Ok, so when I realized that the next segment would take place on a plantation during the civil war. I got super excited because I thought that the Patmans would be totally ignorant and the ghostwriter would be incredibly racist. Excited of course, because I love nothing more than hating on them.
You know what? It wasn’t bad. This is actually some of the better writing I’ve read. They must have gotten a special ghostwriter for this one. And they actually did their research and included some historical info. Anyhoo, James and Sanford are the sons of Henry Patman, who, as you know, was banished from England after he tried to elope with Sophie Edmunson. He later inherited a plantation and made a fortune off of it. It’s called “Enchanted Meadows”. Bwah! And, apparently, also became a crusty racist slaveowner. Their plantation has over 250 “Negroes” and the threat of the impending war will have an affect on that. James disagrees and challenges his father and asks about the rights of the slaves, and they debate about the rights of landowners and draw parallels to the rights of the colonies under British tyranny. I’m telling you, it’s deep. Jame’s father in law responds: “It’s admirable that you have this humanitarian instincts for these poor, inferior creatures. But all this talk about education and freedom from them…next you’ll be supporting rights for ladies, like those ill-bred, bloomer-wearing Yankee women!” Noyce.
James decides he’s going to side with the North and leaves his family. Three months later, he is smuggling slaves from safe house to safe house with the Underground Railroad. He takes notice of Hope, one of the slaves that has taken the lead in helping. “Her face and hair were so dark he couldn’t see her until he was a few feet away.” WE GET IT! She’s black. It mentions how beautiful she is, and I am surprised they didn’t mention that her “dirty rags emphasized her slender waist.” Seriously.
They deliver the runaway slaves to a farmer’s house and Hope goes with him to rescue more slaves. Then boom, it says they are married and Hope’s preggers. And we missed that part of the book? That would be the interesting part. Later on, he leaves Hope at the Darby’s farm with some other runaway slaves to go and help others escape, and when he comes back he finds that the Darbys have been hung in their field, and Hope has been shot and killed inside the house. WHAT? That is some intense shit, even in an SVH book.
Wait, it gets worse! After the war is over, James heads back to Enchanted Meadows. All his family has died, his brother died in battle, and the place is in ruins. He leaves and says he is “heading west.” Oooooo, I am hoping for a story about the Great Land Race, a la Far and Away.
What does this tell us about Bruce? Ummmmmmm…that even though he and his family employ lots of servants in demeaning roles, he has a special place in his heart for them?
This has totally given me the urge to read some good historical fiction. Anybody have any recs? I don’t want mass-market-supermarket paperbacks, but it doesn’t have to be intense. I’ve read the Red Tent and basically all of Phillipa Gregory’s novels….