Be prepared for a rather long post.....
This week I read Philida by André Brink. I really wanted to like this book, but I didn't. I found it frustrating on several levels. It was frustrating reading so many points of view, plus Brink doesn't believe in using quotation marks. Also, I had difficulty with some of the language. Although I could usually understand due to context clues, a comprehensive glossary would have been appreciated.
André Brink based his novel on a true story involving a slave of his ancestor's brother. Philida is a slave in South Africa in the 1830's right before England emancipates slavery in her colonies. But approximately a year before she's free, Philida files a complaint against her master's son, Francois Brink. Francois, father of Philda's four children, promises Philida he'll grant her her freedom. When he fails to do so, Philida files a complaint. I truly wanted to admire Philida and root for her, but Brink makes it difficult because her voice seems so wrong. Her thoughts at times seem disjointed, and she vacillates between loving and hating Francois. One moment she barely seems able to find language to relate a simple thought, and at others she seems like a poetic savant with her long and flowery descriptions.
Francois seems like a better person than most in the narrative. He obviously cares for Philida, and he probably loves her which is amazing considering the trash who reared him. Not that he's a hero by any means, but comparatively speaking, I think he tries (although too late) to do what's right.
Another troublesome thing for me about the story is the bashing of Christians and Christianity. Since this is historical fiction, I think that it's important to mention that the abolitionist movement was started by Quakers and other Christian theologians in England. I understand that many so-called Christians "lived" the Bible yet beat human beings at the same time, but to suggest that Philida would find freedom as a female with Islam is laughable when you look to history. But even with her hybrid religion, Philida seems flighty at best, psychotic at worst.
This has been a difficult review for me to write because I try to be positive on my blog and not review books I don't like, but I was so disappointed, especially considering all the awards and accolades that this book has received.
About a year ago Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto. My sweet bloggy friend, Diane @ Diane Writes recommended it a few weeks ago in this post. I am so happy I read this it because of the book's unique premise.
The video teaser for this book was so well done. It does an excellent job of summarizing the basic plot.