on 23 April 2012
This is one of the best books I have read in a very long time! Although I've been very happy with a number of my Kindle reads, this one is a class apart. If I'd been able to award it 10 stars I would have. The only thing that disappointed me was that the book ended. I literally read it at every spare moment, but was always saddened when I realised that "the end was nigh".
History is definitely not an interest of mine, so I shy away from historical fiction, but as this book had so many 5-star reviews I decided to try it; I can't believe that I could so easily have dismissed this gem as "just history"!
The two central characters Mattie, the wet-nurse, and Lisbeth, the plantation owner's daughter are totally credible, well-rounded characters. Your interest in them is stimulated immediately: you care about everything they do and say. The author writes authoritatively about the lives of those on plantations in the 1800s so you begin to understand the conventions of the time, even if their "truths" go against every one of your own natural instincts.
The reader is present at Lisbeth's birth and watches her grow up and develop. You see the many prejudices through her eyes, hear all of the justifications, but you also are privy to how Mattie and her family are affected by them. It's done very cleverly by the author, but you become so involved with the characters that you can't help but be very touched by their situations. At one point I literally could not read any further - I was in tears and could not see my kindle. I feared for its waterproof safety, so put it away till later!
I have recommended this book to friends and family and anyone else who'll listen to me. As soon as I've finished this review, I'll be looking up Amazon's page for this author to see what else I might download. This book will remain on my kindle and definitely won't be deleted. It's also a book I could easily read again in a year or so.
A wonderful, very emotional story about the strong lifelong bond that forms between Lisbeth, the white daughter of a southern state plantation owner and Mattie her wet nurse, from the moment of the first feed to adulthood. The book is extremely well written, the words just flow off the page and carry you along - a very easy story to read. The lead characters are both very likeable women and the bond between them is beautifully portrayed. You can certainly feel the love they have for each other yet at the same time the book really manages to puts across the message that at heart this is a book about slavery as you see the difference in their lifestyles. You never forget that Mattie is a slave and that outside the "big house" life is very different. The author has obviously done her research well, the sections of the book focussed on the slaves quarters and the background information were very well thought out and really painted a good picture of what life was like for slaves in those times.
The book can be very moving, and I did feel a tad weepy at times. You really do feel for Mattie at some key moments in the story and share in her frustration that there is nothing she can do to change things that happen as she is totally powerless, being someone elses property and not a free woman. Lisbeth was a joy to read about, she grows up into a strong charactered beautiful woman, who most certainly knows the difference between right and wrong. Her life in fact is charmed until it comes to a point where she realises she has to make a life changing decision and accept the consequences of her choice, come what may.
It was very gripping quick reading with a well executed plotline; once you start reading you just want to carry on and my only disappointment was realising that I was 90% through the book and so close to finishing it. I really wanted the story to just go on and on because I was enjoying it so much.
This story about the slave-owning society in the ante-bellum American South makes for a pleasant enough read, as it’s well-written and tells a gentle tale of love and loyalty. But what it doesn’t do is represent the true horror of slavery and simply glosses over the worst aspects of it. It opens with the slave woman Mattie being taken away from her baby son to care for the newly born daughter of her white masters. A close relationship develops between slave and child and the bond forged between them is strong and long-lasting in spite of the barriers and conventions of the time and place. It’s all rather predictable and superficial and doesn’t tackle the real issues. Certainly there’s no sense of the brutality of the period and in spite of the harrowing subject matter – families being separated, desperate attempts to escape on the Underground Railroad, whippings and constant toil - everything seems to go along happily and peacefully in a rather idealised community. So although I rattled along quite happily for most of the book, it failed to truly represent the evils of slavery and thus didn’t really engage me.
on 20 August 2012
This is a beautiful story about the lives of a young girl, Elizabeth and her wet nurse, Mattie, living in Virginia in the time of slavery. It would be very enjoyable to those who liked The Help, but it is not at all the same kind of book.
It details their relationship and the differences in their lives in the short times of the week when they are not together. The reality of slavery is written in quite a matter of fact way, and Elizabeth's slow realisation of what the slaves' lives are truly like, is well-written.
My only criticisms, and the reason for not giving 5 stars would be: 1) I felt we missed out on seeing Mattie's life blossom when she was not with Elizabeth for an extended period. Instead, the author focused solely on the development of Elizabeth's life. The book was short enough to have accommodated the extra chapters. 2) In writing dialogue, the author often stuck to short staccato sentences, with very few ands, buts etc. It just didn't sound right when reading, didn't ring true.
