The Invention Of Wings

By Sue Monk Kidd

“If you must err, do so on the side of audacity.” – Hetty

The first book I read by Sue Monk Kidd was The Secret Life Of Bees, which became one of my favourites. When I spotted The Invention Of Wings on the charity shop’s book shelves by the same author, I thought it must be worth dipping into.

The story begins on the estate of the wealthy, aristocratic Grimké family, in Charleston, South Carolina in 1803. On the occasion of her eleventh birthday, Sarah Grimké is given a young black slave girl called Hetty to be her maid. Slave ownership was at that time in Charleston a normal, even expected part of everyday life, but the concept of owning another person did not sit well with young Sarah.

Hetty, had been named by the slave owner Master Grimké. Hetty’s birth mother Charlotte called her daughter Handful, a name that was to become as much a description of her daughter as it was her name.

The novel tells the story from the girls’ childhood over a period of thirty five years, of Sarah’s battle to abolish slavery and better women’s position in society and Hetty’s battle to be free,

The story is told in a way I encountered for the first time in The Invention Of Wings. It was written in the first person style but by two people in turn. Sarah and Hetty tell us their stories together and how the events of their lives intertwine.

I didn’t enjoy The Invention Of Wings as much as I had The Secret Life Of Bees. It is still worth reading and I don’t begrudge giving it the time but it will not be added to my favourites.

“I’d chosen the regret I could live with best, that’s all.
I’d chosen the life I belonged to.” – Sarah Grimké


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