Wednesday 6 May 2020

A Discovering Diamonds review of The Driver's Wife by S.K. Keogh

We now post reviews three times  week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday

Fictional Drama

“A story of redemption and unconventional love. Leighlin Plantation offers Edward Ketch a new life, an opportunity to forsake his violent, troubled past and become a man worthy of respect and trust. But when a slave named Isabelle arrives, Ketch is drawn into a turbulent relationship that threatens the very peace he has struggled to attain. Isabelle has her own desires for a fresh start, but scurrilous gossip about her past undermines those hopes. She struggles to be accepted by Leighlin’s other slaves and hopes marriage to a popular man will aid her cause. But her situation worsens when her husband becomes abusive. She discovers, however, one unlikely ally—Ketch, who is as much an outcast among Leighlin’s white population as she is among her people. A stranger to love, Ketch cannot recognize the true feelings that draw him to IsabelleTo rescue her from the dangers of her marriage, he risks losing not only his position at Leighlin but the affections of the woman he strives to save.
Set against the backdrop of 17th century Carolina, The Driver’s Wife explores the lives and relationships, from Big House to slave settlement, of those who labored upon the wilderness plantations near Charles Town. Rice cultivation and the task system of slavery provide a much different landscape from the aristocratic Old South of cotton plantations and gang labor familiar to most modern-day readers. The Driver’s Wife is a tale of the transcendent power of love.”

Novels about slavery are often difficult to write and read because of the emotional stirring that the subject invokes. Slavery, to us in the modern age, is utterly abhorrent but the past regarded it – especially the African slave trade – as normal and acceptable. To write a novel where the facts prevail over modern 'Political Correctness' without producing any over-emphasis of condemnation or indignation of the Trade is quite a feat.

The author of The Driver’s Wife has managed the difficulties very well indeed. The main character, Ketch, is possibly, initially, one of the most unlikable characters to be met in the pages of a novel – and yet, as we get to know his background and his past the opinion of him begins to change.

The heroine is Isabelle, a slave traumatised by an act of rape and rejection because of her mixed race. She is believable and likeable. Other characters are as intriguing and the descriptions of the Colonial South, Carolina, are very well written.

The novel takes the reader into the lives of characters who could well have been real people, exploring relationships, love, fear, hope and despair with a well-crafted talent. Alongside the characterisation is the author’s  descriptive writing that takes the reader into the past and brings everything alive: I felt the heat from the sun beating down on the plantation, felt the sweat upon my skin, the coolness of the evening, the hard, hard non-escapable tiring, daily work of those slaves...

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 

© Anne Holt 
 e-version reviewed

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