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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 2 July 2013
This has to be one of the best books that I have ever read, the story weaves intricatly with so much skill & it left me feeling that i never wanted to put it down, but never wanting it to end. The ending is so unexpectedly brilliant. Will the writer have more to tempt us with.Amazing!!!
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on 21 June 2017
Brilliant twist in this story, but I won't spoil it by telling you where! Also an insight into how cruel slave masters and their families could be and how hopeless it seemed to the slaves that accepted their lot in a life of servitude
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on 2 April 2017
Heartbreakingly beautiful, such a sad and harrowing story that I was unable to put down and eager to read the next installment
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on 5 March 2017
This book had me hooked from start to finish. It reminds me of the successful '12 years a slave'. I will be recommending it to friends.
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on 30 August 2013
I could not put the this down. Read it everyday. Brilliant story and history. I was hoping for a better ending.
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on 19 July 2013
I was really looking forward to this book after reading about it in Stylist magazine. Although it tells a good tale for about 80% of it, the ending was unsatisfying, and actually bizarrely done, now that I think about it. Almost as if the author wanted to throw in an 11th hour twist to shock the reader, but it just came across as disconnected.
However, my biggest issue is the lack of emotion throughout. Some parts that could have been really emotive were described blandly through dialogue, which made it really hard to connect to the characters and empathise with them.
This is storytelling, not writing. It probably would've been nicely told orally, but I am actually angry that I wasted my money on this book.
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The Wedding Gift is Marlen Suyapa Bodden's debut novel.

Alabama. The Allen Plantation. 1840's. Sarah is born to her slave mother Emmeline. Three months later the plantation owner's wife gives birth to her daughter Clarissa. They have the same father. The two girls grow up on the same land, but live very different lives.

What I quite enjoyed was the two viewpoints Bodden used to tell her story - that of the slave Sarah and that of Theodora, the owner's wife. It was an interesting and thought provoking look at enslavement - from two perspectives. While Sarah is property according to the law, is Theodora any different? Her husband treats her badly, but society, obligations and other ties prohibit her escape. Neither woman is in control of their life.

Bodden has done her research - many historical facts are woven into her narrative. At times though, I felt like getting that information across overshadowed the story at the cost of character development. I did not find myself as drawn to Sarah as I thought I would. Instead it was her mother Emmeline who was my favourite.

But I did find myself caught up in Sarah and Theodora's stories. Would Sarah run? Or stay with Clarissa? Would Clarissa marry for love or to add to her father's wealth? There are many supporting characters whose stories I found myself wanting more - especially the midwife Miss Mary.

However, I was disappointed with the ending - it was abrupt, jarring and just didn't fit for this reader. While it was an admirable twist, I just didn't feel like it belonged with the story I'd just immersed myself in. The second reveal at the end was telegraphed long before it was finally spelled out. I found it somewhat annoying that Bodden held this back - I found myself backtracking and rereading to see if I had missed something.

I also admit to being spoiled - two of my favourite books are slave narratives - Allende's Island Beneath the Sea and Hill's Book of Negroes. It was hard not to compare Bodden's work with these two stellar novels. For a first novel, I think Bodden did a good job and will continue to grow as a writer. Her passion for her chosen subject did shine through - she is a human rights lawyer and a descendant of slaves herself)
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on 6 February 2014
Genuinely the first book that I wish I could get a refund on! Can't even give it to Barnardos because muggins here bought it for Kindle...
Purchased on the strength of such blinding good reviews that I really have to question if I even bought the right edition. So so so poorly written, paper thin characters and the most pointless, banal dialogue ever totally over shadowed the vaguley interesting plot.
But really, is there a way to claim a refund through Kindle?
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on 19 July 2017
A good story but such terrible clunky dialogue, got worse towards the end. Also the last few paragraphs seemed tacked on make a twist that just didn't seem right. An odd book, had to read to the end but then wondered why I had bothered.
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I enjoy historical fiction but have a restricted range, preferring British Tudor and Medieval settings or, as in this case, the antebellum Southern States.

The Wedding Gift is set in Alabama and the focus is on two women who come from very different social classes but who share a common bond of powerlessness when faced with domineering men. Sarah is a half-white slave, the off-spring of Emmeline, a house slave, and the boorish plantation owner. Theodora is the plantation owner's long suffering wife, the target of his alcohol fuelled mood swings and she is expected to toe the line at all times. Both women are victims of slavery yet they strive to escape their bondage - Sarah with her plans to escape and Theodora with little acts of rebellion such as teaching Sarah to read and write even though it is considered illegal.

Yes, there is a lot of dialogue and it can seem, at times, a little forced but you're carried along by the compelling storyline. This is an impressive debut and one for fans of Kathleen Grissom's The Kitchen House and Gone With the Wind.
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