Top critical review
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on 28 January 2013
The Personal History Of Rachel Dupree is a first person autobiography style novel describing the life and current circumstances of the protagonist.
Seduced by the impressive nature of her boss's son, Rachel makes a bargain with him to become his wife. Fresh out of the Army, Isaac is taken with the idea that even with his status as a black man post Civil War America he can be granted land of his own to farm, and does so in the Badlands of South Dakota.
Not unlike The Grass Is Singing, which I read earlier in the month, Rachel soon finds that her husbands ambitions outweigh his ability or capacity to achieve them, surrounded by children and living in abject poverty, Rachel begins to question her choices.
Ann Weisgarber was inspired to write the novel after seeing a photograph of a black woman on a homestead in the Badlands and investigating what seemed like an unusual phenomenon. It was extremely rare but it did happen, and therefore has an original and unique story angle to come from.
Like, The Grass Is Singing however, despite having an important and worthwhile story to tell it is relentlessly desperate and grim. A portrait of the souring of dreams.
Just as a turning point comes in the life of Rachel and her children, the novel slams shut, finishing at a point where I certainly felt there was far more story left to be told and that the novel deserved a different, more rounded ending.
This novel fits into a whole sub genre of novels about the plight of the black person in America throughout history and as such it is a good one. If those sort of novels are a particular interest to you then I certainly recommend it, yet I as a reader felt cheated by what is essentially an incomplete personal history. 7/10