This is a fantastic book. I devoured it quickly and would highly recommend it.
on 5 May 2015
At least, I am presuming this was written for the Young Adult market - although, even on that level, it fails to deliver - based on the minimal character development, and the general lack of solid historical detail.
The blurb (intense relationship between Lisbeth, the privileged child of a Southern plantation owner and Mattie, a young black woman taken from her own nursing child to be Lisbeth's servant) was interesting enough for me to buy this as a Kindle Daily Deal. Having spent only ninety-nine pence, it seems unkind to grumble, but anyone looking for an insight into antebellum plantation life would do well to give this a miss. Far better to buy Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. It's a long read, but well worth the effort (at any age). Mitchell depicts the South, warts and all, but brings a depth of knowledge that allows her to create strong, believable characters that you love and loathe, while showing that not all Southerners were villains, nor all Northerners heroes.
Yellow Crocus, on the other hand, fails to summon any real sense of life in the Deep South prior to the American Civil War. Lisbeth is presented in her own little bubble of a world that seems to consist solely of her immediate family (parents, one grandmother, and later on brother, Jack) and her nursemaid, Mattie, along with Mattie's small family in the Slave Quarters. And Lisbeth's relationship with her family is marginalised from the outset by its neglect. Her father is little more than a sketchy character gliding by on the periphery, while her mother's early sentimentality seems to evaporate with her milk. Jack appears and grows up, presumably in his own bubble, since their paths seldom cross, except when the author feels the need to reinforce negative male stereotypes through a junior character. Grandmother Wainwright simply disappears halfway through the book.
While more time is spent depicting life in the slave quarters, even this is sketchily drawn. All we come away with is the knowledge that the White folks have it good in the big house and it's tough in the slave quarters where the Blacks live. The opportunity to show humanity on both sides is squandered while we follow Lisbeth's childhood, waiting for something vaguely interesting to happen.
At this point, Mattie's story is the more riveting and we do get drawn into the turmoil of her separation from her husband, Emmanuel, and son, Samuel. And it is Mattie's plan to be reunited with them that forms the best part of the book. Unfortunately, by the time her journey comes about, the author seems hell bent on getting to the end, and what could have been truly poignant and informative is simply glossed over in a few pages. What a travesty.
The story then returns to Lisbeth, who briefly struggles with the different living conditions between slaves and slave-owners but, in losing Mattie, she loses much of her humanity ... .
At this point, the author introduces a whole posse of children from neighbouring plantations in order to give Lisbeth a social circle of friends and possible suitors. And then it all descends into a dreary pastiche of Southern courtship and romantic conflicts. Along the way, Lisbeth has a Damascene conversion from slave-heiress to abolitionist that is as unbelievable as it is contrived. Her eventual meeting with Mattie (in another contrived transformation) lacks resonance, when it should have been one of joyous reunion. In fact, even bearing in mind the mediocrity of what had preceded it, and my low expectations, the last few chapters of the book were still a letdown.
As an adult reader, I expect my historical fiction to have a sound basis in history. Characters should be well-drawn and their actions and motivations believable. Plots do not have to be completely original but, new or not, the overall body of the work should leave me feeling edified and rewarded. Sadly, Yellow Crocus delivers on none of these points and so earns paltry two stars from me.
on 29 July 2016
Loved this story about the Americans and their slaves in 1800's, just before the civil war. Elizabeth(Lispeth) is the daughter of a wealthy land owner and is breast fed and brought up by her wet nurse and nannie, Mattie. Mattie has to leave her son Samuel and live up at the big house. She is allowed to visit once a week, so at other times she and Lisbeth watch from the upstairs window, the comings and goings of the workers, hoping to catch a glimpse of Samuel. Life moves on and Lisbeth is groomed for marriage to Edward Cunningham. Lisbeth agrees even though there is no love, only wealth. However, she backs out and instead marries Matthew who is against keeping slaves. Lisbeth's family are furious and try to have the marriage disolved. They can't so instead disowen Elizabeth. Meanwhile Mattie has escaped Slavery and is living in Ohio where slaves get a fare wage. Lisbeth too' is living in Ohio and when difficulties arise in Lisbeth's labour and a midwife is called. Who should it be, but Mattie who saves both mother and baby!!