Review: The Invention of Wings

Posted October 4, 2013

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Invention of Wings The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Published by Headline Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

There was a time in Africa the people could fly. Mauma told me this one night when I was ten years old. She said, “Handful, your granny-mauma saw it for herself. She say they flew over the trees and clouds. She say they flew like blackbirds. When we came here, we left that magic behind.”

“You don’t believe me? Where do you think these shoulder blades of yours come from, girl?”

Those skinny bones stuck out from my back like nubs, She patted them and said, “This all what is left of your wings. They nothing but these flat bones now, but one day you gon get ‘em back.”

Sometimes I read a novel and struggle to find the words to do the book justice. This is one of those times.

Set in the 1800s in the American Deep South, The Invention of Wings is inspired by the true story of the Grimke sisters, Sarah and Angelina. They were the first female abolition agents as well as one of the first major American feminist thinkers. Sue Monk Kidd has researched their lives in depth and based this novel loosely around their story.

The Grimke family lived in Charleston and were among the upper classes of the area that owned and used slaves. When we first meet Sarah it is her eleventh birthday and her gift is her own slave, Hetty as the Grimkes call her, or Handful as she was named by her mother. This gift does not sit well with Sarah…and her family are predictably unimpressed when she expresses these feelings.

The novel is written from the perspectives of both Sarah and Handful. I love this approach as we are given an insight into the life that Handful leads, the way she is treated both at “home” and on the streets of Charleston. This in itself opened my eyes. Her mother is also a Grimke slave and is very determined to set herself and her daughter free. So determined in fact that she pushes boundaries and cruelly suffers the consequences.

Sarah has dreams of being a lawyer, dreams that are quashed by her family as well as the general society of the time. She is stiffled by the fact she is a female in a world where only men count for anything.

Sarah is very close to her youngest sister and it comes about that the two of them begin to push to boundaries of society. They both leave Charleston and embark on a difficult journey where they, two females at that, rally for the case of anti-slavery.

I found this book truly insightful and inspiring. It is equally emotional and heartbreaking. It is a book that will remain with you long after you close the back cover. I realise how ignorant I have been to the history of slavery, and to the long journey that eventually succeeded in abolishing it.  I feel proud of Sarah and Angelina Grimke for all that they achieved, for the fierce backlash they withstood and the path they carved for future women and abolitionists alike.

This book is a brilliant piece of writing. Alhough it is fiction it is loosely based on fact and I love that about this book. In fact it has inspired me to find out more about the Grimke sisters, perhaps even to read some of their famous pamphlets.

The Invention of Wings will be published on 7th January 2014 – I highly recommend you save your Christmas book vouchers for this book.

A proof copy of The Invention of Wings was received free of charge for our consideration. All opinions expressed are entirely our own.