudet, pretty, bitterly intelligent, and monstrously self-absorbed, seethes under the dominion of her boorish husband. In particular his relationship with her slave Sarah, who is both his victim and his mistress.



Sometimes the offending boy cries out or runs away, but he’s no match for the grown man with his stick. The servant’s tumescence subsides as quickly as the master’s rises, and the latter will last until he gets to the [slave] quarter. If he can find the boy’s mother, and she’s pretty, she will pay dearly for rearing an unnatural child….Often, as I look through the glass, I hear in my head an incredulous refrain: This is my husband, this is my husband.




Martin is particularly good at describing the tangled and complex relationships that exist between all the characters in the book. Manon refuses to submit to her husband, yet is ruthless in her submission of Sarah; without the slaves, the plantations will not run, yet the owners rely on force and degradation to suppress them. Seething resentment and unhappiness pervade every page of this novel, but the power and restraint of Martin's writing drives the reader on regardless. see here for more details


Not so good:

The similarities with Phillips's novel are sometimes troubling. Yet Property is skilfully written and a compelling read, if neither wholly original nor wholly convincing.

Maya Jaggi, The Guardian, 31st May 2003


About the author

 Valerie Martin (born 1948, Missouri)has also taught at Mount Holyoke College, Loyola University New Orleans, The University of New Orleans, The University of Alabama, and Sarah Lawrence College, among other institutions. She is a graduate of the MFA Program for Poets & Writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She has one child, Adrienne, born in 1975.



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Age guide: 12



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Adaptations: None to date













2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner

It's a massive day in arts and journalism because the 100th annual Pulitzer Prize winners were just announced, and there's a big surprise. 2015's best artistic and nonfiction writing across 21 categories were recognized during a ceremony Monday afternoon at Columbia University in New York City. The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Hebert Bayward Swope, a reporter for The New York World, in 1916. (And if you're as big a fan of Newsies as I am, that paper should ring a bell, but try to think of it more positively.)

The major prize for book nerds, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (Grove Press), a legitimate surprise, if you've been paying attention to the book nerd and industry buzz. The feeling around the prize in the last few months would have you putting all your hard-earned cash down on A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara to take home the award, but that's why you should never gamble. Viet Thanh Nguyen is no less deserving, and moreover, it's his debut novel, which makes it such a wonderful win.

Extract from New York Times to view full article...

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